YOU HAVE BEEN UNFAITHFUL… These words were spoken on the occasion of ancient Judah’s realization that while they had been worshipping God as His chosen nation, they had also been taking on the ways of the world, layer by layer, year by year. Their reckoning day had arrived.
“…And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion…”You have been unfaithful.” Ezra 10:9-10.
Their distress was brought about by the Word of the Almighty, sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting as it slashed through the soul, ripping as it completed its purpose.
This Bible lesson crosses the chasm of time as an appointed warning on the evening of December 13 on our 2022 Gregorian calendar, which begins the 20th day of God’s 9th month. Beginning the first day of the 10th month, (the evening of December 24-25 on our 2022 calendar) and continuing for 2 more months, the leaders of Judah dug into the heart of the matter, and just how far reaching their sin actually was.
Reading the chapter before, Ezra 9, we can see that the nation had strayed from God’s Word, as they seemed to do over and over again. They had slowly but surely melded the practices and thought pattern of the world into the very core of their spiritual and personal lives.
Ezra identifies their unfaithfulness in verses 1-2: “…the leaders came to me and said, ‘The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices...They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.’”
It wasn’t just that the wives they had married had an idolatrous mindset. All these man-made deities and the celebrations their mates brought with them became entrenched in the entire family’s personal, social, and religious life. Worst of all, their religious leaders cemented the idolatry deeply into the nation's mindset by participating themselves, and not speaking out against it. "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices..."
Ezra expressed his anguish with the people of God in prayer in verses 5-6: “At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. And I said: “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.”
Ezra had not taken part in the idolatry of intermarriage, but we can see from his tense of writing that he has definitely taken on the role of intercessory warrior. Bottom line was the Israelite men had gone outside of God’s Word, and not only entered adulterous personal relationships, but every area of their life had been tainted by it.
In the end, there was only one solution and it was an extremely hard one to face and required drastic action. They needed to confess their sin, repent and depart from it and everything that it had bred, including some of their own sons and daughters. One of the Israelite men put it like this: “...We have been unfaithful to God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. Despite this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children in accordance with the counsel of my Lord…” Ezra 10:2-3.
Our lesson today is a warning straight from the remnant nation of Israel. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11
Ezra’s closing words in chapter 9 reflect the repentant heart that God desires. “Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.”
“YOU HAVE BEEN UNFAITHFUL...”