Ezra 9

Ezra   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  49:54
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Years ago there was a small band of man who we might refer to as fox hole buddies, but they were not soldiers. They shared a large amount of time working, traveling, and eating together. Their camaraderie was not without challenges, for they often bickered with one another and annoyed each other.
Their friendship grew through some near-death experiences one in which they almost all drowned in a ferocious storm at sea.
Though again, they were not soldiers they had missions that they carried out together. Some missions were met with great resistance and others were carried out with a miraculous amount of success.
They lived in a country that was oppressed by foreign rulers, but they were receiving little glimpses that this oppressive rule might be overthrown.
But then the unimaginable happened- one of their band defected. He didn’t just leave the group- he was a traitor. He went to the enemy and revealed a special place where the group would spend time together.
The group got wind of his betrayal. In fact the intel they received was specific regarding the timing in which it would happen.
One would have thought that this would have put this tight group of friends on high alert, but it was almost as if they had been duped by the enemy. They ate together, went out to their hang out spot and went to sleep on the very night their traitor was doing his cunning deed.
What was it that lured the betrayer over to the enemy and lulled the rest of them into a naive and indifferent state?
We will see here in a few minutes, but this introduces us to a similar situation that not only Ezra, but we ourselves, finds ourselves up against.

The enemy lures and lulls us away from our God

As Ezra unfolds the story of the returns, under God’s inspiration and direction, he chooses certain details to craft the message that we need to hear. He give the first hint of resistance where he record in the building of the altar that the people were careful to build the altar in the appropriate place because of their fear of the people of the land. After the laying of the foundation, the author moves beyond the mention of resistance to convey the sustained affront that continues for 80 years. In a brief sentence he records that the temple of God did stop for 16 years but then reconvened through the awakening prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah and the eye of God that was upon them. With not as much detail, he then weaves into the story hardness of a 4 month, 900 mile journey with about 5,000 people. However, in this hardship no bandits ever made off with their treasures or sacked any of their young and helpless. Adversity in the story is not belittled but is made small by the repeated emphasis on the good hand of God being upon them and by the ease with which God moves the hearts of the most powerful kings in the land. (Pause)
The author is not done. He knows that the fiercest battles are not with the loud and large enemies without; they are the silent assaults within. God’s people once again have seen grand victories without, but can they survive the corruption within?
Here’s a question. We have declared that the book of Ezra was written for our hope. Do we have to amend the title with the additional words “in most situations”?

Hope Continues with the Holiness of God’s People

If this is the thesis of the sermon, then we might as well stop now and conclude that hope is dead.
Is this going to be some “turn the tide” secret that has been missing for millenniums?
If hope is connected to the holiness of God’s people then we need some explanation. God’s expectations seem to be given to set us up for failure
In order for hope to continue with the holiness of God’s people:

Clarity on that which corrupts God’s people is needed

Ezra 9:1 (NKJV)
1 When these things were done, the leaders came to me, 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 of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
Clarity on the diagnosis:
The behavior is seen as repulsive. (Ezra repeats this in His prayer)
This separation is not a matter of race. (Ezra 6- those who joined them. Boaz marries a Moabite. At one point they were to drive these nations out. He is referring back to a category of people in the time of the conquest and applying it to their present situation.
We tend to think of this as personal preference. However when the face of God “contorts” over something that is grotesque, that should send warning to us. Downgrading the taste of one who is perfect is dangerous.
Ezra 9:2 (NKJV)
2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.”
The behavior compromises the purifying purpose
Foreign women was used of Solomon in 1 Kings 11:1-2
1 Kings 11:1–2 NKJV
1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.
Illustration of purifying with dirty filter
The behavior was treacherous (disloyal)
The behavior broke through your defense line
In order for hope to continue with the holiness of God’s people:

The verdict for unholiness must be taken gravely

Ezra 9:3–4 NKJV
3 So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice.
This mourning practice is associated over and over again with termination and death. There is no back up and reserves.
Ezra arrived in the 5th month. (7:9). This incident that we are covering took place in the 9th month.
Our understanding is that Ezra had been faithfully giving the sense of what God’s Word said. This kind of activity seems likely due to those who came to him with the report and due the fact that those who trembled at God’s word gathered around Ezra for this somber occassion.
Not to detract from the solemness of this scene, but to paint a fuller picture of the gravity of God’s people, consider Nehemiah 7:73-8:1 (7th month- passover)
Nehemiah 7:73–8:1 (NKJV)
73 When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
1 Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.
Nehemiah 8:9–10 NKJV
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
God’s people are noted for their repentance. They are grieved over what offends God and joyed over the fact that this God graciously pardons repentant ones.
Transition: Accurate diagnosis; serious about the consequences now we are ready for the cure? Yes but we have to think rightly about the cure
Illustration about keeping wisdom on the court. As long as they do this they verify that an actual game still exists and that there will be a day when right playing will be reward.
In order for hope to continue through the holiness of God’s people.

God’s people commit to a life of prayer

I know that when we hear this, there are potentially all kind of thoughts going off in our minds- Amen! How long? I keep hearing if I pray more than greater things will happen. If I had greater faith.. how do I get greater faith.
Prayer enters into solidarity with the gravity of the need
Ezra 9:6–7 (NKJV)
6 And I said: “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.
7 Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day.
Illustration of not my problem:
1st person singular to first person plural
Every person is responsible for their own sin.
There is a solidarity with the sins of the fathers. We are doing the same sin that sent them into captivity.
Prayer counts on God’s favor
Ezra 9:8–9 (NKJV)
8 And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.
9 For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.
The brief moment of favor
In the middle of slavery
There is then the review of some of the themes we have already covered regarding the nature of Israel’s deed.
Prayer spreads out the cause before a righteous God
Ezra 9:14–15 (NKJV)
14 should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?
15 O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!”
So exile doesn’t end and hope continue with Israel just coming back into the land. Holiness is vital for the people to remain in the land.
So do we have hope? We have a prescribe solution but not necessarily a sure solution because of the frailty of God’s people.
We need to go back to the opening story with the band of men facing the weight of betrayal in their midst but being somewhat haphazard about it- sleeping.
Who was this historical group of men?- The disciples. Betrayal had happened among them and their cause was about to be overrun by a band of soldiers- and they are sleeping- Except One!
He prays for them with great agony while they sleep. Talk about entering into solidarity with His people.
The enemy lures to other hopes. He lulls us to sleep as though it is not a big deal.
Your vigilance in holiness assures that you have a part in God’s unfolding story. It give hope to others whose lives are hopeless.
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