Ezra saw it for what it was, a national crisis. The fact that so many Jews had married pagan woman, mingling with the idolatrous people of the land was truly a threat to the existence of Israel. Ezra mourned, fasted, wept, and prayed, and the people gathered to him, a very large assembly of men, women, and children.
Then a man by the name of Shechaniah rose up and made a declaration for the nation.
Bible Knowledge Commentary, “One man, Shecaniah, spoke for all the people who were weeping. He acknowledged the unfaithfulness of the nation but he felt that there was still hope for Israel. He suggested that the people covenant before…God to divorce the foreign women and send them away along with the children they had borne.”
This was a radical reaction, one that some Bible teachers believe was wrong. If it was the will of God, however, it was an anomaly (something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected) for God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). We know certainly that under the New Covenant God would forbid such an act today. We read in:
1 Corinthians 7:12b–13 (NKJV) “..If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.
The New Testament clearly teaches that divorce is not permissible unless there has been adultery or abandonment.
But, the actions described in the book of Ezra, though radical, may have been necessary to preserve the nation.
Ezra agreed with Shechaniah and called all the descendants of the captivity in Judah and Jerusalem to appear in the Temple square within three days. Once they gathered together, Ezra indicted them with their transgression, and gave the proclamation that they were to send away their pagan wives and children, and seek the LORD. Surprisingly there were only a few who disagreed, the people overwhelmingly said, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.” (Ezra 10:12)
Each family had to be interviewed and meet with a leader in order to determine whether or not the foreign wife had become a Jewish proselyte, or if they still held to their pagan beliefs. This would take time, so they decided to make appointments with the leaders on certain days. It took a total of 3 months for the nation to finish the task. I wonder if some wives turned and trusted the LORD in a situation like this? One would hope so.
Ezra goes on to list those who had married pagan wives…it was all in the record books.
1 Corinthians 6:1-20
And then there’s the issue of litigation. The Corinthians were going to court against each other. Not only was it a terrible witness, it didn’t make any spiritual sense! Why would they go to non-believers in order to settle matters between believers? As Christians, the Bible is our ultimate “law,” so why not settle these matters Biblically? And why didn’t they allow themselves to be wronged? Why do we so foolishly and frequently fight for our rights?
Paul then asks them, isn’t there one person among you who could arbitrate between you? Paul reasons with an interesting point of prophecy, that one day we Christians will judge the world – even angels. Some say this will be part of our responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom, others say it even extends into heaven itself. Of course, we know the Lord is the supreme ruler and leader, but we will be vessels through whom He rules and judges in the age to come (see Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6; 2 Timothy 2:12). If that’s the case, then why couldn’t these Christians in Corinth judge these matters by the Spirit of God who uses and applies the Word of God?
This was such a terrible practice that Paul challenged them to examine their lives. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Maybe the reason they were doing such things is that they weren’t truly saved! Paul goes on to give a list on this – fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers, would not inherit the Kingdom of God. This was the description of some of them in their BC days, but God had saved them, set them free, and changed them (no one is beyond reach).
As Christians, we’ve been given great liberty, so much so that Paul tells us that “All things are lawful for me…”
That doesn’t mean he can do anything he wants, it simply means that our freedom as Christians are vast. If I wanted to, I could eat 10 pork chops and then sit down and watch 10 episodes of Shark Tank on TV. I could sleep till 10AM and only give $10 a month to the church. God has given us great freedom and liberty, but we have to examine our lives, is this the way I should live? The key to the Christian life is what I do with the liberties God has given me? Whatever I do, I must do as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and whatever I do, I should ask myself this question, “Does it build me up, Spiritually? Is it a wing, or a weight?” Paul mentions food, and I must admit, I struggle with that.
Sexual intimacy is an act of unity where the two become one. Paul says, we are not to become one with a harlot, we are only to become one with our spouse, which is why it is so important to wait until we’re married. As Christians, our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, God Himself lives in us. How awful it is when we choose to use our bodies for sin. God help us to glorify Him, flee sin as fast as we can.
I must not let my body dictate my decisions, no matter how strong the appetite, especially my sexual appetite. Paul goes on to stress sexual purity. Many Bible teachers believe that there were one thousand “sacred prostitutes” at the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth. Imagine the temptation all around them!
David was in big trouble, his eyes were filled with grief, his strength was failing, his bones were wasting away.
To make matters worse, David had been forgotten, not just by his enemies, but also by his neighbors and acquaintances. Those who did remember him, only slandered him and took counsel together against him.
The enemy preyed.
But once again, David prayed:
Psalm 31:14–15 (NKJV) “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ 15 My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.”
The NLT says, “My future is in Your hands…”
If we KNOW He is our God (go ahead and say it to Him, “You are My God”) then it makes perfect sense that we would trust God with our future. Even if the moment or season we’re in is troubling – let’s keep the faith, let’s keep praying, knowing that one day God will make sense of it all.
God help us to learn from David. We can do this at any time, even in the most trying times. It’s good to pour out our hearts to Him, to share with Him ALL our burdens and griefs, to ask Him for help, the whole time knowing this truth, “Our times are in Your hands…” they really are.
Proverbs 21:3 (NKJV) “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
Jon Courson wrote, “How we live is more important that what we give.”
Is my relationship with God mere religion, or is it real?
Don’t get me wrong, the measure of the ministry is sacrifice, and we are called to be living sacrifices. I do believe we are called to give to God, and even give our lives to God but sacrifice or religion without righteousness and justice is hypocrisy. God says, if I had to choose between the two, I would choose righteousness and justice.
We’re reminded of this frequently in Scripture.
1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV) “Then Samuel said: ‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”
Hosea 6:6 (NKJV) “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
Micah 6:7-8 (NKJV) “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Matthew 23:23 (NKJV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.