Ezra - Separate Yourself Out
Read Time: 11 Minutes
Guarding the Word of God in our lives is always a challenge. We have been exhorted repeatedly in the Word of God to guard our hearts and put the Word on daily. The Children of Israel had the same challenge. When they were scattered throughout Babylon keeping the Word of God in their lives and in the lives of their children became even more difficult. There were probably pockets of Believers around but without an active infrastructure of leaders and teachers the Word becomes diluted in people's lives. Remember, they didn't have bibles on their coffee tables to pick up and read. They had what was hidden in their hearts to cling to, obey, and teach to their children. Some faired well and stayed faithful; many succumbed to the customs and beliefs of their new land.
We read in Ezra 9 of a very grievous predicament that the people were enticed into. They have let their children marry the people of the lands, the unbelievers. God had told the people when they started populating Canaan that they should cast out the unbelievers and not let their children marry them (Exodus 34:11-16). They will be a snare unto them and cause them to seek after strange gods. However, many of the people have married outside of the Children of Israel. When Ezra finds out he is quite distraught, it is a big deal.
:2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves,
and for their sons:
so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands:
yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
[they would marry for political purposes]
:3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment
and my mantle,
and plucked off the hair of my head
and of my beard,
and sat down astonied. [appalled, stunned]
:4 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel,
because of the transgression of those that had been carried away;
and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.
:5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness;
and having rent my garment and my mantle, [a sign of great anguish]
I fell upon my knees,
and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,
Look at the heart this man has for God's Words. When he finds out the extent of the trespass he is appalled and in great anguish and goes to God to ask forgiveness for the people.
:6 And said,
O my God,
I am ashamed and blush [dishonored] to lift up my face to thee,
for our iniquities are increased over our head,
and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
:7 Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day;
and for our iniquities have we,
and our priests,
been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands,
to the sword,
and to a spoil,
and to confusion of face, as it is this day.
Ezra knew exactly why the Children of Israel were in this predicament-they had not adhered to God's Word and kept themselves from the influence of other nations. Since they didn't seek God in all that they did God didn't overstep his bounds and deliver them.
:8 And now for a little space grace
hath been shewed from the LORD
to leave us a remnant to escape,
and to give us a nail in his holy place,
that our God may lighten our eyes,
and give us a little reviving in our bondage.
:9 For we were bondmen;
yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage,
but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia,
to give us a reviving,
to set up the house of our God,
and to repair the desolations thereof,
and to give us a wall in Judah
and in Jerusalem.
God is so wonderful and merciful. Even though the people had trespassed when they made a move toward God He honored that and arranged for the kings of Persia to aid them in rebuilding Jerusalem and the House of God.
:10 And now, O our God, what shall we say after this?
for we have forsaken thy commandments,
:11 Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying,
unto which ye go to possess it,
is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands,
with their abominations,
which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.
:12 Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons,
neither take their daughters unto your sons,
nor seek their peace
or their wealth for ever:
that ye may be strong,
and eat the good of the land,
and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.
God's promise is to take care of His people if they follow Him and refrain from mixing with the unbelievers. If they adhered to the Word they would be strong (not diluted and weak), they would eat of the good of the land (not be overrun and pay tribute to foreign kings) and have an inheritance to leave for their children (instead of being scattered around and diluted in race and beliefs).
:13 And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds,
and for our great trespass,
seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve,
and hast given us such deliverance as this; [He has helped gather them back in Judah]
:14 Should we again break thy commandments,
and join in affinity with the people of these abominations?
wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us,
so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?
:15 O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous:
for we remain yet escaped, [delivered] as it is this day:
behold, we are before thee in our trespasses:
for we cannot stand before thee because of this.
They cannot change the trespasses in the past but they can ask forgiveness and put away the 'strange wives' and cleanse themselves of idolatrous influences. In chapter 10 they gathered all the Children of Israel that want to do God's Word and put away the unbelievers out of their homes, some even had children by them. This is big, very big. Put yourself in their shoes. You love your spouse but you love your God even more and want to do His will.
Fortunately today we live in the Grace administration and if it is pleasing for us to live with an unbeliever we may (I Cor. 7:12-16). Our spouse may be even be won over by our stand. The separation that once existed between the Judeans and the Gentiles has been erased by the sacrifice and resurrection of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The principal still remains-do not let yourself get diluted with the world and seeking after its wealth. All the wealth we need God will supply if we are obedient to Him. Seek God not the riches of the world.
Seeking God is not just going to Church on Sunday or to fellowship on Wednesday nights. There is more to living for and with God than that. It takes hearing His Word, reading His Word, and putting on the mind of Christ. We have to keep His Word in our minds and make our decisions according to it. We have to recognize that God is always with us and for us. He is there to love and help us. We need to be thankful first and praise Him and give Him the glory. God, by His only begotten Son, has given us wholeness--completeness. We now lack nothing. Once we confess Jesus Christ as Lord in our lives and believe God that He raised him from the dead we are saved-made whole, complete (Romans 10:9 & 10. We now have body, soul and spirit where before we were incomplete. We have been given the gift of holy spirit so that we may walk and talk with Him more perfectly. Let us recognize this and stand up with our shoulders back and our head held high because we are sons of God!!
:4 And this I say,
lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
:5 For though I be absent in the flesh,
yet am I with you in the spirit,
and beholding your order,
and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord,
so walk ye in him:
:7 Rooted and built up in him,
and stablished in the faith,
as ye have been taught,
abounding therein with thanksgiving.
:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy
and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men,
after the rudiments of the world,
and not after Christ.
:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
:10 And ye are complete [plerōō - filled to capacity, unable to hold anymore] in him,
which is the head of all principality and power:
We have a great advantage over the Old Testament Believers. We have access to the Word of God, most of us can read, but most important we have holy spirit in us which was not available as incorruptible seed until Christ died for us. In the Old Testament they could have holy spirit on them conditionally. We have holy spirit in us when we become saved and it is seed, incorruptible and not removable.
Let us finish looking at the Old Testament. The book of Ezra ends with the people putting away the strange wives--wives that were not of the Children of Israel--and pledging to remain separated. Chronologically, the Old Testament ends in Nehemiah. Nehemiah 9:38 - 10:39 records the putting away of strange wives also. Nehemiah 10:1-30 lists those that sealed the covenant to keep God's Word. Chapter 12 lists the resident families in Jerusalem. Nehemiah 12:1-26 is the list of priests who returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra for the dedication of the wall. The wall is dedicated in 12:27-47 (403 B.C.).
We remember in Nehemiah how the people of the land worked very hard to undermine the building of the wall of Jerusalem and the temple. They were still at it and had infiltrated subtly. While Nehemiah was in Babylon for 12 years Eliashib, the priest that had the oversight of the house of God, had made an alliance with Tobiah. Tobiah was an Ammonite and an enemy (Neh. 2:10). Nehemiah returns and casts him and his stuff out and cleanses the chambers (Neh. 13:4-9).
It was a constant battle to keep the people on the Word. The people had also stopped giving.
:10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them:
for the Levites
and the singers,
that did the work, were fled every one to his field.
:11 Then contended I with the rulers, and said,
Why is the house of God forsaken?
And I gathered them together,
and set them in their place.
:12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn
and the new wine
and the oil
unto the treasuries.
:13 And I made treasurers over the treasuries,
Shelemiah the priest,
and Zadok the scribe,
and of the Levites,
and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur,
the son of Mattaniah:
for they were counted faithful,
and their office was to distribute unto their brethren.
:14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this,
and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God,
and for the offices thereof.
Nehemiah continued to work to keep the people right before God. There was buying and selling being done on the Sabbath and Nehemiah kicked them out and barred the gates of Jerusalem. There were still unbelievers living with believers, even in the priests, and he kicked them out as well. It was a constant battle. The last words in the book of Nehemiah are:
:30 Thus cleansed I them from all strangers,
and appointed the wards of the priests
and the Levites,
every one in his business;
:31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed,
and for the firstfruits.
Remember me, O my God, for good.
There is no other chronological record in the Word of God regarding the people. This is the last recorded stand of anyone for God. For the next 400 years the people are heavily influenced by the people surrounding them and by the time Jesus Christ shows up there was a system of traditions and rituals built up that appeared to worship God but were empty, void of power and vain. However, we know that there were still some who believed God and endeavored to do His will. Otherwise Mary and Elizabeth would have never believed enough to receive the grace of God that they did.
Our challenge, like the Old Testament Believers, is to keep the Word embedded in our hearts and lives accordingly. If we never crack open the Bible and see what God has to say we are no better off then the Old Testament Believers who walked away from God's Word. Their troubles are a warning to us and their victories are great examples of believing.
Let us believe.