Thursday, July 14, 2022

            Ezra offered leadership to Judah near the end of the Babylonian exile and in the days that followed.  The book that carries his name is ten chapters long and details the rebuilding of the temple and the return of Ezra and others to Jerusalem.  The work that God gave him to do was not easy but it was crucial to the reestablishment of the Jewish people in the land God had originally promised them.  In Ezra 7, he wrote, “Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me” (Ezra 7:28b).  Ezra knew he needed God’s help to complete the mission that was entrusted to him.  He was wise enough and humble enough to seek courage from the Lord God.  There certainly may be missions and occasions where we feel inadequate to do what God has for us.  In such times, Ezra is an example.  We seek the courage we need from the Lord.  Note also that Ezra did not work alone.  He gathered others to go with him.  God can graciously give us the company and blessings of others to help bear the weight of the work He has for us to do.  Often, all we have to do is ask God for a trusted brother or sister to go with us and to stand beside us.  Remember Moses had Aaron, Paul had Barnabas and Timothy.  Even Jesus leaned upon Peter, James and John.
            Ezra’s ten chapters have some important works about repentance, confession and forgiveness.  He led the people to acknowledge their sinfulness and the role that the disobedience of their ancestors had played in the punishing exile in Babylon.  Ezra led the people to pray these words, “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this. Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” (Ezra 9:13, 15).  Confession is important for us today.  We have to acknowledge our sinfulness and failure before the Lord.  When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and offers grace and forgiveness for those sins (see I John 1:9).  We are not to treat sin and disobedience lightly.  Some folks often like to dismiss sin and minimize it by saying everyone sins or we all do it or there’s always grace and God will always forgive us.  But the Bible is clear that we are not to be casual about sin, whimsical about it or even de-emphasizing it as we might minimize a paper cut.
            Paul said this about sin, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).  Jesus Himself told a woman whom he had forgiven to go and sin no more (John 8:11).  John wrote, “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (I John 3:5-6).  We are to see sin as God sees it.  We are to treat it as seriously as God does.  Ezra’s confession and treatment of sin helps us to see that we are to deal ruthlessly with any sin or disobedience that we find in our lives.  Unaddressed or ignored sin can grow and metastasize just like cancer in the body.  We are to give no room or occasion for sin to grow.  Isaiah offered us this warning, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).  Perhaps today, Ezra inspires you to seek courage from the Lord and to live courageously for Him.  Maybe this ancient man convicts you of sin and disobedience or even a cavalier attitude about such things that needs correction.  Scripture can comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  Have a great Thursday!

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