Once the temple is completed in the book of Ezra, we watch as the continuing sin of Judah is exposed. The people of God have chosen to directly disobey the commands of the Lord. They have intermarried with the people of other religions, not caring about the fact that such actions violate the law of God.
Ezra 9:3 – As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.
The remainder of chapter 9 of Ezra is his prayer of confession. Ezra sees that the nation has just returned from exile for their sin. Yet, the nation has returned, almost immediately to the same kind of sin as earned them their exile in the first place. And Ezra confesses to the Lord that they deserve his judgment.
What strikes me as I read through this is not the overall story, but the passionate reaction of Ezra to the sin of the people of God. Ezra cared. Ezra was mortified that the people who claim to be followers of God would flat refuse to obey a clear and simple command of the Lord. And the command they violated was one of great personal danger. This was not making themselves unclean by a bad food choice. This was the people making permanent changes to their families in opposition to the Lord.
What I wonder for us is when is the last time we have hated sin with that kind of passion? When is the last time that we looked at our own choices and wanted to tear our clothes and pull out our hair. No, I’m not interested in an odd monastic flagellation. What I simply wonder is when is the last time we really cared, emotionally, deeply, gut-wrenchingly cared about the fact that our sin is a direct rebellion against the commands of a gracious God.
I love gospel. I love grace. I want us to live as people under grace. But we cannot live well under grace without recognizing that sin is significant. We cannot love God well without caring about his law. Jesus said that the one who has and obeys his commands is the one who loves him (John 14:15). WE cannot love God without obedience.
No, I do not want you to beat yourself or others for failing. But I do want us all to care about the Lord, about his holiness, and about the word. I want us, like Ezra, to see that God has given us grace upon grace. I want us to love that grace, but to never belittle that grace in presumptuous sin. May we be a people who repent well, including being a people who hurt when we sin so that our turning from sin will last.