"And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied." Ezra 9:3
I read from the book of Ezra at bedtime last night, and I was so moved by what I read, I jotted down some notes to share - please consider the aforementioned verse in your heart this day.
Ezra was broken over the sin of intermarriage by the Israelites to Gentile women. They had clearly violated their covenant with God in Deuteronomy 7:3, 'Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son'. I found Ezra's response to the people's sin amazing, and yet, convicting. Sin grieved Ezra to the point of tearing his clothing. In Ezra's day, clothing was valuable. It wasn't like he could go to the mall and replace his garment, it wasn't that easy. Ezra also plucked out his own facial hair, as well as the hair on his head. Why would a man react this way to someone else's sin? Ezra, being a priest and a God-fearing man, understood what the sins of the people would bring...God's judgment. This is what grieved him, he knew what was coming next. Ezra's reaction resulted from a heart that was not selfish; in his heart his people were more important than even his own self. Ezra's understanding of the great wrath of God produced grief in his heart for his fellow man. He had witnessed Israel's rebellion before, and the judgment their rebellion brought.
After all this, Ezra sat down 'astonied'. In other words, he was devastated, horrified, and appalled over the sins of the people. He fasted until the evening sacrifice, at which time he fell to his knees and spread out his hands to the Lord God. Ezra cries out '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'. Even though Ezra was innocent of this grievous sin, he includes himself knowing full well the contaminating affect sin has, it is like a fast spreading cancer.
Ezra's utter brokenness over the sins of the people cut me to the heart. I asked myself these questions, and I ask you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to ponder on them as well...
How do we react when we hear 4,000 babies are murdered each day here in America? Do we tear our clothing? Are we broken over the sins of this nation? Or do we say 'how sad' and go on about our business?
The continual push for acceptance and tolerance of sexual perversion, sodomy, is marching forward with little resistance from many 'professing Christians'; does this push drive us to our knees? Or do we think 'moral laws' will combat the problem?
The covenant of marriage and institution of family is broken, adultery is rampant. Sexual immorality is the theme of the day. We live in a culture that is saturated with fleshly desires, with an insatiable appetite for more.
We can clearly see where America is headed...for judgment. Does it grieve us to know this? What about the nation in which you live? Are you grieved over the sins of your people? It is past time to rend our garments, pluck out our hair, and be utterly astonied.
I urge you to cry out to Him for our nation's sins; may it grieve us deep in our hearts to the point of brokenness, just like Ezra. May the Lord our God hear...may He be merciful.
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan