Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ezra-The Small Band of Escapees

By Mary Vee
Ezra 8

From Ezra's Journal

Photo Courtesy
My name is Ezra. I have spent many years studying the Law of Moses as a servant in Babylon.

It took four months for the group I led to travel to Jerusalem. We rested and had a time of celebration, praising God for His goodness.

We were the second group of Jews to return home. Time had passed since the first group arrived. The men another families from the first group had fixed their home and were to work on rebuilding the city and temple. I didn't see much of that work done.

I met with the city leaders to see what they had planned. In that meeting they told me news that broke my heart. 

See, a long time ago, when our fathers escaped from Egypt, God gave us His laws. There was the ten commandments and then other laws to help us keep healthy, clean, well, and live peaceably. 

In that second group of laws, God commanded us not to marry anyone from another nation. The reason, God told us, was to keep the false idols from coming into our homes and culture. Jews who lived before us became examples of the truth in God's words. Even King Solomon stopped worshiping God. He worshipped the idols of his wives to make them happy. In the end, he became miserable. 

The leaders told me that people of Israel, including the priests and Levites have married those from other nations. They have taken on the practices of worshiping the idols from the other nations. Not everyone did this, but many had. 

When I heard the news, I ripped my clothes, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down with so much sadness and anger I couldn't speak until that evening. 

That night I fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: 

“O my God, I’m so totally ashamed, I can’t bear to face you. O my God—our iniquities are piled up so high that we can’t see out; our guilt touches the skies. We’ve been stuck in a muck of guilt since the time of our ancestors until right now; we and our kings and priests, because of our sins, have been turned over to foreign kings, to killing, to captivity, to looting, and to public shame—just as you see us now."

I wept and threw myself closer to the ground in front of a large crowd standing at the house of God.

"Now for a brief time God, our God, has allowed us, this battered band, to get a firm foothold in his holy place so that our God may brighten our eyes and lighten our burdens as we serve out this hard sentence. We were slaves; yet even as slaves, our God didn’t abandon us. He has put us in the good graces of the kings of Persia and given us the heart to build The Temple of our God, restore its ruins, and construct a defensive wall in Judah and Jerusalem."

Men, women, and children walked closer to me. Watching. 

“And now, our God, after all this what can we say for ourselves? For we have thrown your commands to the wind, the commands you gave us through your servants the prophets. They told us, ‘The land you’re taking over is a polluted land, polluted with the obscene vulgarities of the people who live there; they’ve filled it with their moral rot from one end to the other. Whatever you do, don’t give your daughters in marriage to their sons nor marry your sons to their daughters. Don’t cultivate their good opinion; don’t make over them and get them to like you so you can make a lot of money and build up a tidy estate to hand down to your children.’

Those watching wept with me. Their cries and wails growing louder.

“And now this, on top of all we’ve already suffered because of our evil ways and accumulated guilt, even though you, dear God, punished us far less than we deserved and even went ahead and gave us this present escape. Yet here we are, at it again, breaking your commandments by intermarrying with the people who practice all these obscenities! Are you angry to the point of wiping us out completely, without even a few stragglers, with no way out at all? You are the righteous God of Israel. We are, right now, a small band of escapees. Look at us, openly standing here, guilty before you. No one can last long like this.”

Oh what sad news. We all wept before the Lord, our Creator.

sources: New International Version, New King James Version 
                The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1. Ezra and those who traveled with him were the ______ group to return to Jerusalem.
2. After the celebration to God, what did the leaders tell Ezra?
3. What did Ezra do when he heard the news?
4. Then Ezra prayed. Where was he when he prayed?
5. Who came and watched Ezra pray?
6. What did they do when they heard Ezra's prayer?
7. How do you think the people felt at this time?

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