Summary: Certain seasons of opportunity and time exist for people and churches. Don’t miss yours because you are not willing to do the serious soul searching needed to seize the day.
Text: Ezra 9-10, Title: Window of Opportunity, Date/Place: NRBC, 7/29/12, AM
A. Opening illustration:
B. Background to passage: the temple had been completed and dedicated, and so Ezra was setting up the Levites and priests to serve in it. In the process, he finds out about a huge underlying sin that will hinder the work of the Lord among His people (preach here a little about the sin that lies within hindering the work without). But the time surrounding the sin and the exposure of it was an opportunity to be seized.
C. Main thought: Certain seasons of opportunity and time exist for people and churches. Don’t miss yours because you are not willing to do the serious soul searching needed to seize the day.
A. The faithlessness of the people (9:1-2)
1. Don’t know what the motivation of the tattletales was, but they let Ezra in on a secret, many men in Judah had taken foreign women into their homes to be wives or concubines. The word used the text is not the normal word for marriage, but indicates that these women were taken into the homes of these men. In Ezra’s prayer before the Lord, he quotes/cites Deut 7:1-4 reminding everyone that God had forbidden what these men had done. And the leaders were the worst of offenders (probably because they were of the most means, and were used to the most pleasures; and in the new found freedom from exile, sexual sin was easy to indulge in at Jerusalem). The Deut passages concern was not really sexual sin, but the failure to pass on the worship of the One True God to the coming generations. But God knew that sexual sin touched parts of the soul (regardless of official marriage) that would affect faith.
4. It may not be sexual sin for all of us, but we all give in to things that we shouldn’t; things that God has clearly forbidden, to provide temporary pleasure. Although if we wrote all our names on the wall of the church, and someone who could see within our hearts wrote all our sins on the wall, lust, pornography, adultery, etc, would be among the list. What kinds of things that you know God forbids lie in the deep crevasses of your heart? They will hinder you. I promise you, God will not bless in the fullest capacity while you harbor known sin. Also know that the people will never rise above the leadership. Deacons, Sunday School teachers, ministry leaders, heads of households: the people under you will not grow and mature beyond you. Often it is the lives of the leadership in a church that holds it back. If we want to see revival and growth in our church we will need to see an across the board acknowledgement and repentance of sins that we have willfully overlooked or kept secret. Revivals usually begin with people getting real with God and real with their hidden sin.
B. The mercy of God (v. 9:8-9)
1. Ezra does give them some hope (there is hope in our gospel! You can be forgiven if you repent and believe and follow Christ!) He says that there is a brief moment of favor or mercy. He uses the word that means and instant, then a word that means smallness. So he says that there is a teensy weensy window of opportunity where God has shown grace and mercy, punishing them “less than their iniquities deserved” (v. 13). He understood that even the captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem wasn’t enough for their rebellions. He says that this grace has left them five things: a remnant of true believers, favor in the eyes of the king, a foothold in Jerusalem (the temple), an opening of their eyes to His glory and to their sin, and a measure of revival. He is encouraging them to take hold of the opportunity for repentance, commitment, and serious pursuit of God and His will and ways.
4. When the favor of God comes upon your life, you may only have a moment to seize the day, and that will require holiness on your part. Do you realize that if God points out sin, it is mercy? Is this your window? Is God opening your eyes to your sin, and calling you to repentance, to salvation, to a deeper walk, to holiness, to seriousness about your walk, your service, your devotion? Is this our time as a church to seek Him and experience a measure of revival? We are about to celebrate the new building God has provided, the THRIVE team is working on a fresh vision, we have strong ministries. Will we come together as a family, truly repent of division and strife and bitterness and self-centeredness? Will we seek His face?