The nation of Israel was exiled to Babylon for a period of 70 years. At the end of that time, God directed the pagan king Cyrus to order some of the exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
Years later, the scribe Ezra – who was well versed in the Mosaic Law – returned to his homeland to teach the Law to the people there. One of these laws forbade intermarriage with the Gentiles.
Following their exile, many of the Hebrews (including priests and Levites) had not complied with the Law by keeping themselves separate from the pagans. Ezra’s reaction to the realization of what was going on is significant.
In Ezra 9:3-4 we hear the words of the scribe Ezra. “When I heard this, I tore my cloak and my shirt, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down utterly shocked. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel came and sat with me because of this outrage committed by the returned exiles. And I sat there utterly appalled until the time of the evening sacrifice.”
We might ask ourselves, when was the last time we were “utterly shocked and appalled” upon learning of one sin or another. For some, it’s been a long time. And we could never say what Ezra goes on to say:
“O My God, I am utterly ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you.”
Sadly, the world and the Church have largely ignored sin to the point that people eventually fail to recognize it. At the present, it takes some horrendous criminal act to create much shock-value at all. But unfortunately, given enough time, even those types of sin will become less recognizable and less offensive.
Ezra’s reaction to the people’s disobedience to the word of God is convicting to believers today.
If we love God as we should, our reaction will be equivalent to that of Ezra – appalled and utterly shocked by the sin that rages around us. Incidentally, Ezra was not talking about the sin of the unbeliever, but of the believer.
As believers, we need to be utterly ashamed of our lackadaisical view of sin. We must repent and ask the Father to give us courage to obey His Word so that we can be effective witnesses to all those around us.