All is well in Jerusalem; the temple has been built and the sacrifices are happening as they should. Everyone seems to be doing their job, and there is no persecution coming from their neighbours. No one trying to hurt them, no wars or rumours of wars. It seems that the remnant is living the way that God had always intended the Israelites to live. Then someone brings to Ezra’s attention the fact that the people are intermarrying with the people around them. This intermingling is what slowly starts the turning away from God. There may not be any idol worship, or high places, but Ezra knows that while they are ‘compromising’ and intermingling it is only a matter of time.
Ezra has come from exile, he knows the law, he knows why God did what he did and that he will not be afraid of doing it again if the Israelites turn away from him. Ezra is so dismayed and ashamed that in such a short space of time they are slowly going back to their old ways, that he tears his clothes and sits down for hours. The other Israelites that ‘tremble at the law of the Lord’ gathered around him. They were probably as appalled too.
At the evening sacrifice, Ezra gets up only to fall on his knees before God, with his arms outstretched and his head down in shame. He calls out to God. He says how they are guilty and that their guilt is as high as the heavens. He lists how it is because of this guilt that they have become, and still are, subject to a foreign king and don’t have the full promised land that was promised firstly to Abraham. He thanks God for his graciousness and for His love; for leaving a remnant of Israel to be able to come and rebuild in Jerusalem. However, Ezra knows that if they sin again, if God wanted to get rid of them completely He could, and he would be justified to do so, as they would have broken the law of the Lord, yet again.
It isn’t always the big things that move us away from God. Quite often it’s the small, inoffensive compromises that slowly fade black and white to grey. A lot of the time we may not even notice that we are doing them. In Psalm 139 we are given a prayer that is something we should pray daily: Search me God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
Make this your prayer today.