In the past couple of blogs, we have learned some things from the story of Ezra the scribe about thinking like God and the good news that the good hand of the Lord is upon believers…for good! For some time there had been an exodus of Jews after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, just as God had promised. The Temple had been rebuilt and worship according to the Law was restored. Great progress was being made in getting back on track worshipping the one true God and living a life that pleased Him. But there were still things that were not right that needed to be dealt with through confession and repentance.
When these things were done, the leaders came to me (Ezra), saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations…(Ezra 9:1).
Though progress was being made, the people were still sympathetic to the ways of the world and had not fully repented of things that displease God. Ezra’s reactions were immediate and dramatic:
- He tore his garment
- He pulled his hair from his head and beard
- He sat appalled
- He fasted
- He fell upon his knees
- He spread out his hands to the Lord
- He expressed shame
- He blushed
- He admitted guilt
- He confessed sin
- Ezra prayed
- He confessed more
- He wept
- He cast himself down before the house of God
- He mourned over the faithless of the exiles
I don’t know about you, but when I realize either I or a group I am a part of or our nation has sinned, my reaction is a bit more casual. Perhaps I should learn from Ezra’s example that sin and friendship with the world really do offend God big time.
Ezra’s reaction to sin and worldliness really does fit in with a Biblical view of sin and worldliness. While it may be considered normal and acceptable for believers to adopt many of the ways of the world, we must do so very cautiously. Friendship with the world offends God (James 4:4). And if we allow ourselves to become too friendly with the world, we may be in danger of falling in love with the world, also not a good thing (1 John 2:15). It’s kind of like dating an unbeliever. The Bible forbids it, and for good reason. What can happen if you date an unbeliever? You could get closer to them and fall in love with them! If you do that, they will likely influence you to lukewarmness in your faith at best, apostasy at worst. Similarly, friendship and comfort with the ways of the world are risky.
We are encouraged in scripture to come out from among them (unbelievers) and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17). We are told to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). By definition, to be holy is to be separate. The Lord knows that we are weak and if we play with fire we will likely be burned. Since the beginning, the Lord has required a difference between His people and all others. The difference is because of who we worship and who unbelievers worship. If two different people worship different gods, they will live noticeable different lives from each other!
It was appalling to Ezra to realize the extent of the worldliness of the people of God and the lack of line drawn between them and the godless. Ezra reacted extremely. Extreme reactions to sin please God. It shows one has similar thoughts, values, and affections as God.
Jesus was anointed because He loved righteousness and hated wickedness (Hebrews 1:9). The apostle Paul commanded believers to abhor evil and cling to that which is good (Romans 12:9). Ezra’s extreme reaction to sin and worldliness was godly and appropriate. A lesser reaction would have shown a tolerance to sin, which was exactly the problem with the believers in the first place!
The next time you confess your sin or the sins of others, consider Ezra’s reaction to worldliness. Perhaps if we get the reaction right, we won’t be so inclined to go back to it again!