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GOOD MORNING SIBLINGS!
Today’s readings are Ezra 8-10 and we finish up the book today!
Well, y’all, put on your waders because we’re going to be walking into what the world considers some muddy waters today.
The good news is that YHWH is clear as a glass of mountain spring water.
Still, this is going to prickle, hurt, and maybe even offend worldly sensibilities – and we all have those.
Having said that, I recommend you stop and read today’s chapters and then come back to this …
Doing it by the book. We see in Ezra 8:15-20 that Ezra sent for Levites to serve in the temple. He could have easily said “Well, we’ve got a temple but no Levites so let us come up with the next best thing.” Or, “Since there are no Levites here, let’s come up with our own idea of a priest instead.” But Ezra was determined to lead and live by the book. He sent for Levites!
And now we come to a mass divorce in the Bible. I want to begin by sharing some verses that we’ve read in previous books of the Bible.
When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. Deuteronomy 7:1-3
And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same. Exodus 34:16
To those I want to add:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Cor 6:14
“The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of YHWH our Lord. 30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons. Neh 10:28
Now let’s read Ezra 10:1-5
10 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. 4 Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” 5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.
Here is the kicker: I’ve heard prominent scholars blame Ezra for this mass divorce. They point out that there is no mention in the Bible of YHWH directing him to order this. Well, if you know the Word of YHWH, which Ezra did, you know that they should have never intermarried with these people anyway.
YHWH had already told His people, centuries before, and many of these were Levite priests who were raised in and versed in the Torah. They had known what they were doing was wrong when they did it, but they did it anyway. These were unions made after they had returned to rebuild the temple and had been clearly warned against marrying or joining themselves to these tribes.
Did YHWH need to personally tell Ezra that these men needed to turn from their sin?
These unions were not sanctified, ordained, or allowed by YHWH, so it is questionable if it was even considered divorce in His eyes as they were not legitimate marriages in His eyes to begin with.
YHWH did not need to define sin once more as He had already clearly done that.
If you or I committed murder this day, or adultery, or theft, and a person of YHWH called us out on it and told us to repent, would they have had to heard directly from YHWH in order to be justified in doing so?
We have already heard from Him.
As we have seen, repeatedly, His words are not only clear but repetitive with that same clarity.
YHWH defined sin long ago. He is not going to then redefine it or change his mind because His people want to live in it.
And notice it says in Ezra 9:1
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…”
*WITH* their abominations.
These people had not given up their detestable practices or idolatrous ways.
Some would say “But what about Ruth? She was a Moabite.”
Yes, but in Ruth 1 we read her declare “Don’t press me to leave you and stop following you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
Ruth joined herself with YHWH and His people, and as such, became one of them.
Ezra 9:1 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.
Ezra 9:2 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.”
A natural part of repentance is to turn from sin and, as Messiah said “sin no more.” (John 8:11) If we are guilty of the sin of murder and YHWH forgives us, is it okay if we continue to murder someone each night and go back again and again to ask for forgiveness with no intention of ceasing the detestable act? If we continue, we have not repented, we have not turned from our sin. As Paul said in Romans 6:1 “Should we continue sinning so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Further, a Levite priest is a very special person, considered YHWH’s own direct servant in His temple, given holy duties that cannot be performed by anyone else. They are set apart to an even greater extent than the rest of YHWH’s people. They must be sanctified and holy. How can this be the case when, each day in their home life, they are living with idolaters and among abominations – which could represent any number of things?
It is worth noting that everyone who repented did so of their own free will. They could have chosen not to. However, they admitted their sin and sought to repent, seeking a renewed covenant with God .
My point is, I feel like those who point out that YHWH did not directly tell Ezra to have them put away these foreign wives are trying to whitewash YHWH, because in their mind this makes YHWH seem cruel and heartless.
But in reality, this is hope that He would allow them to willfully sin directly against Him, allowing other gods into their home and yoking themselves with those who seek after these other gods, going against multiple commandments. And now, they are allowed to repent from their sin and enter into covenant with Him once more.
That is grace.
That is hope.
That is a God of second, third, and fourth chances.
YHWH has already given His people instructions. He does not need to repeat Himself, but He has. And He has also given us story after story, histories that show us what happens when people seek the world over Him.
He’s shown us, time and again His grace and love and hope. If we willingly enter into sin and want to return to covenant with Him, us being required to repent of our sin before we can return to Him does not make Him less of a loving God.
His arms are open to us.
Yes, the readings today are a hard thing to imagine.
Consequences of sin are never easy.
They were forgiven, they were given hope, they were given grace. However they still had consequences for their own behavior.
Also note that it does not say that they were not going to provide for these women and children. In fact, there are laws in place that ensure their care in YHWH’s system.
And now the hammer drop:
Later on this issue kicks up again and Nehemiah does a wonderful job of explaining where it leads and why it should be avoided:
Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25 I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27 Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?” Neh 13 :23
He is God. We are not. His Wisdom far surpasses our own – even if we don’t understand it at the time.
We just finished Ezra – Rak Chazak!
I’ve posted a new video. Click here to see it: Knowing Messiah- His name and His use of the “Old Testament” in His Ministry.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!