At the end of chapter 8 we see a separated people rejoicing in God.
This was the day they had prayed for.
In Babylon they had “sat down and wept when they remembered Zion.” Psalm 137.
How can we sing the Lord’s song in captivity? Hung their harps on trees.
Now their dreams and aspirations were fulfilled, they were in the land, the Temple had been built, they were praising and worshipping God, the odor of their sacrifices filled the air.
When they had been in the land for some time Ezra was given some very disturbing news. See verses 1-2.
Some of the chief men reported the grievous lack of separation.
The people were involved, also the priests and Levites, who should have been the spiritual leaders.
Further, in disobedience to God’s command (Deuteronomy 7:1-6) some of the men had married heathen wives.
This resulted in the “holy seed” becoming unholy.
It also created a mixed multitude, which God abhors.
This “holy seed” was set apart for and to God.
Sad to say it had mixed with wicked, idolatrous people, had lost its holy character and was no different from the wicked nations around them. The unfortunate thing was that the princes and rulers were the first to sin. They ought to have known better.
This situation was very grievous to Ezra, as it must have been to God. See v. 3-4.
Note the rending of the garment and the pulling of the hair. The rending of the garment was a common oriental way of manifesting sorrow it is mentioned frequently in the Bible. The plucking out of the hair by the roots was not so common.
This possibly shows evidence of unusual grief and great moral indignation. Ezra was appalled.
Let us pause here and consider what brought about this outward outburst of grief:
1. Amalgamation with the world, including worshipping at the world’s shrine.
2. Open disobedience to the Word of God.
3. The holy character of the holy seed was lost.
4. This rebellion against God was led by the leaders of the nation.
Can the same situation arise today? Without a doubt. The whole situation could be brought under the banner of “backsliding.”
Solomon’s description of backsliding is, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” Proverbs 14:14.
How does it all begin? Usually it is a gradual thing.
1. Neglect of prayer and Bible study is usually the first thing.
2. Keeping the wrong company and going to wrong places lure us away from the Lord.
3. Compromise with the world spells spiritual disaster.
The end result is that there is no difference between the backslider and the unsaved around.
While this condition in any believer brings sorrow to God’s heart, yet there is always a welcome to the repentant one.
The prodigal son—1 John 1.
While these people were out of Babylon, Babylon was still in them.
Ezra remained in this attitude of sorrow for several hours.
“Until the time of the evening sacrifice.” The sacrifice speaks of atonement.
He then “fell on his knees and spread out his hands.”
His prayer is a confession. Vs. 5-15. In its entirety it is a confession of sin.
No request of any kind is to be found in it.
Ezra also identifies himself with his people.
1. He compared their sins to a flood that had risen to cover them, and which had grown to the heavens.
2. He openly confessed that they had disobeyed God’s Word—Deuteronomy 7:3.
3. He also said that the afflictions that had come to the nation were far less than they deserved.
4. Total annihilation was what they deserved.
5. Finally Ezra threw himself and the nation on the mercy of God.
The Beginning of Revival
v. 1—Note Ezra’s humiliation.
He prayed, confessed, wept, and cast himself down.
As he sat there in his misery and abject humiliation for several hours, many of the spiritually minded people gathered around him.
They too were smitten with grief and they joined Ezra in his bitter weeping.
v. 2-4—Shechaniah became the spokesman for the people. He confessed their wrongdoing, then suggested a remedy: “He says, ‘There is hope for Israel.’” He made a covenant with God to put away all heathen wives and children.
Ezra was asked to supervise this matter.
v. 6—Note again the grief of Ezra. Prayer and fasting.
This is what is lacking in our day. So many make light of sin and worldliness. There is little heart-searching, true humiliation, and self-judgment.
Beloved brethren, this is the spirit of Laodicea.
This is the way to revival, the only way.
The prelude to all revival, whether individually or collectively, is confession and repentance of sin, a return to the Word and intense prayer and weeping. Psalm 126. May each of us say, “Lord, send a revival and let it begin in me.”
v. 10—Within three days the people had assembled. The king’s business demands haste. They trembled with emotion and it was very wet.
This was a traumatic experience, families were about to be broken up.
Arrangements were no doubt made for the care of those concerned.
“The dearest idol I have known,” etc.
Ezra reminded them that they must go through with this thing.
Not only were the foreign wives to go but there was to be no fraternizing with the heathen. (Absolute separation)
This was the only thing which would turn God’s wrath away and ensure His blessing.
See verse 15 this point. Note marginal reference.
v. 17—The matter was completed in 3 months.
The final feature of Ezra’s book is a list of men who had taken “strange wives.”
One has divided the list as follows.
Seventeen priests, of these, four were in the family of the high priest. Ten Levites. Eighty-six people.
Total 113. 25% of the offenders were religious leaders.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
Some of these men’s names appear on the first list commended for their faithfulness.
God took note of this and made a record.
He also made public a record of those who had miserably failed. The judgment seat of Christ.
The book of Ezra records real spiritual advances on the part of the people of God.
The temple had been built.
Spiritual revival had come to the people as they realized the importance of living separate lives.