Wed, May 23, 2018

Ezra 9-10

Last week we studied how Ezra and those going with him prepared for the journey. The number of men who responded to Ezra’s invitation to go to Jerusalem—listed in verses 2 through 14—was approximately 1,500. Something to keep in mind is that most of the Jews who had been carried into Babylon had, over time, become comfortable there. So comfortable in fact is this… In the first group, led by Zerubbabel, nearly 50,000 went. In this second group, led by Ezra there are 1,500 who go. Most chose to stay in Babylon. All that to say, the Holy Spirit is a perfect gentlemen. He invites. He encourages. He inspires. He enlightens. But He doesn’t force. Here in chapter 9 upon arrival in Jerusalem and discovering the state of the people, Ezra leads the people through supplication.
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 47 secs

Ezra 9-10


Last week we studied how Ezra and those going with him prepared for the journey. The number of men who responded to Ezra’s invitation to go to Jerusalem—listed in verses 2 through 14—was approximately 1,500. Something to keep in mind is that most of the Jews who had been carried into Babylon had, over time, become comfortable there. So comfortable in fact is this… In the first group, led by Zerubbabel, nearly 50,000 went. In this second group, led by Ezra there are 1,500 who go. Most chose to stay in Babylon. All that to say, the Holy Spirit is a perfect gentlemen. He invites. He encourages. He inspires. He enlightens. But He doesn’t force.


Here in chapter 9 upon arrival in Jerusalem and discovering the state of the people, Ezra leads the people through supplication.  

Ezra 9



1  When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.


They have not separated themselves from the idolatry of the pagan culture around them.


2  For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass."


The scarlet thread of redemption is at risk here. The Abrahamic bloodline would be at risk through intermarrying. Our Savior was to be born from the family line of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.


Sin, is missing the mark, falling short of the biblical standard.

Trespass is a deliberate act, it’s not an accident, its willful disobedience.


These leaders are committing trespass.


Jon Courson writes, “The first deals with prophecy. You see, all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah was that He would come through the Jewish lineage. Knowing this, Satan sought to so dilute the lineage that Messiah could not be born. Have you ever wondered how the Jews have been able to preserve their identity even to this day? It is because, regardless of how Satan might try, God’s prophecies are never thwarted.


Secondly, intermarriage was of major concern practically, for through it, God’s people would inevitably begin to follow pagan customs. Not a week goes by when I don’t have a conversation with someone who says, “I shouldn’t have married him or her. I thought I could set an example and that they would eventually come to the Lord. But they have no intention of doing that.” Everyone feels their own case is the exception, that marrying an unbeliever will be alright in their situation. But it is as a loving Father who knows what He’s talking about that God says, “Be not unequally yoked with an unbeliever” (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). If you marry an unbeliever, if you violate the command of God, you will pay the price. Be not deceived. God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7).


Ezra is now going to learn why God sent him to Jerusalem. God knew that there was not a man there to teach the people the Word of God. Ezra’s love for God and his obedience to God impacted the people, even the priests.


Ezra’s return stirred the heart of the people.


God’s Word prohibited the intermarrying into the gentile nations so as to not lose their spiritual distinction.  


Exodus 34:11-17  

11  Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.

12  Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst.

13  But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images

14  (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

15  lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice,

16  and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.

17  You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.

Deuteronomy 7:1-4,  

1  "When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you,

2  and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.

3  Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.

4  For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.

When God tells us not to do something He doesn’t need to explain it. There isn’t enough time to explain all the things God forbids but we can trust there is wisdom behind everything.


The same wisdom is expressed in the New Testament.


2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”


I appreciated what Damian Kyle said in giving an illustration of this thought. “Its easier to pull someone down than it is to lift someone up…”


The unequal yoke is still forbidden (2 Cor. 6:14-18). It should not be found among the children of God. But 1 Corinthians 7:12, 13 is the NT rule for those already bound to an unbeliever at conversion. Under grace, the believer is not required to put away the unbeliever or the children. The latter are set apart in a position of external privilege by the believer.


The Book of Ezra is a study in restoration. When men read the Word of God and apply its truths to their lives, when intercessory prayers flow for the saints, and when there is confession and separation from known sin, there will be power in the church to do great things for God.


3  So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished.


Ezra was beside himself that the leaders could allow such a thing like this to happen. To tear your garment was to express grief and a sense of being out of your mind.


During times of grief the men would shave their heads. Ezra cant find a razor fast enough. He begins to pull out his hair.


The children of Israel are practicing the very sins that led them into captivity.


This is Ezra’s response to the casualness of sin among God’s people, not the world around us.


We cant be to obedient or to holy, or to Christ like… in our Christian life.


Don’t be afraid to be spiritual…


God has not saved us from sin for us to go back into bondage and under the judgment of God. God has saved us to be conformed into the image of Christ. God came to transform us not to simply clean us up and make a better version of our old self.


Romans 12:1-2,  

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

4  Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice.


They trembled because they knew they were guilty… they remembered the consequences of their previous idolatry… it led them into captivity.


The right response to the Word of God is to live in fear of God.


To live in reverence of God is complimentary to the grace of God.  

5  At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God.

6  And I said: "O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.


He falls on his knees in humility and surrender. The sin is so great it has rose up to heaven. God’s people knew better. The world doesn’t know any better. The church does.


Notice how Ezra prays. He doesn’t say, “I’m ashamed of these heathens, these backsliders.” He says, “I’m ashamed of our iniquities.” He recognized his part in the corporate people of God and recognized he was responsible with them.



7  Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day.

8  And now for a little while grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.


This "peg" speaks of the security of anyone or anything that depends on God.


Some, such as Ironside, believe that ultimately it refers to Christ Himself: The reference to the "nail" [peg, NKJV] is doubtless a recognition of Isaiah's prophecy of the "nail in a sure place," upon which Jehovah's glory was to hang, which is, in the full sense, Christ Himself (Isa. 22:21-25).


The prophets had spoken clearly on mixed marriages, so the men were without excuse, especially in light of the recent favors God had granted them. "Here we are before You, in our guilt." There was nothing else to say.

9  For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.


Your goodness is being repaid in this way…


10  And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments,


He included himself in humility…


11  which You commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land, with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from one end to another with their impurity.

12  Now therefore, do not give your daughters as wives for their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons; and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your children forever.'

13  And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this,

14  should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?

15  O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!"


In this powerful prayer offered by a brokenhearted priest, we see in Ezra neither pride nor empty promises to do better. We see thanksgiving for God’s care and adoration of His character. We see the confession of sin and the acknowledgement of undeserved mercy. And through it all we see the beauty of humility. It’s no wonder this prayer has been recorded for all eternity.


As chapter 10 opens the breakthrough occurs in Jerusalem as Ezra is praying to God…  

Ezra 10


1  Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly.


Holiness brings conviction not compromise.


Ezra was expressing outwardly what the people were sensing in their spirit.


Rally around righteousness!!!!


2  And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, "We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this.

Trespass. No ignorance here, we did it deliberately!


Here is how you fix the problem…


Godly sorrow always brings about repentance… its not just being sorry but doing something different.  


3  Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.


Repentance is never easy… The cost can be great… but no matter the cost its worth it. He is worthy!


4  Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it."

Ezra’s prayer was more productive than a sermon, for when the people saw him praying, weeping, and in mourning, they realized the severity of their sin. It wasn’t a finger pointing or a temper flaring that brought them to their knees, it was the heart of a man of God breaking.


5  Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.

6  Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.


Ezra continues to mourn because up to this point all he has are words. He will end his mourning when the repentance bears fruit…

7  And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem,

8  and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.

9  So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.

10  Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.

11  Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives."



Make it right…


12  Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, "Yes! As you have said, so we must do.


Now, this isn’t a scriptural precedent for getting a divorce because you think your spouse isn’t holy enough; it was a specific solution at a specific, fragile time in Israel’s history.


13  But there are many people; it is the season for heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside. Nor is this the work of one or two days, for there are many of us who have transgressed in this matter.

14  Please, let the leaders of our entire assembly stand; and let all those in our cities who have taken pagan wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of their cities, until the fierce wrath of our God is turned away from us in this matter."


They made a proposition to wait so they could examine the situations carefully…


Everything must be done decently and in order


Jewish man could marry a gentile woman if the woman converted to Judaism.  

15  Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite gave them support.

16  Then the descendants of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain heads of the fathers' households, were set apart by the fathers' households, each of them by name; and they sat down on the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.

17  By the first day of the first month they finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives.


A list of the offenders…


18  And among the sons of the priests who had taken pagan wives the following were found of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah.


The priests, the levites, the worship leaders and on and on the men made things right…


19  And they gave their promise that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they presented a ram of the flock as their trespass offering.


The remainder of the chapter is a list of the one hundred and thirteen men who said, “We will kiss our wives goodbye, say farewell to our kids, and let them go back to the land from whence they came.” This would not be easy for any man. But they were willing to do it when they heard the voice of God speaking through Ezra and the leaders of Jerusalem, telling them that confession and separation was what was required of them.


I believe this list—including seventeen priests and ten Levites—is not one of condemnation, but rather of commendation of the men who were willing to do whatever it took to be right with God. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance,” we read in 2 Corinthians 7:10. It’s one thing to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s quite another to say, “I’m sorry and I’m changing direction.” “Behold,” Peter said to Jesus, “we have forsaken all and followed Thee. What shall we have therefore?” “Truly every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life,” Jesus answered (see Matthew 19:27–29).


Confession and separation have eternal ramifications. And in every one of our lives without exception, there are decisions that must be made regarding these issues in one way or another because the same temptations come to all men (1 Corinthians 10:13). Make the right choice, precious people. Learn the lesson of Ezra. You can’t out give God. He won’t let you down. He’ll restore you one hundred-fold. Trust Him.


20  Also of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah;

21  of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah;

22  of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

23  Also of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (the same is Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.

24  Also of the singers: Eliashib; and of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25  And others of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Jeziah, Malchiah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah, and Benaiah;

26  of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Eliah;

27  of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza;

28  of the sons of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai;

29  of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Ramoth;

30  of the sons of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh;

31  of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,

32  Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah;

33  of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei;

34  of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel,

35  Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluh,

36  Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,

37  Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasai,

38  Bani, Binnui, Shimei,

39  Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah,

40  Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,

41  Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah,

42  Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph;

43  of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.

44  All these had taken pagan wives, and some of them had wives by whom they had children.


The men still supported their pagan wives even after the women returned to their homes.


Every generation is responsible before God. Ezra was a good man who impacted his world in an amazing way. One man, one woman, living and walking in holiness can change the course of history.


We all want to hear ‘well done good and faithful servant.’

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