Summary: Four ways to know that God’s people are ready to accomplish the work He has for them.
It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been in Ezra, so I think it’s important that we spend a few minutes remembering where we are. That’s always an important thing to remember in your own personal Bible study. It’s very easy to get so wrapped up in a particular passage or verse that you forget the big picture. It’s always important to take a step back and check your context. You remember that back in chapter 7, Ezra finally showed up on the scene. It had been 59 years since the first remnant had finally finished the temple under Zerubbabel and Jeshua. But during that 59 year period, not much happened. The people didn’t grow in their walk with the Lord. Instead, they became satisfied with the ceremony and ritual of temple worship. In other words, they had grown complacent because they were satisfied with simply going to church. They did religious things because it was the thing to do, not out of their love and devotion to God. That’s why God sent them Ezra. By God’s grace, Ezra had devoted his life to a personal threefold mission. You remember his personal mission statement back in 7:10: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” He devoted his life to knowing God’s Word… to doing what God’s Word said for him to do… and to teaching others what God’s Word said. So when he took the second group of exiles with him from Babylon to Jerusalem, that’s exactly what he did. And an amazing thing happened. In the process of teaching the people God’s Word, they began to see their sin. They didn’t point their fingers at other people’s sin. They saw sin in their midst and they each began to see themselves as the chief sinner. And when they began to see that, they began a period of public confession. It started with the leaders. And when the leaders began to publicly confess their sins before Ezra, it drove him to his knees. Chapter 9 gives us one of the most powerful prayers of corporate confession in all of scripture. And that brings us to tonight’s passage. Tonight’s passage immediately follows that tremendous prayer from Ezra on behalf of the remnant. What was the problem? The problem was that they weren’t accomplishing the mission God had called them to do. Why weren’t they accomplishing it? Because they had unconfessed, unrepentant sin in their midst. Because of their sin, they had erected a barrier that was standing in the way of accomplishing the work God had for them. The work God had for them was to rebuild His holy city Jerusalem. Not because God needed a city, but in order to stand as a witness and a testimony to the nations of God’s grace and power and mercy. That was their mission. What’s ours? Ours is to make disciples of Jesus Christ everywhere we go and in everything we do. Make disciples and baptize them and teach them and train them and send them out so they can make more disciples of Jesus. What’s standing in the way of our doing that? What’s keeping us from accomplishing the mission God has prepared for us? It’s got to be our own sin. So if it’s our own sin, how are we going to know when we’re ready to cast that barrier aside and get to work accomplishing our mission? We’ll know it the same way that the remnant knew it. The remnant had four things that told them they were ready to cast aside the barrier of sin and get on with their mission. The first thing was, they had the right assembly. Look at verse 1.