Summary: We must humble ourselves before God.
Title: Sunday Night-Ezra’s Shame
Text: Ezra 9
CT: We must humble ourselves before God.
FAS: It is awful easy to get hung up on ourselves. Especially when things are going good and we are being blessed. We can begin to think pretty high about our own successes and like to hear people brag on us. This can even happen to a preacher. When things are going well it is easy to say wow I must be doing something right.
The thing is all of our success comes from one place. God.
I found an old transcript from the 1500s that was written by Martin Luther. Very wise words for any preacher or any of us.
Qualities the world looks for in a preacher: He must have a fine accent. He must be learned. He must be eloquent. He must be a handsome person. He must take no money, but have money to give. He must tell people what they like to hear.
Qualities and virtues of a good preacher: Able to teach in a right and orderly way. A good head. A good voice. A good memory. Know when to stop. Be sure of his material and be diligent. Stake body and life, goods and honor on it. Suffer himself to be vexed (Annoyed, much talked about) and flayed (criticized) by everyone.
LS: Pretty tall order. But really true. As a preacher or as a follower of Christ we become a servant to Christ and his people. Ezra shows us how to lead this way.
I. This week I am going to try and pull a sermon out of Ezra. Ezra was a priest. He is the one who leads the second group out of Babylon. He is authorized to finish the temple being rebuilt by the king of Persia. God has given Ezra the job of not only rebuilding the temple but also to rebuild the remnant of Israel spiritually.
On their return, Ezra finds that many of the people had left the ways of God to intermarry with foreign women. They took on their ways and “gods”. This is not a sermon on race. This is a sermon about people going against the will of God. God was trying to maintain a remnant of His people to bring in a messiah. It had fell upon Ezra to accomplish this revitalization of the people to return their hearts to the One God.
Ezra returns. The temple has been restored. Ezra must have been feeling pretty good to be in the Holy City of Jerusalem. He was dedicated to ministering to peoples needs.
He would have certainly had an easier life back in Babylon just serving as the priest in exile. It was an easy gig without any real purpose or challenge. But God had a different plan for Ezra. Just as he often does for us when get content and comfortable with where we are. God called him to serve the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem. But when he returns he finds things not so good.
Read Ezra 9.1-2… 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.”
Ezra was facing a problem. Sin was taking over the people. They were turning from God and taking up with other “gods” by intermarrying with the people God had tried to rescue them from.
Something had to be done. The sin had to be uncovered. The men were allowed to marry these foreign women if they, the women, renounced their old life and accepted God. Remember Ruth and Moab. But these women had not done this. It was blatant disobedience to God.
I am sure these folks tried every way they could to justify their disobedience. They made excuses for their action. Not enough Jewish women? Had to keep their families going. Just as we often try to justify our disobedience with excuse of why there was no other way we could go. Why did they not go back to Babylon to get wives from the women still in Babylon?
God had given them the marriage law to Israel to protect the nation from defilement from other gods. The Jews were not called a Holy nation because they were necessarily better than other nations. It was that God had set them apart to do His will. To be a witness to the other nations so they might be redeemed as well.