Friday, September 19, 2008

Ezra's Confession

My daily reading schedule took me to the last two chapters of Ezra. Of course, chapter 9 is Ezra's famous prayer of confession which most of us have read multiple times. However, reading this chapter 9 today made a deeper impression on me than in past readings. Perhaps this is because there are so many similarities in my life to those days in Israel. They had sin in the camp primarily due to the marriage of the chosen people of God with those of foreign backgrounds in direct disobedience to the commandment of God. They disobeyed and mixed the world into the things of God.

I certainly see this in the life of our nation. The Judeo-Christian background of our country seems to be crumbling more and more each day. The United States needs to repent and return to the faith of our fathers.

This mixture is also obvious in our churches, even those which profess to be evangelical. Some members sit in the pews who never exhibit any of the grace, mercy, or love of God in their lives. They do nothing which bears any evidence of God's regenerating work. And what can we say of those "members" who rarely attend worship or participate in our church's fellowship? Yes, there is a "mixed marriage" in many of our churches.

And I see this most clearly in my own life. How easy it is to permit the world to enter in and contaminate us even as we are trying to serve our Lord.

Therefore, I took Ezra's confession much more to heart during my reading today than I have in the past. Here is his confession for your reading and consideration (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

6 And I said:

My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward You, my God, because our iniquities are higher than [our] heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens. 7 Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. 8 But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from the LORD our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in His holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 Now, our God, what can we say in light of this? For we have abandoned the commandments 11 You gave through Your servants the prophets, saying: "The land you are entering to possess is an impure land. The surrounding peoples have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness by their impurity and detestable practices. 12 So do not give your daughters to their sons in marriage or take their daughters for your sons. Never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you will be strong, eat the good things of the land, and leave [it] as an inheritance to your sons forever." 13 After all that has happened to us because of our evil deeds and terrible guilt—though You, our God, have punished [us] less than our sins [deserve] and have allowed us to survive — 14 should we break Your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who commit these detestable practices? Wouldn't You become [so] angry with us that You would destroy us, leaving no survivors? 15 LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we survive as a remnant today. Here we are before You with our guilt, though no one can stand in Your presence because of this.

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