Altar of Confession

Ezra 9 and 10; After the Temple altar was restored and worship resumed for the Jews a set of steps that would change the course of the returning Jews occurred. As with any time the people of God have a revival, the Holy Spirit will bring conviction to the hearts of the people about their personal and corporate lives. After having rustled through the debris and remains to find the foundation of the Temple and Altar, the people restored the place of worship again. But the place of worship was nothing like the original altar. This altar had stains, cracks and scars from the past. Just like our lives do when we rebel against God – our lives can be restored, because God is merciful and longsuffering towards us; but we are never the same. Ezra was giving the exiles a steady diet of the Law given to Moses. The were standing for 6 hours listening to the Word. Romans 10:17 – faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Believers must return to that place of departure; that place where the disobedience started. This doesn’t just have spiritual implications, it also affects the physical lives they lived.

Too often I have talked with people who fell back into sin; there was repentance and rejoicing at returning, but there was also consequences for their actions. God is gracious and forgives; but events were put into motion that would have a pay-day. The people had inter-marriage with the local people. The nation had disobeyed what God said in Exodus and repeated in Deuteronomy – DO NOT MARRY FROM THE NATIONS OF CANAAN. During the first return under Zerubbaal, the people refused to build the Temple, instead built their own houses and became comfortable back in the Land. How soon we forget and repeat the very sin that caused us to be in trouble in the first place. God said don’t inter-marry with the tribes He was casting out! Now I imagine someone is thinking that God is racist – that mixed ethnicity marriages are forbidden. God’s position for not inter-marrying was SPIRITUAL! Solomon proves this to us with his many wives and concubines – they led him astray and he faltered at the end of His life. ! Corinthians tells us “what fellowship does light have with darkness? ” Come out from among them!

What does all this have to do with Ezra? The Word preached brought conviction about the wrongful marriages – up and down the line they were marrying and giving in marriage with the inhabitants of the destroyed Land. God sent Judah into captivity because of their disobedience and to purge the Land. The Land is God’s promise to Abraham. The Promise is still valid.

The people had to come to grips and do what was right about their wrongful marriages. I can’t tell you how many people have wrongfully married the wrong person. Spiritual unequally yoked marriages have been proven to fail. I know so many girls that will marry a boy who is lost because they are in love and they open themselves up to a life of heartache.

Well there is the conviction of wrong, then came the confession of their wrong. Chapter 10, the people own up to their sin. It sounds so harsh that Chapter 10:3 says that they put away their wives and children. But reading the rest of the chapter that’s what they vowed to do. From the priests on down, they made a pledge and oath to separate themselves from the people of the Land.  I would imagine many of you reading this are appalled – wasn’t the action too radical? Their choice – Get right with God or continue in disobedience. We have to make the decision as well. A believer knows what is right before God and what is not. There are no acceptable sins in the Plan of God. The Jews then were convicted, confessed and the consecrated themselves to God. Three days they were given – make your decision, if you choose to live with the people of the world, you forfeit your inheritance in the Land. The people listened to Ezra – their answer is found in 10:12 – “That’s right!”

Two wrongs never make a right. Chapter 11 gives a list of the offenders – priests, Levites, singers, and sons of Israel. The Jews were infiltrated with sin, there had to be a total cleansing. Cleansing hurts. Dealing with conviction through confession is right; but we must finish the return to God by repenting – turning from our sin, and any consequences derived from our sin. When the Temple worship began again, true worship resulted in the people.

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