What Ezra Prayed For – Separation for Hope


In seeking What Should I pray For?, we have seen that God responds to A Broken Spirit and A Contrite Heart. Once more in our text today, we see beginnings of that in Ezra 10. In this passage, we see that after we confess our sins to God that we must have an action plan to avoid/eliminate those sins. In Ezra 9, The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

In  Ezra 10:12, the people recognized their guilt and accepted the call to respond to separate from their forbidden wives. It was proposed that they may have said something like this “We have sinned in mingling with the heathen, and have thereby been in danger, not only of being corrupted by them, for we are frail, but of being lost among them, for we are few; we are therefore convinced that there is an absolute necessity of our separating from them again.” About the matter, Matthew Henry stated that “There is hope concerning people when they are convinced, not only that it is good to part with their sins, but that it is indispensably necessary: we must do it, or we are undone.” Because of the captivity and God’s proclamation about why they were in captivity, the people knew they were undone if they did not repent – turning back to Jehovah.

When we sin, we must take action to separate ourselves from that sin for it is our only hope. Hear what Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God.” The call to repentance was so important to Ezra that “A proclamation was then issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. 8 Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property, in accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, and would himself be expelled from the assembly of the exiles.” Unfortunately, nothing gets our attention like loosing money or possessions. The people appeared and heard what Ezra had to say which was “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”

They realized that not all men had taken forbidden wives as well as that the matter was too great to address in that one sitting while it was raining. The leadership recognized they needed the right time, right conditions and more importantly, the right people – the men who had been unfaithful by marrying foreign women which added to Israel’s guilt. It was not just the men who married foreign women that created Israel’s guilt before God. Remember that the  leaders served/worshiped other gods, that’s when God was provoked to anger. In many of those instances, God allowed a people to attach and subdue Israel. For those who had, the action of repentance seemed strange and wrong – to separate themselves from the women and the children they had with them. On the surface, it seems odd that God would condone such behavior; however, considering that God had forbidden them to marry them in the first place because Israel was His chosen people and that God had not intended for the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites to share in the blessings of Israel, it was not strange. As they say, favor isn’t fair.

When we sin, we need to take whatever action to separate ourselves from that thing or person from which our sin revolves. Now, I am not advocating that men today walk away from responsibility, but I am advocating that we stay away from that which God has already forbade – What Ezra Prayed For – Separation for Hope. Seek the LORD God to find out what you might need to separate yourself from in order to experience the hope that He offers you.

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