Bible Reading: Ezra 9-10
“And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape?” (Ezra 9:13-14)
If a judge granted undeserved mercy to a criminal and let him walk free, the last thing you would expect would be for this criminal to go out and mug yet another old lady. The mercy he received out to have made him realise the evil he had committed and the goodness the judge had given him. In awe and respect to the judge, doing another crime should not have crossed his mind again.
This is what you would have expected from the remnant of Israel. Because of their idolatry and worship of foreign gods, God destroyed their cities and sent all of them into exile. When you are exiled, you are stripped from human dignity. You become an inferior slave, a prisoner of war. You have no right except to obey your new masters or be killed. God was letting His people know how serious their crime was.
Fast forward to Ezra’s time, and God has mercy to return the remnants of His people to Israel. You would expect that the Israelites would have learnt their lesson — do not serve other gods. Yet, as soon as they returned to their ruined homelands, they intermarried with foreign nations and implicitly welcomed the worship of foreign idols into their homes. So, you might ask, what is wrong with these people?
However, if you pry a little further, God put stories like these in the Bible because they are stories about us, Christians. We all have gone after idols. We have rejected to serve the One True God. We serve ourselves, wealth, pleasure, fame, acceptance, the list goes on. God’s wrath is what we deserve. We were separated from a relationship with the living God. We were cursed with death. Our sin is serious.
Yet, God chose to love us from eternity. Because of that, He sent His only Son to die for our sins on the cross. He bore our punishment on Himself and clothed us in His perfect righteousness. At the right time, His Spirit opened our hearts to this message and gave us the gift of faith. We were regenerated, and we believed and returned to our God — something we definitely do not deserve.
We ought to run away from our sins, turn away from all our idols. But what do we do? We run straight back to our idols. Though we are Christians, we often still turn to serve our pride, love for money, desire to be accepted and selfish ambitions. We so often forget about the love of Christ that has redeemed us.
What should we do? Ezra serves as an example for us. He got on his knees and begged for mercy. We cannot overcome the monsters of sin within ourselves. We need God’s mercy (see 1 John 1:9). Then, Ezra bought all the Israelites together in an urgent meeting. Together, they decided to repent and put away all the intermarriage they had committed. They took a serious act of repentance. They put to death the sin that had invaded them. So too, we are called to put to death the sin in our lives (see Romans 6:12-14).
May God continue to sanctify us and help us live more holily day by day.
Lord, please forgive us because we often stray away from You. Even though You have given us the greatest gift of a new life in Christ, we often forget and think other idols will satisfy us more than You. Please have mercy on us. Help us overcome our sins and help us turn to You. Change our hearts and give us a heart that loves You more. Help us put our sin to death and live holy lives, set apart for Your good works. In Jesus’ name, amen.