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The Scriptorium

Hard Repentance

Ezra calls the nation to repentance. Ezra 10.1-44

Return from Exile: Ezra 7-10 (6)

Pray Psalm 132.13-18.
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His dwelling place:
“This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation,
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
There I will make the horn of David grow;
I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
But upon Himself His crown shall flourish.”

Sing Psalm 132.13-18.
(Finlandia: Be Still, My Soul)
God dwells among us, and He will forever,
to meet our needs and clothe us with His grace.
He has to us sent Jesus Christ, our Savior,
and made us His eternal resting-place.
His foes are banished from His Presence ever,
but we shall reign with Him before His face.

Read Ezra 10.1-44; meditate on verses 12-17.

1. What had to be done?

2. How was it done?

Let’s begin at the end of this chapter, verses 18-44. Here we see that the captivity to pagan ways had seeped into every stratum of society—priests, Levites, singers, and all the rest. Recording their names must have been part of the deal reached during those two months of negotiating (vv. 16, 17). It was appropriate to do so, for these people had sinned against the Lord and the nation. Everyone in Jerusalem, Benjamin, and Judah (v. 9) had been affected by the compromise and sin of their neighbors. Public sins require public confessions.

Ezra was duly grieved at the extent of the sin (v. 1). His lamentation seems to have affected those who had sinned, for they came together and confessed their transgression, declaring their intention to put things right (vv. 2, 3). But what about those wives and children who were being sent away? That seems a hard repentance, at least for them. Where would they go? What would they do? Their lives from this point forward would be difficult, to be sure. Sin often leaves lasting scars, which is why it’s best we hate it and refuse to engage in it. While we don’t know for sure, my sense is that God would have provided for these women and children, just as He had done for Hagar and Ishmael (Gen. 21.1-21).

Ezra did not soft-pedal their sin (v. 10) nor the hard repentance it would require (v. 11). It would take time to accomplish this decision (vv. 12-17), but the people obeyed, and the work was done. Had they finally broken free of their captivity to self and the surrounding culture? Not by a long shot, as we shall see.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
Sin leaves lasting scars, if not always on someone else, most assuredly, always on us.
It is not something to be toyed with nor ignored. We must face it head-on and rid it from our hearts.

As Ezra instructed the penitent:
1. Make confession to the LORD.
2. Do His will.
3. Separate yourself from your sin. (Ezra 10.11).

We are told the same:
1. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
2. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1.8, 9).
3. Submit to God.
4. Resist the devil.
5. Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts.
6. Lament and mourn and weep.
7. Humble yourselves in the sight of God (Jms. 4.7-10).
8. Come out from among them and be separate, says the LORD.
Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.
I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty (1 Cor. 6.17; Is. 52.11; Ez. 20.34, 41; 2 Sam. 7.14).

What we should long for as Christians, is that goodness and mercy follow in our wake, all the days of our lives (Ps. 23.6), and not grossness and mayhem. What a mess those Israelites left in their wake!

We do not want to be guilty of the same. Yes, I am sure all of us have done things to others—sinful, hurtful things—that we would love to undo. These we can confess to our forgiving heavenly Father.

He does not want us to be ineffectual because of them. He just does not want us to repeatedly repeat them.

Peter denied Jesus three times (Jn. 13.38; 18.27). And three times, Jesus gave him the opportunity to profess his love to Him, be forgiven, and then sent on assignment, free from the guilt of his previous sins, to henceforth live effectively in the Kingdom of God (Jn. 21.15-22). Never to deny Him again.

We commit the same sins our forebears did. But we can experience the same forgiveness, as well. Hard repentance is needed. But glorious forgiveness, and new chances are given every day, to love and serve the LORD obediently and effectively; separated and turned from those things that so easily beset us (Heb. 12.1).

For reflection
1. What causes us to be in a position of being vulnerable to sin?

2. What can you do to help your fellow believers recognize and resist temptation?

3. What can you do to anticipate temptation and prepare to resist it?

There is hope concerning people, when they are convinced, not only that it is good to part with their sins, but that it is necessary; we must do it, or we are undone.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ezra 10.6-14

Pray Psalm 132.8-12.
As you are in the Presence of God, are you aware of anything in your life of which you need to repent? Claim the promise of forgiveness. Confess your sins and declare your repentance. Then look to Jesus to heal and renew.

Sing Psalm 132.8-12
(Finlandia: Be Still, My Soul)
Arise, O Lord, come to Your resting place.
Your holy Presence meet with us in might.
Clothe us with righteousness in Jesus’ grace,
and we will shout to Your divine delight!
For David’s sake, turn not away Your face,
but look upon us in Your holy light.

Remember, Lord, the oath You swore to David.
Do not turn back, do not deny Your Word:
“One of your sons, with your throne I will favor,
and He shall keep My cov’nant evermore,
and walk within My testimonies ever.
Thus He shall ever rule as Israel’s Lord.”

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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