Ezra Prays About Intermarriage
9 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, saying:
“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
“And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 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? O LORD, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”
Ezra 9 Commentary
by Hank Workman
After a 4 month, dangerous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, Ezra arrived to find things not as he had thought. A culture of compromise within his own people greeted him. The people, including the Levites who were there, had taken for themselves mates of the neighboring countries. They had intermingled with the pagan and were still participating their rites and had intermarried. This was part of what got Israel in trouble to begin with where they ended in bondage and exile.
Intermarriage had been forbidden in the Law. This Law set by God was not a prejudice but totally spiritual. A person who was hooked to a pagan, one who did not follow God would be inclined to adopt their mates pagan beliefs and practices. This would set the compromise of their own hearts and in time would drift further away from the conviction and ways of God. King Solomon is a stunning example of this.
Ezra was appalled at the blatant sin. He tore his clothes, pulled his hair and fell to his knees in prayer.
His response gives a great perspective. Sin is serious. Our sins affect others even if we don’t necessarily see it that way. God’s love and mercy had spared the nation when they did nothing to deserve it. With weeping he confessed the sins of his people through shame for the sin and fear of the consequences. He desired greatly that the people would come to their senses and repent. We will read in chapter 10 how Ezra’s prayer moved the people toward exactly what he prayed for as they wept bitterly over their behavior.
In a day when sin has become a gray area and can be viewed as inconsequential the reminder is great here. Our sin affects others. Our sin separates us from God. Our sin leads us further away from the plan of God.
Ezra 9 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
This chapter is a perfect example of why context is so important when reading Scripture. The Israelites have already been through the humiliation and anguish and being exiled. The reason for this exile, very simply, was their compromise with sin. Most notably of that compromise was the constant mingling with other nations and adopting foreign gods. We may look at God’s commandment not to intermarry as overbearing and strict, however, the Israelites proved the commandment to be necessary by continually leading the nation astray through this very act. Now, after all they have been through, history repeats itself.
Their story is our story. The culture is different, but the offense is the same. In our day, we fight a daily battle to go back to the sins that led us astray before we met Christ. Even though we have experienced freedom and deliverance eternally, we continue to live in the temporary tension of a fallen world. Like Israel, we so quickly forget how much emptiness was brought on by our past life of sinful pursuit. Maybe you are struggling right now? Maybe this is what you are currently living?
It’s a terrible place to be. What do we do when we reach this place? Let’s look at how Ezra responds.
and I said, “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.Ezra 9:6 NASB
“O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.”Ezra 9:15 NASB
Humility. Repentance. Sorrow.
This is the response of Ezra. His heart is broken. He knows they don’t deserve God’s grace. He knows they have gone back on their word. He knows that they have backtracked to what destroyed them in the first place. So, he comes fully acknowledging their guilt, and asking for God’s grace. He comes before the Lord with honest confession. He doesn’t try and cover it, or minimize it, or even fix it!
He owns it. Did you catch that? Let’s hear it again. He. Owned. The. Sin.
How many Christians today will not own their sin? I’m sure you know a few. God’s heart loves humility.
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”Luke 18:13-14 NASB