God's Work in Difficult Decisions- Ezra 10

Ezra: God's Work in Human Failures  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A sermon demonstrating the difficult decisions that must be made in light of human failures

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God's Work in Difficult Decisions- Ezra 10

We noted last week that human failures bring about tough situations. Specifically, the people of Israel married pagans who refused to forsake their idols and worship Yahweh alone. God has, is, and will continue to work through human failures.
And one of the ways we see this is through Difficult Decisions. Have you ever had to make a difficult decision? I mean, have you ever been faced with a choice, a choice you had to make, that either way you looked it was just hard? And I am not talking about what to have for lunch (although, let’s be honest, sometimes that is a hard decision!).
I am talking about the difficult decision of telling your spouse you have been unfaithful. I am talking about the hard choice to tell a close friend that you have gossiped about them behind their back. I am discussing the tremendously hard determination of disciplining an individual out of the church for a refusal to repent.
God Works in Human failures, particularly in tough situations, involves difficult decisions.

I. Difficult Decisions are made by God’s people- 10:1-5

The narrative from chapter nine continues to this chapter. Ezra and the people are broken over their sin against God. More people joined Ezra in his mourning (“very great assembly”). They were broken.
Then Shecaniah enters the account in verse 2. He acknowledges the people’s guilt, but he also offers hope. They will make a covenant together to put away (i.e., divorce) these pagan women (and their children).

A. They affect the congregation- 10:1

One of the beauties of belonging to the people of Israel is the common values they held, along with their religious connection. They were God’s people. And not unlike the church, the difficult decisions affected all of them. Their sin affected the congregation, and the decision on how to proceed affected all of them.
As a side note, we need to consider the weight of our actions in light of our congregation. How will this deed affect those around me?

B. They require action- 10:2-3

Difficult decisions require action. The people could not tolerate the sins, something had to be done. They had to make a decision and carry through with it. They could not make a New Year’s resolution, follow through with it for two weeks, and then give up. This was a serious problem that required a serious solution.

C. They involve leaders- 10:5

Difficult decisions involve leaders. Beginning with Ezra and the officials (see 9:1), and then moving to the people, it returns back to the leaders. “It is your task,” say the people. God has, as we noted from chapters 7-8, used leaders. Today we have pastors/elders in the church, back then they have priests, prophets, and kings.
Difficult decisions involve leaders.
The people of God, including children and women and men, and specifically the leaders, were involved with these difficult decisions. They were one body, with many members, much like the church is today. They faced this difficult decision squarely, and they realized that severe matters were at stake. They realized that Difficult Decisions are made worse by inaction.

II. Difficult Decisions are made worse by inaction- 10:6-8

Inaction often leads to greater sin and complexity. The people’s failure to obey the Law (inaction) created this situation. It is compounded with the mentioning of children as a result of these relationships (10:3, 44).
When we fail to deal with difficult decisions, things get worse. Like failing to address a mild infection, it can lead to great infection and even result in death. The people of God had to decide whether to obey the Lord. Ezra calls for an assembly of “all the returned exiles.”
But I imagine not everyone was gung ho about this. There were regularly assembled three times a year already (Passover, Pentecost, and Booths). This, however, was a serious matter.
If you working on your car and a tool slipped and deeply cut your hand, you would not put a bandaid on it and wait until your next check up. You would immediately go to the Emergency Room. The cut would become worse through your inaction, possibly getting infected, and if deep enough, possibly ending your life.
Difficult decisions are just that, difficult. Dealing with sin is hard. However, the difficulty of it does not excuse the necessity of it. Our goal is restoration, and that is an eternal goal (thinking of terms of our standing before God) and for growth (thinking in terms of us becoming like Christ).
What is the result of inaction? Expulsion from the people of God (see verse 8). This would be similar to excommunication found in 1 Cor. 5. That is serious.
Difficult decisions are made by God’s people, they are made worse by inaction, but difficult decisions require time.

III. Difficult Decisions require time- 10:9-17

Difficult decisions require time, and there are several important lessons for us from this section.

A. Time in no way minimizes the sin

You cannot read chapter 9 and 10 and come away with a halfhearted approach to their sins. It was serious. Yet, because of the breadth of the sin, it would require time (and investigation) to root out everything.
And this is an important lesson for us today. It is easy to look at others’ sins and wonder why they are immediately judged, or why they do not immediately change. But we should look with the exact opposite view. We should be patient, because the Lord is so patient with us. We should be understanding, that, as sin has worked its way into our lives and our hearts, it takes time to weed the gardens of our heart from sin. Even still, sin is serious, and the need for additional time does not minimize it.

B. Time is needed for exactness

The people, to their credit, realized that this sin was far reaching. They knew it would take time. They also knew that it required preciseness.
Imagine going to the doctor because of an infection in your arm. The doctor numbs your arm and begins the process of removing the infection. When finished, you ask, “Well doc, did you get everything?” What if he replies, “I think so.” You would ask him to check again. Or, think about a mechanic fixing your brakes. Upon completion, would you be satisfied with the “I think they will work fine” assessment?
However, when dealing with sin, we love generalities and impreciseness. “God, forgive us for not obeying you.” That is a general statement. What specific commands have we violated? When you go to the doctor, you reveal all the ailments afflicting you. Perhaps the doctor wishes you would spare her of some the details. Why do we go to the physician of our souls and hastily and generally confess our sins?
We need to be exact. Work through the Ten Commandments and ask specific questions. The Holy Spirit will bring up sins, and then confess them. Take the time, do not rush through confession, or difficult decisions.

C. Time necessitates the need for patience

This is particular important for individuals who struggle with impatience (ironic, right??). Think about Peter, after the betrayal of Christ. He pulls out a sword and chops off the ear of the servant of the high priest (John 18:10). Peter was impatient.
We are impatient. If something is wrong, we want to fix it now. The problem with this approach, though we have already noted two reasons, is that it is impractical. We are actual, physical people. God created us with limitations. The people were standing in the rain, and sin ran deep. There was no way they would be able to address it all at once.
Their solution (both wise and practical, and with biblical support (Ex. 18), was to break the task down to manageable sizes in appropriate weather.
The whole process took 3 months. However, the task was complete. God’s people were involved in the process, from the leadership to the children. They avoided greater sin by dealing with it, but they balanced that sincerity with the appropriate time. As a result, the decision to separate, though difficult, was accomplished. But there is one more point that will not take up too much of our time, and that is Difficult Decisions are specific.

IV. Difficult Decisions are specific- 10:18-44

It seems that this list is not exhaustive, but is representative of the leaders. Faithful to the LORD, they confess their sins and work to restore their relationship with God and His covenant people. Decisions, as we consider them today, should be specific, with regards to the sins, the issues relating to the sins, the time involved with dealing with the sin, and the individuals involved with the process of the sin.
I want to offer a brief word about how we can connect these truths to our lives today.
Church Life- this provides a First Testament example of how Church life would be conducted (membership covenant, church discipline, and discipleship)
Individual Life- this provides an example of how to make difficult decisions (rely on the Scriptures, involve other wise, godly men and women, develop a specific plan)
Palm Sunday- Our theme through this book is God’s Work in Human Failure. This book has provided us insights into the workings of God to bring His people back from exile to their Promised Land to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
God made the difficult decision of sending His Son to die in our place (Eph. 1:3). God’s decision to place humanity’s sin on His pure Son (2 Cor. 5:21) cost the Son and the Father much (Psalm 22, my God, my God, why have you Forsaken me?) God’s decision required time, found in seed form in Gen. 3:15 with various glimpses and shadows found in the First Testament, “until the fullness of time had come” (Gal. 4:4). This difficult decision was specific, as Paul would write “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:5)
God’s Work in Difficult Decisions, much like His work in Human Failures, is a testament to His love, patience, and glorious salvation. Let us, with the disciples of Matthew chapter 21, say this morning, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
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