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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kim Taylor

Pastor's Ponderings: Old Testament bible study on Ezra 9:1-4 (February 29, 2024)

February 29, 2024:  Thursday Bible Study on the OT book of Ezra 9:1-4


Blessing and Peace be with you on this day which the Lord has made.  May we all rejoice and be glad in it. 


Today please pray for Chris W.  He is currently unemployed and looking for work, and continue prayers for Jeff and Kandice, both of whom are suffering with cancer that is ineligible for surgery and needs new treatment methods to treat it successfully.  Pray too for the people around them who are supporting them in this health journey in their lives.  Today, do something that you have probably not done for a while.  Tell Jesus that you love Him!

 



A holy bible open to the Old Testament book of Ezra
The Old Testament book of Ezra

In our passage from Ezra today we are faced with a problem that continues on in communities of faith currently as well.  Ezra arrives some 100 years after the first groups of returning exiles, the Judahites, arrive to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.  What he finds when he arrives is a very disturbing reality.  As one might expect, for several generations, the Judahites who returned have intermarried with the men and women of the tribes who moved into the area which the exiles intended to rebuild.  Knowing human nature, no one should be surprised that people, both Judahite, and non-Judahite, found partners in the communities of the other non-Judahite tribes.  We find in this text a laundry list of the tribes which Ezra cannot and will not accept as appropriate for intermarriage.  He lists historic tribes which no longer exist, and some that are current when Ezra arrives.  The Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Amorites no longer exist as tribes in Ezra's time, but the Ammonites, Moabites, and Egyptians are still present.  If you are thinking that one of these names sounds familiar, you are right.  The book of Ruth is the account of a Moabite woman, whose husband has died.  Ruth follows her mother Naomi to Israel out of her devotion to the woman's well-being.  There she meets a Jewish man, Boaz, who eventually marries her.  In this case, Ruth is not an abomination to Jews in Boaz' community because she converts and worships the LORD.  The problem in Ezra's time is that the faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has become blended with all kinds of religious practices which are the cause of faithlessness to God.  (These practices included making idols, worshiping other gods, sacrificing children to those gods to attain favor with them, practicing divination, and consulting with the dead.)  Such practices are an offense to God!  Such marriages took place for a variety of reasons, like economic security, social status, to gain political power, and of course, love.  The Torah does not forbid intermarriage, but it does forbid the aforementioned practices.  I clearly remember how my grandmother felt about her raised Lutheran son marrying into a Catholic family.  I don't think that my uncle ever attended worship in either place after he was an adult.  Today, I have an older brother who married Catholic, and who is such a good and faithful person in his personal and spiritual life.  Of course, there is much more to each of these stories.  In our modern culture we don't see many issues in the church over intermarriage, but the problem comes when such a marriage draws a believer away from their relationship with God and causes them to lose their faith in Christ.  Sometimes in the church we are too easily convinced that the world and its ways are alright, but much of the world's ways have the potential to weaken our relationship with Christ, and that relationship is truly life itself.  Another part of this passage is the extraordinary grief which Ezra feels over finding such watering down, and losses of faith and the rule of the One True God.  I often think that the current new generation of adults, many of whom were raised in the church, and who have now dismissed Christ and His Church in their lives, are a reason for us to know the very same kind of grief.  When parents are faithful, I wonder if their children really know how hard it is for them to watch the faith and hope slip away to be replaced by living for today and for self.  To whom will our children turn, when life becomes too complicated and painful, or who will they find to bring strength and hope back into their lives?  Thank God, the Holy Spirit always continues her work to restore and reconcile those who have lost their way.  After all, wasn't that really the reason that Ezra headed off to the promised land?  He came to reinforce The LORD'S rule in the lives of these people.  All of this is the new wandering in the wilderness for the exiles who have come home just to lose their way.


Next week we will cover Ezra 9:5-15.


With the Love of Christ, Pastor Kim

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