Hard Choices

KEY VERSE: “Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.” —Ezra 10:11

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Ezra 9:1-3; 10:9-14

IN THIS LESSON we are introduced to Ezra, the priest and scribe, who led another group of exiles home from Babylon after the Temple was built and dedicated. He brought with him sacred vessels from Babylon which he deposited in the house of the Lord, and afterward the people offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel.

“When these things were done” (Ezra 9:1), Ezra received a shocking report from officials that the Israelites, including the priests and other religious leaders, did not keep themselves a holy people, separated unto God. Instead, they were abusing their law of marriage, and marrying Gentile women who became the mothers of their children. (Ezra 9:2; Deut. 7:2-4) These foreign women brought pagan religious practices with them, which meant that something had to be done to remedy the situation. This report astonished Ezra, because God’s people had already been severely punished for their faithless disobedience and idol worship. Ezra became so angry that he ripped his clothing and tore his hair from his head and beard, while many concerned people gathered around him. Finally, in grief, he raised his arms in prayer to God, asking forgiveness for his people’s great sins and expressing thanks for their survival from bondage in Babylon. (vss. 5-15) The situation in which Ezra and his contemporaries found themselves was one that required decisive action.

Shechaniah, one of the leading men, looked to Ezra as the only one competent to effectively take such action, because he was invested with God’s authority to enforce it. He suggested: “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

“Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it. Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.” (Ezra 10: 2-5) A commission was appointed from among the people, assisted by judges and elders of the respective cities and after three months’ investigation into every case, all traces of the abuse had been removed.

The Apostle Paul applies the principle of this lesson for our learning: “God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”—I Cor. 6:14-18

He also said, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:14) Let us heed these words of wisdom.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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