Scripture printed text: Ezra 10:1-12
For decades, God sent many prophets to warn Israel and Judah that their disobedience and lack of repentance would ultimately lead to their destruction. These prophecies were fulfilled when Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC, followed by Judah’s fall in 586 BC at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. For seventy years, God used Babylon to judge the people for their disobedience.
After the return from exile, Ezra made two significant reforms: the reading of the law, and the resolution of mixed marriages. Informed by the leaders about the issue of marriage with foreign wives, Ezra is in great distress for the sin of the people, he expresses deep contrition. While he prayed and made confession with weeping and casting himself down to the ground before the temple. There were a large crowd of people from Israel; men, women and children gathered and wept bitterly with him. Ezra’s actions lead the people to realize the seriousness of their sin they have committed against God. All sin is first against God, then against others, and confession is the first step towards reconciliation with God.
Then Shecaniah, the son of Jehiel, a descendant of Elam, said to Ezra; we have been unfaithful to our God, we have married pagan women of the land. Despite the unfaithfulness to God, there’s still hope for Israel. God never leaves His people without hope. God promised that if His people would turn from their sins and turn back to Him, He would forgive them and restore them. So Shecaniah suggested to Ezra for them to send away those wives, along with their children. Also, he proposed to Ezra led to the oath taken by the leaders that they all the returned exiles in Judah come to Jerusalem. There in Jerusalem, is where the people would make a covenant with God, and offer repentance of their sins, and follow the necessary steps to make things right with God. Obedience to God is the only to make things right with Him. When confronted with the magnitude of their sin, the people took repentance seriously, even though the corrective action would be costly. Because genuine repentance, leads to making steps necessary for God’s forgiveness and restoration. What are you willing to give up to maintain worship to the one true living God?
The people agreed to journey to Jerusalem and make a covenant with God, to repent of their sins and send away the pagan wives and their children. In three days, all who returned from exile would arrive in Jerusalem to hear from the Lord thorough the priest Ezra. On the third day, Ezra stood up and addressed the people. He said unto them, ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives to increase the trespass of Israel. Now confess your sin to the Lord, and do what He demands. Separate yourselves from the people of the land and from these pagan women. After Ezra spoke to the people, the whole assembly said with a loud voice, as thou have said, so must we do. Their confession will not be complete until action is taken to repair the wrong that has been done to God.
God is just and holy and will not tolerate sin. But also He is a God of mercy and long-suffering ever ready to forgive those who will humbly come to Him. Repentance is turning from sin, and turning to God. Turning to God means forgiveness of sin.