Ezra: Ezra prayed and people gathered around him. They confessed their sin of marrying foreigners and wept. They suggested making a covenant and putting away their foreign wives and children. Ezra made the leading priests, Levites, and others take an oath to do this. A decree was made that the returned exiles should assemble at Jerusalem in three days or lose their land and be banned from the assembly of the exiles.
The men gathered and stood in the heavy rain listening to Ezra explain the problem of breaking faith with God and increasing the guilt of Israel. He charged them to confess their sin and separate from the people of the land and their foreign wives. They agreed but it would take time and they couldn’t stand in the rain that long. So, they appointed heads of family groups in each city to come and work it out. Only four men objected.
It took two months to identify everyone. The names of priest were listed who pledged to put away their wives and give a guilt offering. Levites were also listed as well as many from Israel. Some had children.
Psalm: David is really down in the dumps today. He is emotionally and physically hurting and he tells the Lord he is. He relates the reason for his distress. He briefly mentions his inequities but also list his enemies, friends, and acquaintances who are all keeping their distance or trying to get rid of him. Like most other times of depression, he rebounds with trusting the Lord and asking for relief from his enemies.
Proverbs: The Lord wants people to act correctly and not just make sacrifices.
1 Corinthians: Paul told the Corinthians that it was shameful for believers to sue each other in secular courts. Rather, they should take their disputes to other Christians. They should be able to find someone wise enough to judge them. After all, believers will judge the world and even angels. Just having such disputes shows they are defeated in their Christian walk. They should be willing to suffer loss or be defrauded but instead they are doing that to their fellow Christians.
People who behave that way along with a list of sinful activities will not inherit the kingdom of God. That is what they used to be. But now they are washed, sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and the Spirit.
Some of the Corinthians claimed that they were above the Law as Christians and therefore could do what they wanted. So, Paul explained to them that there may not be a law against doing these things, but they are not beneficial for them. They even applied this to sexual behavior and Paul points out that since they belong to Christ and Christ lives in them, what they do in their bodies, they do to Christ including making him joined with prostitutes when they engage in that. This sin is worse than others because it is done against their own bodies and their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Since they were bought with a price, they should glorify God in their bodies.
What Stood Out
Ezra: “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” (Ezra 10:11).
Psalm: “For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life” (Ps 31:13).
Proverbs: “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Prov 21:3).
1 Corinthians: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Cor 6:9).
Ezra: Did God command these men to separate from their wives and children? No, there is nothing in this account that anyone went to the Lord and asked what he wanted them to do. They decided and Ezra agreed. I can’t argue that it was a sin for them to marry these women, but if we look at the book of Ruth, we find that Boaz married Ruth who was a Moabite. Rahab was also a foreigner and both of these women ended up in the bloodline of Jesus. There is precedent for sending off a quarreling woman as Abraham did with Hagar and Ishmael. There is no indication that these wives were contentious. It appears that the exiles’ action was rash and based on their own perception of what God wanted. The Old Testament has many examples of people doing things that God didn’t condone. He is silent about them. There are more things where God’s evaluation of the situation is mentioned. In this case we need to look elsewhere to find out if this is simply recorded history or it was written as an example to follow.
Is there a parallel problem in the church that compares to this problem in post exile Israel? The only one I can think of is when a believer marries an unbeliever. Paul make it clear that this is not God’s will (1 Cor 7:39; 2 Cor 6:14). However, the solution that Ezra and the people proposed is not the Christian solution to the problem. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul clearly says that if a believer is married to an unbeliever, the Christian is not to divorce the unbeliever as long as the unbeliever is willing to live with a Christian. He also considers the impact on the children and calls them holy (1 Cor 7:14). Whether or not God required the people of Ezra’s time to separate and send the wives and children away, this is not what Christians should do.
Psalm: David appears to be paranoid as he speaks of his enemies whispering about bringing terror upon him. They are scheming and plotting against him. You’ve heard the saying, “Just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” David may have been paranoid but there were times when people plotted against him. As we’ve seen, being a king in those days didn’t ensure longevity. I think more died because of conspiracy and assignation than old age.
However, we aren’t living in those days. We can become paranoid when we listen to gossip or too much talk radio. The terror on all sides is not necessarily personal. In the last few days, we’ve had the President of the U.S. telling North Korea that there will be “fire and fury” if their provocations increase as they rush to build nuclear missiles capable of reaching the U.S. Today, he has pushed it even more. How do we respond to these things? Do we get depressed, frightened, angry, build bomb shelters, or head for the hills? No. We do what David did. He said he trusted God and knew that his times were in God’s hands (Psalm 31:14-15). He also prayed to be rescued and that the evil ones would be put to shame. There is peace for us even when the world is going crazy because we trust in Jesus and we don’t need to be anxious. We simply need to ask the Lord to take care of things we can’t control (which is everything) and his peace will guard our minds in Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).
Proverbs: The sacrificial system was the method of getting back into God’s good graces when someone had sinned. It makes sense then, if a person is being righteous and just, being the kind of a person that he wants them to be, the need for sacrifice is not necessary. After all, Paul said that the whole law was summed up in loving your neighbor because doing that will not bring about sin (Rom 13:9-10).
1 Corinthians: Paul covers just about everything that could be covered in this chapter as far as unrighteous behavior goes. What he sums up in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is that people who continue to practice unrighteous things are demonstrating that they really aren’t saved. Sure, these guys were new believers and thought they could camp on a couple of theological issues like no longer being under the Law to justify their actions. But, after being warned about this kind of behavior, everything from defrauding each other to sexual immorality, anyone who continues in them is only demonstrating that they really weren’t transformed when the “accepted” Jesus as their Savior. If they were not transformed, then they are not in Christ and are not saved. They only jump on the Christian bandwagon so they can escape hell and still do what they want.
Now there are others who have fallen into these sins as bona fide Christians. They struggle with those sins and truly want to get rid of them but they are so much of their past that they keep falling. They feel guilty and remorse but can’t seem to shed the sinful behavior. Paul tells one powerful way of overcoming those sins. He uses the example of doing those sins and having Jesus right there in you doing them along with you to show how awful it is to do them. We have the Holy Spirit and he gives us the power to overcome any sin if we call on him for help. If a person recognizes the sinful behavior, admits his powerlessness, ask for help and sees that Jesus is right there in him and that he is about to cause Jesus to participate (he can’t really participate because he is holy but think about how awful it would be if he did) in what he is doing firsthand, that is powerful to stop sin in its tracks.
I need to be careful about Bible study. Reading something that happened and thinking God approved it as well as making it a rule for my life can lead to trouble. The case of Jephthah sacrificing his daughter is a good example. I also need to apply what I’ve said about overcoming sins to all sin, not just the biggies.