Ezra’s prayer (Chapter 9) is followed by a demonstration of contrition. He weeps and lies face down upon the ground. A large assembly of men, women, and children join him, humbly recognizing their sin.
Shecaniah approaches Ezra with the suggestion that they get right with God by making a covenant with the Lord to put away their pagan wives and their children. Their intermarriage to pagans was strictly forbidden in the Law.
Billy Graham once commented about resolving marital problems this way: “It is hard to unscramble eggs!”
The command in the Torah was clear:
Deuteronomy 7:3-4 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.
Not only was this command disregarded by the public, but it was also disregarded by the Levites and the priests.
Ezra 10:2-3 2 Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 “So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law
The Apostle Paul’s advice is quite different from Shecaniah’s.
1 Corinthians 7:12-17 12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? 17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.
There is no record that the Lord approved of Shecaniah’s remedy. But their compromise with paganism had to be acknowledged and put right somehow. And God’s command is that His people be holy and separate in their devotion.
Correction courses are not always easy, but they need to be taken.
Ezra 10:4 4 “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.”
The determination of the people to get right with God is highlighted by the fact that they sat outside the temple listening to Ezra trembling in the pouring rain.
Ezra 10:10-11 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.”
The reading (and the book) closes with a list of the priests who had married pagan wives. I am sure this is not the way they would have chosen to be remembered. Their names remain with us in the Bible as part of “The List of Offenders.”
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 1 CORINTHIANS 6:1-20
In this section, Paul warns the church not to go first to the worldly courts to settle their disputes but rely on Biblical principles of conflict resolution and godly counsel rather than going first to the world’s legal system.
Then he says,
1 Corinthians 6:7 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
We serve another King, and we must keep the interests of the kingdom of God in view.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Why do we have these lists of sins in the Bible? Why not just leave it as ‘do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?’. It is so we will not be deceived. It is because our hearts are so wickedly self-justifying that we can make excuses for our sin and pretend that we are right with God when we are not. Jesus warns that many on that day will claim that they are worthy of inheriting the kingdom of God, and He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
We have been ransomed from the slave market of sin. We now belong to another. We are slaves of Righteousness. Our bodies are not temples to self, but temples of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we are to honor God with our bodies.
We can pray with the Psalmist: Be gracious unto me! (Psalm 31:9)
Verses 9-13 describe the Psalmist’s miserable condition and many troubles. But he resolves to look up to the Lord:
Psalm 31:14-16 14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! 16 Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- PROVERBS 21:3
Proverbs 21:3 3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Your participation in corporate worship does not excuse you from doing what is right and treating others fairly.
Republic of Latvia
Area: 64,610 sq. km
A fertile plain with 3,000 lakes; indented by the Gulf of Riga. The central of the three Baltic republics.
Population: 2,240,265 Annual Growth: -0.46%
Official language: Latvian (Lettish) Languages: 13All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Challenges for Prayer
Ministry to young people is strategic – this includes campus, youth and children’s ministries as well as summer camps. IFES and Agape (CCCI) are having an impact on Latvian and, increasingly, international students. CEF is reaching up to 40,000 primary students every week through religious instruction in school. SU, YWAM, Latvian Christian Mission, and others hold summer camps/events and minister to youth from Latvia and indeed all Eastern Europe. Pray for more workers with the vision to reach young people. Pray that this generation might be reached before they lapse into the irreligion or atheism of their forebears.
a) A new NT in Latvian was released in 2007 and work on the OT continues. Pray for widespread distribution of Scripture in Latvia. The Bible Society uses its ecumenical platform to cooperate with many denominations.
b) Radio ministry is very well resourced and still growing. Examples are:
i Lutheran Hour and other Christian programs, broadcasting on national and local radio as well as live broadcasts of services on TV. Lutheran Hour also broadcasts discipleship programs and has a Bible Correspondence Course.
ii Russian Christian radio (FEBC and World Harvest Radio) runs 24/7.
iii Latvian Christian Radio has had broadcasts 24/7 in Latvian since 1993.
c) The Lutheran Church broadcasts a series of services, Christian films and talk shows. Pray for more Latvian Christian television programs that will profoundly communicate Jesus.
d) Internet evangelism is proving a very cost-effective and creative medium for sharing the good news. Pray for the websites and forums in Latvian to have a great impact.
i The Latvian Bible is available in its entirety online.
ii Internet radio (QBS) is focused on reaching an unchurched generation.
PRAYER: Father, You are holy. We hallow Your Name and desire that Your Name be hallowed as we reflect Your glory through the grace of our Lord and Savior. You have delivered us from darkness, so we do not want to be partakers of any unfruitful works of darkness. There is none like You, so we pray that we will be fully consecrated in our devotion to You and not compromise our obedience to Your Word. Empower us with Your Spirit of holiness to only do what is pleasing to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.