Separation and Attachment
We are ending the Ezra series with a helpful tip on how to live a life that keeps the restoration process going. Just like the joy that came when the temple was established for the Israelites, when God brings breakthrough in our lives, it will come with joy but how does one keep that joy ongoing? How can we move from temporary spiritual highs to ongoing glory in Him? These are legitimate questions and when people do not find the answers to these questions, they tend to walk away from the Lord in frustration but a simple tip that we can start from is to change what is normal for us.
If moving with God and living for God is not the normal but the exception, than we will have to change the routines and habits in our lives that will make that normal! What are some things that we need to separate from and in that place attach ourselves to, so that we can change what was normally a life void of God to a life full of God? If we were to be honest with ourselves, we will realize that there are some things that we will either have to let go completely or change so that we can have the spiritual life we want with God. We can’t have our cake and eat it too! Therefore we are going to have to make some hard decisions so that we can change what our normal looks like but in the end it will be worth it!
How do I know? More importantly, how will you know? The only way you can ever find the worth of following God is when you actually start following Him through thick and thin. You will never know till you try!
NOTES ON THE TEXT
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.
The people acknowledge their faithlessness and Ezra is in deep sorrow because of it. Despite the mess that the people are in, there is still hope and the possibility to repent. Repentance requires an immediate response but also has an immediate outcome in that forgiveness from God is immediate when it is genuine. How do you know if your repentance is genuine? When you choose to change the way you think about sin and change your lifestyle. Don’t delay and only repent when it feels right. The beauty of repentance is that it doesn’t need the requirement of feeling right but can be done in any moment or any place!
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[a] and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.
The next step from repentance is that they chose to make a covenant or a committed relationship to the Lord. Their repentance was not just a nice thought but they decided to be ALL IN! From this verse comes a tip on how to genuinely be all in the repentance and commitment process.
Their repentance and determination to change was in accordance to God’s word and his leading. Repentance needs to lead to commitment to change not in what we think is right but in accordance to God’s word! We must understand that it is because we didn’t do it God’s way that we lost our way and so for us to be back on track, wouldn’t it make sense to be guided by His word? The answer is a resounding yes! We are to not lean upon on our own understanding but lean upon God and His word to guide us in this process.
4 Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.
The people support Ezra to lead the change. There is both an individual repentance and repentance that a community does together. For corporate (community) repentance, there needs to be unity in mindset for it to work. One of the blessings of corporate repentance is that when the community is determined to follow the Lord, it helps the individuals in their determination. As much as we talk about bad influences, there is that much more power in good influences when we all take part in doing something together. At times, an individual struggle is also because the community as a whole struggles with it as well and thus when a community seeks the presence of God to attach themselves to, it helps the individuals as well.
8 and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles.
But there will be some that do not want to change. Refusal to repent and attach to the Lord is denial of what you will have and will have in God. Those choosing to live in sin and come against God will have no part in God. Sometimes we must be willing to part ways with people that call themselves Christians but actively choose to not live like a Christian. This does not mean that people do not struggle but it is for the people that know what sin is but choose to live in sin without any effort to change. We do not have the right to judge, condemn, or even stop loving them but we must be willing to part ways with them if their life starts influencing people within the community of God. To entertain rebellion against God will only cause destruction to the whole community.
10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said.
The people separate from their sin. Repentance is in a moment but to actively carry it out may take time. They Israelites acknowledge that the sin was great so that they will need time to fully get rid of it. Earlier we stated that repentance is immediate in it’s outcome in that we are forgiven instantly but to get rid of the effects that sin has had in our lives will take time in that lifestyle changes will take time. Therefore, do not be discouraged when it takes a while for you to change but enjoy the process of transformation while you enjoy the instant forgiveness and love of God.