True Confession Ezra 9:5-10:1
This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for October 2, 2022. I am hitting most the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.
Last time I met with you, we saw Ezra encountering the sin of “returned Judea.” He was appalled by the fact they had broken faith with the God of Israel. God had commanded Israel, way back in Moses’ time, that they were to have no relations or alliances with “the people of the land” because 1) they worship other gods and 2) they practiced sexual deviancy.
We spent a lot of time clarifying the fact that God was forbidding alliances and marriages with the unbelieving pagan world, not people of differing skin color, culture, or ethnic origin. Please look at the printed copy of the last sermon on that topic. The misinterpretations on this topic has caused great problems to the American church.
As we look into the next paragraph, we see how Ezra confesses this great evil. We can learn from it, how to effectively confess our sins and shortcomings to God. In Ezra 9:3 we see Ezra tearing both his “garment” (his shirt) and his cloak (outer coat). Tearing garments was a sign of woe or grief in the Ancient World. Ezra is showing that grief, but also takes it a step further to tear his coat also. He is grieved over the sin of the “exiles,” his term for the Judeans who had returned to the Land.
Fortunately, in our world, we show our grief in other ways than tearing our shirts. At the Queens funeral a few weeks ago, we saw the black bands on the arms of the Englishmen and women. In current day America, where ritual is played down, we have few ways of showing public grief or bemoaning woe. But we too need to “feel sorry” over both our own sin and the sin of our “people,” whether a family, or a clan, or city, or a nation. “How do we do that?” is a question we each need to ask ourselves.
It is also interesting to me how often in Scripture a “righteous” person prays a confession for his city or nation and identifies himself/herself with the sin, even though the person is not “personally guilty” of the sin. Look at 9:6 and following. Ezra prays, “I am ashamed and disgraced to lift my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reach to the heavens . . . .”
In America, we emphasize individuality. I like that, but it tends to diminish corporate achievement, either good or bad. I personally like the new quarterback of the Colts. He constantly speaks of teamwork. Even when the kicker fouled up three times, he would only say we are a team, we lost the game, not just one player. It takes a team to make a touchdown. In the same way, Israel of the Old Testament and the Church in the New are the “teams” charged with doing God’s work on earth.
Ezra understood this. In 9:8, he remembers that “For a brief moment, the LORD God has been gracious in leaving a remnant and giving them a firm place.” And as a team they were glorifying God by being in the Land. Nevertheless, they had sinned greatly by unfaithfulness to God. They were putting trust in other gods and practicing acts which tear down God’s basic building block of society, the Home.
Ezra does not call for God to eradicate the evil ones who have sinned. Instead he identifies himself with the sinners, and calls on God for forgiveness.
Prayer is the beginning of “revival.” Now that is a term we may need to define. Revival happens when many of God’s people begin to put God first in their lives, homes, and churches. They begin to live as a believer in the world. As a result, the influence of the church begins to spread into the community. Souls are saved, institutions begin to act in a way that furthers the cause of God and helps others rather than the institution itself. And Christian peace becomes a reality.
Many of Ezra’s contemporaries had left the comforts of Babylon or Persia for the hardships of rebuilding a temple and city in the Land God had given them. But over time, the children of the “exiles” had become like their neighbors, not like “God-believers” in a pagan world.
Ezra first prays for forgiveness. Next we see the faithful joining him in his prayer for revival. Even back in verse 9:4 we see “those who trembled at the word of God” joining Ezra in his prayer of confession. In 10:1 we see the people of Judah hearing Ezra’s prayer, and under the conviction of their unfaithfulness, coming en masse, men women and children, to confess their sins to God.
The confession was followed by making a renewed covenant with God to stop sinning and begin doing life like Gods wanted them to.
As we look at our place in the world today, it is easy to play the blame game and blame others for the various messes around us. We need to admit that some of our problems are due to our own greed, or our own wanting things our way. We must confess our sins, then the sins of our city, people, or nation. We must do so saying “we” not “they” have sinned. Lastly, we need to correct what has happened and covenant not to do it again.
May God give us grace to do our part in bringing our world closer in line with what God wants, both in our lives and the life of our world.
God Bless you,
CH Jim Odell