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Dave Chappelle and Canceling Context

Before you allow yourself to develop too much of an opinion of the Dave Chappelle and Netflix kerfuffle, consider that all things people do have a purpose. No, Chappelle was not merely trying to be funny. No, he was not only making a boatload of cash. No, he was not simply offensive, foul, and generally inappropriate. The comedian was making a deeply felt emotional argument.

If one notes the full content of the special and not merely the sound bites, one will learn that Chappelle had previously befriended a trans comedian. This comic had defended Dave on Twitter after the trans community came after Chappelle for what he said in a previous special. The trans community on Twitter then attacked Chappelle’s trans comic friend for days on social media. According to his words in his special, Chappelle’s friend then committed suicide.

Chappelle mocked every group he could manage to mock in his Netflix special in order to point out the ridiculousness and evil of cancel culture. Chappelle insulted white people, black people, people from Detroit, people from Ohio, racists, hippies, Christians, Jews, and, yes, the trans community. And, you know what, anybody who watched that special knew exactly what they would see in Chappelle’s comedy. After all, his humor has not changed. He has always made his money with this same sort of content and style.

As a Christian and a pastor, I surely do not recommend you watch Chappelle or endorse his humor. Neither do I recommend that you develop any of your understanding of morality from Netflix, be it from comedy or documentary. But as a thinking human being, I do not recommend that you condemn Chappelle for doing harm to the trans community without first knowing what he said in its context and not from sound bites alone. Neither do I believe that we do society any good when we attempt to destroy any person’s reputation or livelihood simply because they say things that hurt our feelings.

No, I’m not recommending you watch the special. No, I do not think Chappelle needs my help. No, I do not fear for Netflix. No, my stance on sexuality and gender has not ever departed from that of Scripture. But it is a bit ridiculous that the entire point this foul-mouthed comic was making was to point out the folly and harm of the cancel culture in the life of a trans friend of his, and that , to my knowledge, none in the media have mentioned it. Chappelle tells a sad story of a person who was beaten down by their own community on social media perhaps resulting in that person’s suicide, and the result is that the left ignores that point to stir up another tempest in a virtual teapot. Ironic, isn’t it?

Friends, when Big Brother runs the news, you will only hear what the Ministry of Truth wants you to hear.

A Model of Preaching

Nehemiah 8:8 – They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

In Nehemiah 8, we run across one of those famous Old Testament scenes. Once the city of Jerusalem had its walls again, once the temple was functioning again, once the people were rejoicing in the faithfulness of God, the priests gathered the people and opened the word of God. We see a big platform, a group of priests reading the word, and those godly men explaining the word for the people of God to listen to. It was like a big, all-day conference.

Many a Bible teacher will use this passage to talk about biblical preaching, and I think that’s fair. What strikes me this time as we look at this form of preaching the word is less of what is present and more of what is absent in the description. Earlier in the chapter, we see the people gathered. We see that it is people of all ages, men and women and all who can understand (v. 2). And we see that men read the word clearly and gave the sense so that people could understand.

What is not there? There is nothing present that looks like a great deal of what passes for preaching today. There is no gimmick. There is no picture of clever sermon illustrations. There is no need for a drama, a concert, or a team of researchers who look up interesting historical anecdotes. There is just the word opened, the word proclaimed, the word understood.

I’m not for boredom. I’m not for lifeless preaching. But I wonder how many preachers spend more of their time looking for ways to capture their audience than looking for ways to proclaim the word clearly and give the sense. I wonder how many preachers today are more interested in the look of the “set” on “stage” and the lighting cues than they are about being sure the people hear the word as it was intended to be proclaimed.

Be careful, believers, not to lay this all at the feet of megachurch pastors. Men would not have turned the preaching of the word into a show were it not for crowds of people who demanded that preachers say to them what their itching ears wanted to hear. Preachers would not have gone gimmick crazy were it not for congregations who flock from church to church to hear the more engaging speaker regardless of his biblical faithfulness.

We see in Nehemiah a perfect coupling of something our churches need. We see men of God willing to stand before the congregation, read the word of God, and give its sense. And we see a congregation ready to listen. We see a congregation not looking for a more interesting or clever alternative. WE see a congregation longing for the straight up word of Almighty God—no watering it down, no artificial sweeteners, just the word. May we be Christians in churches where the word is preached and the preached word is received.

Honest Assessment or Belittling Hatred

Matthew 5:21–22 – 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

In Matthew 5, Jesus repeatedly teaches with the phrase, “You have heard that it was said … but I say…” In this, Jesus is challenging the faulty way that the religious in his day handled the Scripture.

In the religious community of Jesus’ earthly ministry, there were many people who made the law of God about outward acts and not so much about the heart. This allowed sinful men to be sinful in their hearts, attitudes, and sometimes in certain behaviors while claiming righteousness because they had not broken the specific law in question by the exact wording of that law.

Let me illustrate. Picture a child rebelling against his mom. She tells him not to eat any candy from the candy dish before dinner. But, during the day, somebody bumps the dish, and a piece of candy falls out onto the table. The child gobbles up the candy, reasoning that this candy was no longer in the dish and therefore fair game. Of course we know that is not the mom’s intent, but the kid thinks he has gotten away with it on a technicality.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has no tolerance for technicalities that allow hard-hearted men to go against the Lord. And the first area in which we see his teaching is on the issue of anger. The religious of Jesus’ day knew the command from the Ten Commandments not to murder. They reasoned that it was OK to hate people, be cruel in their hearts or even with their words toward people, so long as they did not actually take physical action against them. But Jesus clearly shows us this is not the case.

Now, let’s cut to the chase. Jesus tells us that, of course, murder is a sin. But so also is it a sin to hate people made in God’s image. It is a sin to belittle others made in God’s image so that you think of them as lesser than you or even subhuman. Jesus’ pointing to being angry, insulting, or even calling another a fool is him showing us that there is no room to claim to be righteous while murdering another in your heart.

Now, does that mean that, if we ever disagree with someone and they find it insulting, we are outside of the will of Jesus? No. The Savior himself called men fools (cf. Mat. 23:16-17). But when Jesus said that men were fools, that they were actually behaving as fools, he was not hating them. He was not devaluing them as people. The Savior spoke the perfect truth.

Christians, let’s be careful. Yes, we should always speak the truth of people and their actions. But we should not let our claim to be speaking the truth allow us to be ugly and hard-hearted toward others. We should grasp that sometimes we face the temptation to say that we are telling the truth while we look at others as lower than us, lesser than us, just plain stupid. That kind of thinking leads people who do not check it toward thinking of others as worthless or subhuman.

What is a wrong application here? Do not let yourself read what I just wrote and move toward embracing society’s new love affair with legislating speech. It is not hateful to tell someone they are wrong. It is not hateful or harmful to disagree with somebody. It is not dehumanizing to tell a person that their lifestyle choice or in fact their presenting identity is outside of the bounds of the word of God. You can say of someone that they are in sin, and that is neither hate nor invalidating their humanity. Speech, contrary to popular acceptance, is not violence.

But we also should be honest with ourselves and with the Lord. There is a way that we can put down those who oppose us in such a way that we no longer treat them as human. We can allow ourselves to think of those who disagree with us as evil simply because they do not agree with us and not for their actual behavior in relation to Scripture. It is one thing to believe somebody is wrong or even sinful. It is another to so belittle them in your mind that you no longer believe that they should be treated with the proper dignity appropriate for a person created in the image of God.

Jesus looked at the command not to murder, saw how men around him were handling it, and challenged his followers. Jesus tells us not to murder others in our hearts. This includes holding to boiling anger, speaking insults, and calling someone a fool.
We know that Jesus used the word fool, so the issue is not the word itself but rather a degrading of another person.

Let me close with a modern example that might help. Pick a political issue where you disagree with others. It might be COVID and vaccines, gun laws, the border, taxation, racism, or whatever. It is surely OK to disagree with others on these issues. And I believe that, in every one of these issues, there are people who are right and people who are wrong. There are people who are thinking clearly and people who are being foolish. And I do not think that Jesus is in any way telling us not to think they are wrong or even say that their view is foolish or even sinful.

But, and here is the point, do you think that people who disagree with you on your pet political issue are so stupid as to be somehow less than you? Do you think to yourself that you wish those people would all be locked up, muzzled, kicked off the Internet, or just not allowed to walk the same streets as you? Be careful. Yes, there are some political positions that lead people to do such immoral things that God’s word is clear that they are committing crimes, and those crimes must be addressed. But in general, if you assume that those who disagree with you are bad people, stupid people, people unworthy of life, you are going against the command of our Savior to avoid the sins found in the murder family.

Freedom and Sovereignty at Work

Genesis 20:4-6 – 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.

One of the more difficult issues for many of us to grasp is the sovereign moving of God on our lives in relation to the significance of our choices. Are we free? Do we do what God sovereignly decrees? Interestingly, the answer is a glorious “yes” to both questions.

When Abraham was living near King Abimelech, for a second time in his life, he declared his wife to be his sister. Abimelech, as a king may well do, took Sarah into his harem. And God intervened to protect the woman.

In verses 4-6 of Genesis 20, we see the conversation between Abimelech and the Lord when God warns the king not to touch Sarah and to return her to her husband.

Notice two things at work. On the one hand, Abimelech had not approached Sarah yet. Though he had been misled by Abraham, he, living his life as he planned, simply had never gone to Sarah as a wife or concubine. As he pleaded his innocence before the Lord, Abimelech pointed out that he had not wronged Sarah in any way.

At the same time, when the Lord responded to the king, he let Abimelech know that it was God’s own sovereign hand that actively prevented Abimelech from going to Sarah. The Lord clearly intervened to protect this woman. Though he did not tell us here, it is clear that God would not allow the line of promise to be corrupted by the introduction of the descendant of a Canaanite king.

Considering freedom and sovereignty, in verse 6, we see both that Abimelech acted in his own integrity, and the Lord acted to prevent Abimelech from crossing a line that God was protecting. Abimelech felt that his actions and his decisions were in fact his own—and indeed they were to an extent. At the same time, Abimelech, once he learned the truth of the situation, also had to bow to the fact that it was the act of God that shaped his free actions so that God’s perfect will was accomplished.

When we deal with the issue of sovereignty and human freedom, much of our thinking needs to be along the lines of what we have seen here. God allows us to move in accord with our desires. God certainly never moves us into sin, as the Lord will not author sin. Yet, when all is said and done, we will realize that it was the sovereign guiding hand of God that moved us to accomplish his will. Thus, we know that God has made us free. But our freedom is limited by God’s sovereignty.

Of course this applies in our thinking about salvation. the lost person is not moved by God to not believe. Instead, the lost person is allowed to freely oppose God as fits his deepest desire.

In contrast, when you are saved, you are saved by grace through faith. You believe. You turn. You trust Jesus. You cry out for mercy. If, however, you could see behind the scenes, you would see that the faith you exercised was a gift given you by God (Eph. 2:8).

Dodging Dangerous Distractions

Nehemiah 6:1-3 – 1 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. 3 And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

Nehemiah led a tremendous project, the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. And in that season, as we might imagine, he faced opposition. Evil men wanted to keep Nehemiah from accomplishing the plan and purposes of God.

Here we see a tactic used by these men. As the work was progressing, enemies of Nehemiah, enemies of God, tried to coax Nehemiah into going out to meet with them. Their goal was clearly to kill Nehemiah when he was away from the city. Nehemiah, for his part, would not go with the men. He reasoned that he had far too much work to do for the purpose of God to allow himself to be taken from it to deal with these evil men.

I wonder if we might find a principle here for faithful living before the Lord. Nehemiah had a God-given task. The more Nehemiah focused on what he was called to do, the more he was safe from the schemes of his enemies. Nehemiah’s enemies wanted to draw him away from the work and into conflict with them. The man of God simply pressed on with the work.

Today, there are many enemies who clamor for our attention. There are many who try to get us to step away from things that matter to enter into conflict with them. This is especially true on social media sites. It is as if there are a host of enemies telling us, “Stop focusing on the Lord and come argue with me.” While there is certainly merit in answering a fool according to his folly in order both to prevent him from being wise in his own eyes and from influencing others, there is also a danger. There is a danger of becoming so distracted by a focus on the fool that you forget to focus on the Savior and his holy word. There is a danger of spending all your time being angry about the errors of others instead of having your heart filled with the glory of the Savior whose honor you think you are defending.

May we be wise as we consider life. May we not spend more time focusing on error and enemies than we spend on the word of God and the work to which God has called us. The Lord wants us to love him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. God wants us to love our families. God wants us to love and treasure our local churches. God wants us to share the gospel. God wants us to grow in our knowledge of the faith. With all that, we do not have time to go out and argue all day with people who do not love the Lord and who only wish to drag us away from the work.

Benn — Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther — A Review

Wallace P. Benn. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther: Restoring the Church in the Preaching the Word Commentary Series edited by R. Kent Hughes. Wheaton: Crossway, 2021.

The Preaching the Word commentary series is an interesting and helpful set of books. At the same time, this series is not intended to be the resource for in-depth analysis of the word. Instead, this series is helpful to preachers and Bible students who want to understand a book of the Bible and get a solid feel for how to communicate important truths from those books to the people of God. This newest volume in the set covering Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther is a great example of the style and intent of this encouraging series.

As a commentary that covers three significant historical books of the Old Testament from the time after the Babylonian exile, Benn’s work is full of encouragement for believers who are living in a world that is not precisely what they would want it to be. In the preface, the author writes:

“The position canonically and historically of these books written after the exile is also of particular significance to us, as I believe the church in the West is going through a time of exile or judgment because of its manifest unfaithfulness to the gospel and the Word of God. Despite many encouragements, liberal teaching has eroded confidence in the Holy Scriptures, and we are not winning generally against the huge neo-pagan secular and materialistic tide. May God have mercy on us and restore, revive, and bless his people so that our nations may once again be shaken by the power of the gospel to change hearts and transform lives.”

As a reader, I particularly enjoyed the applicational tone of this commentary. Every chapter points to the hearts of believers. Each chapter helps us to see how New Testament Christians can apply the principles Benn brought out from the chapters of Old Testament history. In his section on Ezra, Benn even included a familiar song of worship to help believers better respond to what we have seen.

In simplest form, I believe that this commentary is helpful to believers who want a book that will familiarize them with the text of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. It is better than a study Bible or Sunday School lesson, but not quite as intellectual or scholarly as many difficult commentaries. I believe that pastors can benefit from the applicational nature of this writing. Any believer can gain from using this book as an aid to personal study or devotional reading. There are great encouragements to rest in the sovereignty of God, to trust God’s ultimate goodness, and to obey his commands even in a world that appears to oppose you on every side.

What I would offer as criticisms here primarily apply in the work’s design. If you know the Preaching the Word series, you already know what you are getting when you read one of these books. But a pastor who wants something to help him truly juggle the thorny doctrinal or interpretive issues of a text may find himself wanting more. And, when Benn looks at something in a way different than you expect, there is not enough argument in the text to be convincing. As an example, at the conclusion of Esther, Benn suggests that the text may be showing us a flaw in Esther’s character, a bloodthirstiness in the response to those who would attack the Jews. I would ask if the author of the Scripture actually intends us to agree with that mindset, or is that something brought to the text from Benn’s own sensibilities and those of some other scholars? Unfortunately, the scope of this kind of work does not allow for a convincing interaction.

All-in-all, I would recommend this commentary with the understanding that we should let it be what it is. This book is simple, straight forward, and encouraging. It is helpful and a fine addition to any study notes on these Old Testament books.

** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as part of a book reviewer program. My review is not influenced by the publisher in any way. **

Striving for Holiness

Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Rest in grace. Strive for holiness. It may seem like these two are at odds. But, the one who knows the word of God will see that these are regularly set side-by-side.

In the letter to the Hebrews, the author has shown us that our salvation is not based on our works. Christ, as our perfect high priest, has done the only work that can be done to save our souls. Christ has made the only blood sacrifice that can take away our sins. Christ is our advocate before the Father.

The grace of Christ does not, however, change the calling of God on our lives to work toward being changed. We are never saved by our works. Nor are we kept by our works. But we are commanded to work toward godliness after our salvation. And, in fact, our salvation naturally moves the saved toward God.

In verse 14, we are called to strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” No person sees God without holiness. God is holy. God is unapproachable for the sinner. And if we have no holiness, we can never see or draw near to God.

In Christ, we are granted holiness as a gift. The Savior’s righteousness is imputed to us. This means that, while our lives are not yet made holy in our actual experience, God credits the righteousness of Christ to our account.

We rest in Christ’s holiness for our salvation, but Scripture never allows us to cease pressing toward holy living. That is the point of the verse. If you are saved, you will strain forward to have your life come closer and closer to the holiness that Christ has given you. Step-by-step and day-by-day, you strive to be sanctified. God commands that we strive for the holiness required for any of us to see God. We have that holiness as a gift. We press on to make our lives match what Christ has given us.

This is the place where a Christian should question himself. Am I striving toward holiness? Do I change toward the righteousness of Christ? Am I committed to growth? Do I understand that the Lord must transform me, making me holy? What must I start doing to move toward holiness? What must I put out of my life to have greater holiness?

Christian, be thankful for the gift of grace in Christ. Christian, strive for the holiness without which no one can see God.

A God of Judgment and Grace

Genesis 7:20-23 – 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.

A study of Scripture tells us that the character of God has never once changed. A faithful understanding of theology reminds us that Jesus, God the Son, shares exactly the character and nature of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, there is no division in God. He judges perfectly and shows mercy perfectly in keeping with his holiness.

This thought is important as we watch the flood of Genesis 7. Back in chapter 6, the Lord lamented the evil and wickedness of mankind on the earth. In perfect righteousness, God acted. God warned Noah, called him to build an ark, sent him animals to preserve, and then flooded the earth.

As many have pointed out, the story of the ark is not a cute little children’s story of a floating zoo. No, the story of the ark is dark and horrible, literally full of horror. All human life on earth died. All people were put to death by the righteous hand of a holy judge. And the sound and fury of this catastrophe is far greater than we have ever imagined.

One thing I believe is worthy of our note is that God has not changed. The God who judged the world, reining down death on the globe for rebelling against his holiness is the very God we serve today. Jesus judges just like this (cf. Revelation 19). But I wonder if we believe it. Do we really believe that God would judge the world. In his mercy, God promised that he would not flood the world again (Genesis 9). But, in his word, the Lord has made it plain that the wages of sin is death, that death without Christ leads to eternal judgment, and that Christ will both judge and reign supreme forever.

Do you believe that God is willing and righteous to judge? Do you accept that, where God judges, he has every right to do so as the Creator and Lord over all? Do you realize that the earth earned God’s judgment by violating his holy ways and the world is still doing that today?

And God has not changed. The ark provided salvation for those who willingly entered it. God will save a people for himself. God will not lose those he intends to save. His justice and his mercy never change.

Sleep as an Act of Faith

Psalm 3:5

I lay down and slept;

I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

In Psalm 3, David is crying out to the Lord for his help. David’s son has attacked Jerusalem, hoping to chase down and murder his father. But David escaped into the wilderness. This, of course, was a terrible period in the life of the king.

In the midst of this psalm, David highlights something special, though I wonder if we see it as such. David, while hiding out, while on the run, lay down and slept. David woke up again, because the Lord had protected and sustained him. And David began a new day with the Lord.

Many things we do in life we take for granted. We assume that all will be the same. But sometimes it is truly worth it for us to just stop and consider what we do. Among these things is sleep.

When we sleep, we yield a period of hours to the Lord. While we sleep, we have no control of the world around us. While we sleep, we have no control of our bodies, our breath, our heartbeat, even our thoughts. As we sleep, we, if we would think about it, take a step of faith. We entrust the spinning world to the care of the Lord. We entrust our bodies to the hands of him who knitted us together before we were ever born. We trust that God will sustain our lives, keep our homes standing, make the sun rise the next day, and continue life as we know it.

David was in fear of a dangerous situation. Yet he slept. You and I look at a crazy world, and often we grumble and complain about the evils of politicians and the mess that the world is in. Yet we too sleep. We stop. We take somewhere around a third of our days in many cases, and we must let go of any sense of personal control. May this remind us that, in truth, we have never controlled the world. Only the Lord keeps the globe spinning. Only the Lord keeps our government from becoming as evil as it wants to be. Only the Lord keeps our hearts beating and our blood flowing. And the Lord who has been faithful to keep us until now will keep us for eternity if we belong to him in Christ.

God’s Commands or the World’s Ways

Ezra 9:1-3 – 1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 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.

In the book of Ezra, we watch as exiles return to the land of Judah. We see the great faithfulness of God as the Lord motivates a foreign king to send captives home. We see the stunning provision of God as he moves the king to fund the reestablishment of the temple in Jerusalem.

But when Ezra, who shows up in the book baring his name in chapter 7, finally arrives in Jerusalem, he finds unfaithfulness. Dealing with that unfaithfulness is the sort of closing climax of this half of the Ezra-Nehemiah scroll.

Not long after things were up and running in Jerusalem and in the temple, Ezra found out that many of the people of Judah, including those who were in positions of community and spiritual leadership, had married foreign wives. And that news rocks Ezra’s world.

We need to be careful not to misunderstand the issue here. This is not an issue of racism. It is not that Ezra would not dare have one of God’s people marry someone of a different skin color. It is an issue of the promises of God on the one hand and faithfulness to God’s commands on the other.

Dealing with God’s commands, we need to remember that the Lord commanded that the people of Israel not marry outside of their nation any who were not willing to embrace the faith. God would not allow the people of Judah to corrupt the faith so that the commands and promises of God would be lost. If God forbad idolatry, but a man married a woman who brought idols into the house and the family culture, there was a major problem. Besides, God’s promises included the bringing of Messiah, the promised one, from a particular family lineage. This must not be lost by so intermingling the nation of Israel with other nations that the Messianic line is no longer recognizable.

So, what Ezra found as he examined the community around him was a few things. First, the people were not at all concerned with God’s promise to bring Messiah through his holy people. Second, the people were not concerned with obedience to the simplest of God’s commands. And, third, the people were willing to compromise the ways of the Lord so as to enjoy the pleasures of the world.

While all this is a fun history lesson, we should see at least a challenge or two for ourselves. Where are we willing to ignore the things of God for the pleasures of the world around us? Where are we willing to compromise the commands of God because we want to be like the world, favored by the world, or simply have the benefits of the world? Where do we allow ourselves to embrace the abominations of the world? And why in the world do we do so?

For sure, a reader of Ezra 9 and 10 should recognize that no follower of God should enter into a marriage with someone who is not similarly saved and committed to the worship of the Lord. Christians marrying outside the faith is forbidden by the word of God.

But the truth is, we should be even more circumspect than to only marry believers. WE should also be circumspect in how we allow our lives to function. We need to be fully devoted to our Lord and his ways. That means that there are worldly partnerships and worldly benefits that we should never embrace. We cannot share the world’s values. We cannot agree with the world’s sins. We must not shape our lives so that they look devoted to the same things as the lost. We live for someone and something different than they do, not because we are better naturally, but because we are saved, adopted, and committed to his Lordship.

Christians, let Ezra’s work remind you that there is a regular temptation to turn from the things of God. There are temptations to embrace things that God forbids. There are temptations to rationalize your desires. But the people of God are devoted to Jesus Christ as Lord. This means that we must not assume that we can live in any way that we choose, in any way that matches the world around us, and all will be acceptable. Surrender to God’s commands. Center your life’s focus on the Lord’s ways and word. And do not bring compromise into your life and into your home.