Summary: This sermon covers chapters 9 and 10, where Ezra deals with the sin of intermarriage that he discovers among the exiles in Jerusalem. It is a good example of the right reaction to any kind of sin.
A. There is a story told of four preachers who were good friends, who lived in a small town many years ago, during a more simple and conservative time.
1. They often met for lunch at the local diner to talk about their lives and ministries.
2. During one of those gatherings, one preacher said, “Our people come to us and pour out their hearts, sharing their needs and confessing their sins. So why don’t we do the same, since confession is good for the soul.”
3. They all agreed, and the first preacher confessed that he liked to go to movies and would sneak off to see a movie when he was out of town.
4. The second preacher confessed to liking to smoke cigars and the third one confessed to liking to play cards (All those things were taboo for Christians back in those days).
5. When it was the fourth preacher’s turn, he remained quiet.
6. The other preachers pressed him saying, “Come now, we made our confessions. What is your secret or vice?”
7. Finally the fourth preacher answered, “I must confess that my greatest sin is gossiping and I’m afraid that your secrets are about to be well-known around town.”
B. Today, we are going to see that Ezra had a very different reaction when some people came to him confessing their sins, than the preacher in the story I just told.
1. I fear that we have become so desensitized toward sin that we fail to have the proper response toward it, whether it is our own sin, or sin in others.
2. How do we often respond to sin? We minimize it, justify it, or ignore it.
3. And then if we see someone reacting in a godly way toward sin, we think that person is a bit carried away or extreme.
4. We consider them to be judgmental or intolerant.
a. How dare they cast stones at others! Do they think that they are without sin?
5. And so, by casting our stones at them, we justify our sins and go back to business as usual.
C. As we are going to see, this is not the case with Ezra.
1. Ezra will model for us the right kind of reaction to sin, and by so doing, others will follow his example.
2. Let’s learn from Ezra and from the exiles about the correct way to deal decisively with sin.
I. The Story
A. Ezra chapter 9, verse 1 begins: 1 After these things had been done…
1. After what things? The things we looked at last week.
2. As you will recall, Ezra led the second wave of exiles who returned to Jerusalem and Judea.
3. After they arrived, they did all the things that King Artaxerxes had ordered: they made sacrifices to God, they made an accounting of the silver, gold and valuable vessels the king had sent, and they delivered the king’s orders for the local officials to assist these exiles.
B. So chapter 9 begins: 1 After these things had been done, 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, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 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.”
1. About four and a half months after Ezra had led a remnant back to the land, it was reported to
him that many people in Israel, including many priests, Levites, leaders, and officials, had sinned by taking pagan wives.
2. How would you have responded to such news?
C. Look at how Ezra responded: 3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God 6 and prayed: (we will look at the prayer in a moment).
1. Ezra did not take the news in stride, chuckling, “Well, people will be people.”
a. Rather, he tore his clothes, pulled some hair from his head and beard, and sat down appalled and speechless until the time of the evening offering.
b. By then a number of godly people had gathered around him.