Hello Project Ezra! This week we will be reading from Ezra chapter 9. In this chapter the prophet Ezra mourns over Israel’s disobedience, and particularly the disobedience of some of its leaders. Then he pleads with God, acknowledging the guilt of the nation, but at the same time recognizing God’s grace and patience with them. I think this is a fantastic picture of how we should be pleading for our nations, and also provides a great starting point for sharing the gospel with non-believers or those who claim the Christian faith, but show by their fruit that they are idolaters.
Like Israel in Ezra’s time, our nations have been radically disobedient to God, and the majority of the political and religious leaders have not only not spoken against sin, but have supported or even promoted it. It is convicting to me, because I know I have not prayed for my country and its leaders the way I should. And though intermarriage with those of different backgrounds is common, at least here in the United States, that’s fine, because intermarriage is not really at the heart of the issue for us. The true concern is God’s people compromising, and accepting ungodly and pagan practice that are directly contrary to God’s word. God knew that Israel would be let astray by intermarriage, so He forbid it. And likewise we are often led astray when we treat sin lightly, or are careless in what we allow to entertain and impact us. But if we love God, we will desire to keep His commandments. We need to remind people of this when we are sharing the gospel, not to encourage legalism, but to encourage self-examination, so men and women will see whether they are truly in the faith.
As you all know, we are just a week away from Christmas, and as most of you know, we are also a week away from our True Gift of Christmas reading. The event is already up on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/events/144587652317567/), and some people have already responded and signed up to participate. I am praying that many more will as well. The Facebook event has all the details, as does a recent blog post I also put up, but in short, we will gathering teams to read the gospel of John, front to back. It’s a pretty long reading, so if you are considering participating and haven’t started planning yet, now is the time! If you aren’t able to put together a big group, please don’t let that stop you from participating. You can choose a few relevant chapters to read instead, and I will try to put together a list of key chapters for the same purpose. Once again, there is no better time of year to share the gospel in public, so be sure to take advantage of it. If you have any specific questions about the reading, feel free to contact me through the blog or on Facebook.
I’ll be sending another update on The True Gift of Christmas in a few days, so stay tuned for more information. I also plan on putting together a recap video, provided we have enough material, so send or post whatever videos and pictures you can. God bless, and I’m looking forward to hearing your praise reports.
For the praise of His glory,
READ EZRA 9
In this chapter the author mourns for, and then pleads for, the nation of Israel, which has ignored God’s command by intermarrying with people from neighboring countries.
But the core of the issue is not the fact of intermarriage, but the result. When Israel intermarried with the nations near them, they were drawn away from the truth of God and toward idolatry, as God knew they would be.
Israel mixed with other nations, who practiced everything from animal worship to child sacrifice, and in doing so insulted and turned their back on the true and living God
As a consequence, God punished them, taking their land and sending them into slavery in exile.
The chapter also said that their leading men were foremost in these sins. Their religious and political leaders were the foremost in ignoring God’s clear commands, and lead others into those sins.
In our country there are many people trying to lead us, and to convince us to follow their plan or their moral convictions. But be very careful who you follow. Are your leaders leading you in a Godly direction?
Most of you listening today/tonight would probably say that you believe in God.
But is the God you worship the true God of the Bible, and have you taken His word seriously?
Have you been participating with the abominations of the world, as Israel did? Have you worshipped falsely, created idols, or made entertainment out of the things God hates?
The Bible says God’s children are supposed to be separate from the wickedness of the world.
God’s children are not to conform to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of thier minds (Romans 12), and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8)
We are not perfect, and no one will be this side of heaven. But God’s word tells us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14).
You may be getting angry, or frustrated now, thinking that I am judging you.
But please understand that these words are not meant to condemn you , since even the best of mankind is nowhere near perfect, and I’m certainly not nowhere close
Every human being needs to be aware of the truth of our staggering level of guilt before God, and that fact that outside of Jesus Christ and the salvation He provides, we all stand condemned (John 3).
Every one of us is a law breaker, and we have broken God’s law more times than we could count. And if I really care about you, I must let you know. Because if you don’t know about the disease that is killing you, you will never seek the cure.
When Ezra came before God, he came in supplication, and he said he was “Ashamed and blush to lift my face.”
He admitted that Israels’ “Iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens” and that “From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt.”
Have you come to God in humility, or only in prideful expectation?
Ezra understood what many of us seldom consider, that God is Holy. He is perfect, and He has a goodness and purity that is beyond our understanding. And because of God’s holiness He cannot tolerate sin.
You may say “But God is a God of Love!”, and He is. But do you understand that His is also a God of justice? Do you understand that His goodness means He will punish sin completely?
GO THROUGH THE LAW
Even if your life has been tough, and regardless of how much you have suffered, God has punished you far less than we deserve
Every one of us deserves punishment in hell for our sins, our moral crimes against God
But Ezra also understood God’s grace. He said “God has not forsaken us, but has extended His steadfast love”, and that is true for us as well.
The only reason any of us live and continues to draw breath today is because of God’s grace
But God has done much more than just allow us to continue existing. He has made a way for our moral crimes against Him to be paid for, so justice could be satisfied and we could go free. And that way is through the cross of Jesus Christ
2000 years ago Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all that exists, God in human flesh, humbled himself, and died to pay the penalty for sin.
And on the cross God’s wrath, His anger and hatred toward sin, was poured out on Jesus Christ so it didn’t have to be poured out on us.
Then three days later, as He had prophesied, Jesus rose again from the dead, proving His power over death.
Many of you may not think about death very often, and may think about judgment even less. But 150,000 people die every day, and everyone will one day have to give an account of himself before God.
So before that day comes, do as the Bible says. Repent, or turn from sin, and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.
There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved, than the name of Jesus Christ. Only He is true God. Only he came to earth to pay the penalty for sin. Only He rose again to be our advocate, our lawyer before the judgment seat of God. So only through faith in Him, and in Him alone, can we be saved.
So please, today, look at yourself in the light of God’s law. And when you see the truth of your sin, which will be obvious if you look with a tender conscience, repent of your sin and trust in Christ.
Repent and trust in Christ today, while God has graciously given you time. Thank you.