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CHAPTER 9 (ESV)
1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6 saying:
“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens…
Since the period of the Judges, the Israelites had been marrying Gentile women as wives and participating in pagan religious activities (c.f. Judg. 3:5-7). Even the great King Solomon committed this sin (c.f. 1 Kings 11:1-8). Although God strictly forbade this, the Israelites did not repent while their descendants repeated the same mistake at Ezra’s time. Forbidding interracial marriage was not racial discrimination; God gave this order entirely for spiritual reasons. People will easily move to the faith and custom of another race if they married a person of that race. If we disobey God in such an important matter as marriage, we naturally lack the strength to resist the idols worshipped by the spouse. Therefore, Ezra prayed to God and confessed that the Israelites had committed the sin of marrying Gentile women. Although Ezra did not committed this sin himself, he was ashamed that the Israelites committed the sin and worried for the consequences that the sin would bring. He hoped the Israelites would see their own mistake and repent. Today the church also need a spiritual community to pray and watch for the holiness of the church so that it will not be contaminated by the world. Are you willing to pay more effort for keeping the holiness of yourself and the church?
Quiet before the Lord and pray to God for the holiness of yourself and the church. Ask God to strengthen your heart so that you can be a witness for God in your church and your family by living a holy life. Ask God to mold you towards spiritual maturity so that you may be a core member of the spiritual community of the church.
“We Fall Down” – www.youtube.com/watch?v=34yPZiD8OMs