Monday, December 16, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Change: There is Hope

The last chapter of Ezra does not end as we would expect; instead, we see what happens when we truly make a U-turn and change. In this final chapter, there's a recognition of error, coupled with a desire to correct even though it affects their life choices. You see, these men had married women from countries that did not believe in God, which means these women also did not believe in God. God placed a prohibition of intermarriage with the people of heathen nations (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). This chapter ends with a reckoning, listing all the men that left their wives, but let's not oversimplify it. This is
not a message advocating separation; the bigger picture was the Jews' disobedience to God through the act of marriage. There were, in essence, unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). This was a constant message from God that his people were aware of; their disobedience was appalling.

In this final chapter (Ezra 10), we see the results of Ezra's prayer. Without Ezra's prayer in Chapter 9, we would not see the actions in Chapter 10. We have to know God and spend time with Him to see where we are falling short. Ezra's prayer was public; it moved the people to action - a great congregation of men and women wept bitterly (Ezra 10:1).

The people responded, acknowledging that they trespassed against God by marrying foreign women. Shecaniah owned the national guilt (Ezra 10:2-5), though it would have a detrimental effect on his family. His father and five paternal uncles (Ezr 10:26) were involved in the guilt of unlawful marriages. He was not a delinquent in the matter, for his name does not occur in the list of men who did. He spoke in the general name of the people, and his conduct evinced a tender conscience. He showed, by his recommendation, that he deemed it better to obey God than to please his nearest relatives. He chose to honor God over his family.

Ezra agrees with Shecaniah's suggestion: "Though we have sinned, there is hope; let's make a covenant with God that we will put away all the foreign wives (Ezra 10:2,3). There is always hope in God. I love seeing instances of hope in the Old Testament; it's not relegated to the New Testament. Hope is available for all of God's people.

Putting the plan into action (Ezra 10:6-17)

  • Ezra spends the night fasting and praying; he's equipping himself for what's ahead.
  • He then announces that everyone should gather within the next three days. If anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders, all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles. This was a large group, so he gave them time.
  • He tells them the purpose of the meeting which commences on the twentieth day of the ninth month, in the rain! They were trembling because of the weather and their fear. Ezra states the purpose of the meeting in succinct terms: “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 
  • The people agreed; they were unified in their acknowledgment of grieving God's heart. Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said. A few people opposed the plan, but it did not matter. Ezra had spoken, and God's plan would be carried out.


  • The plan would take time to execute - it takes time to clean up our messes and get right with God. But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them, the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us. (Ezra 10:13,14)” Overall, it took three months for the foreign wives and children to be removed, and it was done in an orderly fashion. 


Ezra ends with a list of the names of all the priests, Levites, and men of Israel who had taken foreign wives (Ezra 10:18-44), before sending them away along with the children they had with them. The priests make guilt offerings to repent as they were the worst offenders.

Reflections: It's essential to spend time in prayer. When God convicts you or you know you have willfully disobeyed his word, repent for there is hope. Don't repent simply out of fear but because you recognize that God's ways are better than yours. Take time to repent and change. Even when you make a u-turn, it takes effort to stay on the path. Stay on the path. You may be tentative about this Christian life or about becoming a Christian. But if you liken the Christian walk to the game of tennis and choose to play, it will be the most rewarding game you have ever played. If you think being a Christian is boring, look at a tennis player - they are anything but bored. They are playing for a worthwhile reward as is a Christian who reaps the rewards here on Earth - peace, power, love, abundance, wisdom, assurance (this is a short list), and for eternity (Ephesians 1:3-12). There is a blessing in obeying God's ordinances (Deuteronomy 7:12-14).
Don't oppose God's plans; they will simply continue whether you agree with them or not. Choose to be like Shecaniah; honor God regardless of the cost. Know that God wants what's best for us, just like he did with the Israelites.

Prayer - O God, the way this book ends is hard but also encouraging. We see how families make a choice to serve you after their disobedience. This brings hope to us, dear Lord. We thank you for the hope that is found in you and your word. We thank you for the promise to hear and heal us when we repent. We thank you, Lord, for the new thing you do in us when we turn our hearts to you. We thank you that you are worth it, for this life is miserable without you. I thank you, Lord, for all the lessons you have taught through this book and that your words do not contradict each other. In that respect, we can see the relevance and application to our lives. I thank you, Lord, for changed lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Resources:
Gotquestions.org
Logos Bible Software
Scofield Reference Bible
Bible Gateway
Bible Study Tools
Bible.org
Bluebetterbible.org



--Nylse

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5 comments:

  1. I'm so grateful there is always hope with God. Our stories don't have to end in tragedy when we pray and allow God to turn our hearts around. Thanks for this series on Ezra, Nylse. Sometimes we're too quick to pass by these Old Testament books, but they contain treasures.

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  2. Nylse, I love the HOPE that is expressed in Ezra. It's that same HOPE we express in this holiday season to those who have no hope and to ourselves as well. The HOPE of redemption. The HOPE of everlasting life. The HOPE of spending eternity with our Creator and Redeemer. Thank you for these precious reminders!

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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  3. I have enjoyed reading your Ezra study. I have learned so much from your posts. Hope is a powerful emotion, one I have been thinking about often. I especially loved this line:" Don't repent simply out of fear but because you recognize that God's ways are better than yours." We need to recognize that God knows best, better than any of us and follow His ways the best we can.

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  4. I've had this post in my inbox for a while and have been looking forward to reading it. My takeaway from this passage is always heartbreak over the effects of sin. So often, we just can't undo the wrong that's been done without making a mess of other peoples' lives. And yet we are called to repent and turn away from sin.
    Thanks for the work you have invested in this great series.

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  5. Thank you Nylse, may you have a blessed year in 2020!

    You're most welcome to join me for a cuppa at Tea With Jennifer,
    Bless you,
    Jennifer

    ReplyDelete

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