Old Testament: Ezra 10:1-44
Ezra 10:1-44 The Great Divorce
There are many remarkable passages of Scripture and this one ranks right up there. In the last chapter we saw that Ezra as representative of the people confessed the sins of the nation and prayed for them. In this chapter we see the results. Wiersbe says this wasn’t a “response . . . that Ezra worked up; it was something he prayed down.”
The concern, as you recall, was that Ezra came to realize that some of the people had married outside of Abraham’s lineage. This was forbidden by Mosiac law (Exod. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:1-4). The answer to Ezra’s prayer was that Shecaniah, some of whose relatives were offenders, came to him to remedy the situation. Wiersbe says, “In my pastoral ministry, I’ve seen churches split and almost destroyed because people have sided with their disobedient relatives in matters of discipline instead of with the Lord and His Word.” McGee says, “The church needs housecleaning today. I don’t mean taking from the church rolls the names of those that can’t be located either, what the average church needs to do is get rid of some of the members they can locate – those who need to repent but will not repent.”
What we see in Ezra is a near miraculous event. The people formed a committee (not a miracle) to propose a solution to the intermarrying in their midst. The people had three days to meet in Jerusalem or be punished severely (v. 8). So they assembled on December 19, 458 B.C. (v. 9). A committee formed on December 29 (v. 16) and gave their conclusions three months later on March 27, 457 (v. 17).
A list of about one hundred offenders (including 27 priests, Levites, temple singers, gatekeepers, cf. Wiersbe) had been drawn up. 50,000 people had returned with Zerubbabel eighty years previous. Now perhaps less than 1% had sinned by taken foreign women. As Wiersbe points out, the book begins with a list of Jewish pioneering heroes volunteering to return to Israel. It ends with the list of sinners who violated one of the foremost laws of the nation.
The end result was that the offending parties actually separated from the non-Jews they had married along with their children from such unions (v. 44). I find this utterly amazing from my current-day vantage point.
Today, there is no problem with believing Jews intermarrying with believing Gentiles. The prohibition is against believers marrying non-believers (2 Cor. 6:14-17). Can you imagine the fuss in today’s mega-churches today if the leadership even made a pronouncement that all couples living together would have to split? I have written recently on church discipline (see blog Baby Steps). Real churches will exercise church discipline but how many churches even know what church discipline is? Ezra had some people who “trembled” at the commandments of God (v. 3). I have to confess, I don’t hardly know of any of these kind of people right now. Early in my pastoral ministry, I was talking to a deacon who had been in leadership for years in the church. When I asked him about church discipline, he said he didn’t know the Bible well enough to have an opinion on it. Yet for the next decade he fought against me on every major proposal I brought before the church. This is the state of the church today.
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 6:1-20
1 Corinthians 6:1-20 Putting On A Law Suit
If psychologists have become the new priests of the church, then what are lawyers? I mentioned to a lawyer friend recently that God was the foundation of our legal system. He looked dumbfounded and asked me to explain. I would have thought he would have been taught that in law school. Where was my head??? I since have listened to lawyers conjure strategies with no sense of all of what the ethical consequences would be of their actions. The only ethical consequence in their thinking would be a “win” for their client. The means were of no consideration ethically.
But God is the center of our legal system. All morality flows from Him. The Judeo-Christian principles come from God that are the basis of our laws. That is why “In God We Trust” is inscribed across the top of some government buildings and some even have statues of Moses holding the ten commandments. Of course, as we wander from our roots, all is breaking down. George Washington believed that “religion and morality [were] indispensable supports” of the government (Paul Johnson, History of the American People, p. 229). Religion and morality have sprouted wings, it seems, and left our government behind for the most part. The president recently said “the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles” (Read more: President on New World Order). Wow. “Different set of principles”? What was wrong with the old set of principles?
Paul faced a problem in the Corinthian congregation concerning a problem with the congregants going to secular law courts. In essence, he tells them to bring their grievances to the church to be settled by believers. His argument was that in the next age believers will be ruling (v. 2) and in fact will judge angels (v. 3). If that’s the case (no pun intended), then believers should be able to handle worldly matters here on earth. Paul wonders why believers would take any matter before a secular court of unbelievers.
Paul says that those who commit various sins such as fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, mocking, or extortion will not be in Heaven (v.9-10). Paul makes it clear that what he means is no one will find those sins in Heaven. Those who have trusted Christ and had committed those sins will be in Heaven but their sins will not be found. God sees the Corinthians as clean — “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified” in Christ. As we saw in Romans 5, no one should think they have committed a sin that is too big for God’s grace. God has amazing cleansing power and will finish the job either in this life or in the next.
Paul moves on to an important principle. There was apparently another dispute over food. Paul thinks that all things are lawful, meaning he can eat any kind of food he wants. “Food is for the body and the body is for food, but God will do away with both of them” (v. 13). If we eat too much processed food or things that were prohibited in the Old Testament, we might start wondering if the stomach was made for food. On the other hand, we might start wondering if the stuff we put in our stomach is actually food! Christians should realize that there are many people willing to take advantage of man’s need for food to manufacture junk that tastes good but is not good for our bodies. Those people don’t care. Christans who are stewards of their bodies should realize that their bodies are “temple[s] of the Holy Spirit Who is in [them]” (v. 19). We need to eat right and exercise to take care of them.
Paul is also is emphasizing that our bodies’ purpose to act as Christ would use them (“members of Christ,” v. 15). For that, he is warning them against the immorality that was prevalent in their town. Prostitues were part of the pagan worship system. He contrasts the joining of themselves to a prostitute with the joining of their bodies with Christ (v. 15-16). Kind of graphic, isn’t he? He says they should “flee immorality” (v. 18) since it is a sin committed against their own bodies (v. 18). What they are doing is a gross violation of their materiality that belong to Christ and is home of the Holy Spirit.
Today we are told that we are just products of evolution. We “evolved” from lower creatures and who knows where we’re going. Morality has been squeezed out of the picture of life by Satan. We are bombarded with these ideas through the ubiquitous media of TV, movies, books, radio, podcasts, iTunes, Netflix, cable and, of course, through the educational system. It is no wonder that our nation is in the state that it is.
Psalm 31:9-18 A “Hand-y” Man, Part 2 A Psalm of Lament by David
Proverbs 21:3 NJGG
I think a lot of Christians confuse being a goody-goody with being a committed believer. Many believers think that they are what many people think is good. But they are not what God thinks is good. What God thinks is good is what He has explained in His Word. So people do not naturally know what is right.
The previous verse, Prov. 21:2, is a good illustration. People might think whatever they think is right is right. It isn’t always right. Believers should know that they are born in sin. So they can’t rely without the help of the Holy Spirit and the help of the Bible. Christians cannot just wing righteousness in life.
Now, on the other hand, Christians can wing it in the Christian life. They could wing righteousness, properly understood. If their wings are the Holy Spirit and Bible knowledge (cf. Rom. 12:2), they can fly. But they have to balance a sense of peace from the Holy Spirit with knowledge from the Scripture (cf. Spiritual Sensitivity, Sensitivity To The Spirit).
Some may sacrifice to the Lord (v. 3b) even though what they are doing isn’t what God wants. (John Owens was wrong: “If private revelations agree with Scripture, they are needless, and if they disagree, they are false.” John Owens wasn’t spiritual. We can misconstrue what God wants. We need the input of the Holy Spirit).
The WWJD movement of the 1990’s had some good aspects. But it was based on a tainted movement based on the book In His Steps printed in 1896. We should think about what Jesus would do. But we aren’t left to our own devices. God will lead us (cf. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16, 18, 25).
Being a Christian means having a personal relationship with God.
NJGG. Not Just Goody-Goody.
Choose Life: Scripture: Ezra 10:11, 1 Corinthians 6:11 NASB “A Good Divorce”
“”Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.'” Ezra 10:11
“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11
I don’t think anyone would think that divorce is a good thing. In fact, the Bible says that God hates divorce (cf. Mal. 2:16). The same prophet said that “God does not change” (cf. Mal. 3:6). So, if God doesn’t change, how could it be a good thing for Ezra to tell all the Israelites that had married foreign women that they should get a divorce?
Ezra knew that having pagan women in the fold would cause a break down in the Jewish community. It had to be remedied. The antidote was some very strong medicine. It was divorce. God doesn’t change. His main priority is to create people that are like His Son. Normally, that would mean to model the unity in the Trinity and marriage wherein the couple is committed to each other for an entire lifetime. However, in the dispensation of the law of Moses, the priority was the purity of the nation. The pagan women had to go. How painful that had to be for some families!
In the New Testament, Paul commands Christians not to marry unbelievers. He calls it being “unequally yoked” (2 Cor. 6:14, KJV, ESV, NIV; see blog The Yoke Is On You), a reference to the practice of yoking oxen together in farming. That means Christians shouldn’t marry non-Christians. It probably also means that more mature Christians should not marry less mature Christians. Christians should marry not just because they love each other but they should also have some sense that they are going to further the cause of Christ together. When you’ve stopped choking, you can consider the subtitle of a book on Christian marriage, What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage).
Holiness was always God’s design for all humanity. In the New Testament, God has provided holiness for us in Christ as we can see in our NT verse today (see also blog You Look Maavelous! on “positional” sanctification). God saw some of the worst sinners (“such were some of you [Corinthians]”) as being as holy as Christ. A miracle? Yes! But true. Then God expects us to measure up to the way He sees us spiritually in Christ. That means separating ourselves from some things. In the case of Ezra’s time, it meant divorcing pagan wives. Today it might mean not listening to certain types of music with bad lyrics, going to movies that make you feel icky, or hanging out with bad company (cf. 1 Cor. 15:33, NIV, NASB, NLT, et. al., meaning bad people, not the rock group, though maybe you don’t want to hang with them either, I don’t know).
Are you divorcing yourself from things that God wouldn’t like?
If you are, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Paul commanded Christians, ” . . . COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you” (2 Cor. 6:17, the caps represent a quote from the OT, Isa. 52:11, HE WASN’T SHOUTING!).
A good way to gage whether you are involved with something or someone you shouldn’t be, is the way it makes you feel. Do you feel yucky watching stuff on “premium” cable or other channels? Cut the cable if you have to (cf. Matt. 5:29-30). Do you have bad friends who are bringing you down and leading you away from your commitment to Christ? Find new friends (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14).
Sometimes divorce is a good thing. Sometimes it’s good to jettison the things that keep us from going deeper with the Lord (cf. Heb. 12:1-2).
The purpose of the Choose Life is to pick a positive help out of the One Year Bible (OYB) reading plan for the day. There is always something positive in the Word of God to cheer us and give us strength. For more on today’s reading, check out my One Year Bible blog: The Great Divorce