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Text: Ezra 9

Proposition: The foolishness of a nation ought to move the people to pray in such a way that they identify themselves with those in need of forgiveness. 

Introduction:  What do you think constitutes foolishness?  Is it a lack of understanding, like the person who called their county office to request that the deer crossing sign near their home be taken down as there were too many deer being hit and killed there? There are television shows and You Tube clips on the internet full of people doing things that are clearly foolish, like jumping from the roof of their house onto a trampoline, usually with disastrous results. Is it what you do that makes a person foolish? Perhaps foolishness has been seen by some as something enviable, of being able to escape others expectations. Steve Jobs, one of the creators of Macintosh computers, addressed the graduates of Stanford and encouraged them to think outside the box. He quoted a line from a 1970’s Whole Earth Catalogue, ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’.  In fact in some jargons, ‘foolish’ is a synonym for ‘good, cool or gnarly’. The Scripture takes a different approach to defining what it means to be a fool when it declares, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’.”(Psalm 15) When people come to the belief that that there is no God, when they say in their heart that God doesn’t exist, they have become a fool. Romans 1:21, 22 says, “ For although they knew God they did not glorify Him as  God ,nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man…”. The consequences of such foolishness are not always immediate. God often allows foolishness to run its course and prove itself empty and flawed, a product of the self deception that arises from sin, but He also punishes foolishness when it happens by the hands of His people. This morning we are going to look at an account of a man named Ezra who knew the truth of these things and more importantly, we’ll see his reaction to it. Turn with me to the first verses of Ezra 9.  

I. The Difficulty That Comes When Logic Overrules Truth.  

Ezra had only arrived in Jerusalem when he hears that the leadership and the people have been encouraging intermarriage between Israelites and the nations around them. Logically it seemed to be a good thing to do. There was a shortage of women that had returned from the captivity and it strengthened relationships with potentially hostile neighbors. It is now 25 years or so since the first wave of Israelites returned from captivity, so it is the sons and daughters of these returnees that are marrying. Logically it seemed to be the right thing to do if they were to grow as a nation. But when you consider Ezra’s reaction to it, clearly there are some very serious errors here. He tears out his hair, rips his clothes and it says in verses 3and 4 that he sat down in absolute astonishment, or better you could say he was absolutely appalled at what they had done. He just sat there for hours with this great sense of urgency and apprehension and dread. So what was the issue, what had distressed Ezra to the point that he came and prayed before God and a great host of people saying, “I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.”  To put it in more common terms Ezra is saying that they are not just standing ankle deep or even waist deep in this spiritual sewage, it had risen over their heads to the point that it can be seen blatantly from heaven. They are provoking God to react to their sin. Ezra makes the direct connection that it was this kind of foolishness that caused the judgment of the captivity in the first place. Now they had just experienced a brief window of God’s grace to be able to return to the land and rebuild the Temple and begin again as a nation in Jerusalem and they are about to bring it all to ruin because of their flagrant rejection of truth for the sake of what seemed to them to be just a logical decision. Perhaps if we were to illustrate it like this…it would be like you were on a sea voyage and you had just left port about a day ago. Someone comes and says if we just throw the drinking water overboard it will lighten the load and we’ll sail much faster. Such logic flies the face of the truth that you need water to live. Israel had acted just as foolishly. To throw the word of God overboard, the word that said they were not to intermarry, to throw this overboard so that they could sail more easily as a nation was absolutely foolish. Beware of the difficulty that will overcome a nation when they allow logic to overrule truth. The tipping point for a nation occurs when this is seen by the people as an irreversible trend influenced by a leadership that has lost its way. This godless belief, an act of fools who have said in their hearts that there is no God, will compound to the point of causing a nation to come into captivity.      

II. The Difficulty of Addressing Sin Can be Astonishing                                     

If a brick has too much sand mixed into it the strength is weakened and though it will look good it crumbles when the weight reaches a certain point. The brick is the basic building block of an eastern house. The basic building block of the nation of Israel was the family unit and the essential elements of the family begin with marriage between a Jewish man and a Jewish woman and their living faith in God. To add any other faith, any other values would be add too much sand to this building block of the nation. There were three things that astonished Ezra:1. The future implications of God’s judgment.  2. The difficulty of reversing this.3. The complicity of the nation’s leadership. The peoples of Israel had redefined the marriage relationship to include others, they had left the charter of Deuteronomy 7:3,4  and 23:6. Ezra summarizes this in verse 12. The people had directly rejected what God had directed them to do, perhaps they viewed these verses for the people of earlier years but now times were different. They had lost a willingness to trust in the ability of God to care for them and had taken things into their own hands. The Caananites and Amorites worshipped a variety of images and idols and marriage to these groups had put their children at considerable risk of being influenced to error. They were weakening themselves as a nation and even their national prosperity was at risk as a result. Certainly these are the implications of verse 12. The difficulty of addressing sin can be astonishing.   Let’s consider two things in light of this text:1. The reality of the wrath of God. The further that we drift from the reality of the wrath of God against sin the greater is our personal and national peril. We need to understand that things exist not because we choose to believe in them or not, they exist apart from our belief. The holiness of God exists whether you believe it or not, the sovereignty of God exists whether we believe in it or not, the love of God for all people and the wrath of God against sin exists whether you believe it or not. We need to ask ourselves, “How dangerous is the wrath of God? “  Where do you stand when it comes to trembling at the wrath of Almighty God?  To address sin we need to come to the astonishing reality that God hates sin, it is a corrosion to all peoples, it corrodes faith, it corrodes love, it corrodes the glory of God in mans understanding. For this purpose the Son of God came that we would not face the wrath of God against our sin but rather Christ faced that and experienced it in our place. If we are in Christ the wrath of God has been taken care of, if not then it is still an imminent experience that many will face at God’s timing.2. The response to the sin of others. Ezra hears of the people’s sin in intermarriage and all that it represents and he recognizes that these people are part of him. They are all Israel, their collective well being is what he cries out to God for. The ability to identify with the sinner, to act as an intercessor, a go between that pleads for forgiveness and reconciliation, this is what Ezra teaches us today. He teaches us that the sins of others should be our sorrow, and that we should feel sorrow over sin because of the offense and anguish it brings to God. Ezra in this sense points us to Christ for that is exactly how Jesus felt about you and I before we became Christians. It is exactly how He feels about you right now, especially if you have yet to receive the forgiveness of your sin through trusting in Jesus as your Savior. It is as the song suggests, a Savior who feels for others, the sorrow of sin.

“Man of sorrows”, what a name for the Son of God who came to Ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah what a Savior!  

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