Ezra 9 has a transition from good news to bad news. After his arrival and the proper accounting of all the gifts brought from Babylon, Ezra was presented with bad news. The spiritual condition of this remnant community was bad and this was evident in their failure to separate from the impure people that live here. “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”.
This is a big problem. First it violated God’s law. But the real challenge was that as these communities intermarried, there would be no areas left untouched – business, government, social life would all be impacted by the pagan influence. It’s bad enough that this is happening, but then this part of the report hits Ezra. “And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost”. We’re violating the law of God but the worst offenders are the leaders. They were leaders but leading the people in the wrong direction.
Ezra is overwhelmed by the news. It is serious stuff. “As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled”. He is shocked by the disobedience. This is a big deal. So big that he tears his clothes and plucks hair from his own body. Ouch! That is a strong reaction. But he models the strong response and makes it evident to all in his patch that this is not only unacceptable, it requires a complete turnaround through repentance and confession of sin.
And that is exactly what he does. He goes to God in prayer. He confesses. “We have forsaken your commandments”. He lays out the sin of the people clearly at God’s feet and offers no defense for their actions. They have sinned, plain and simple. Guilty as charged. “We are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this”. No sense making excuses, there are none to explain this disobedience. Sin is a choice – always has been – always will be. These people made a choice to disobey God’s law. They now will have to face the consequences as they call on the mercy of God. Sin always carries a price. The only hope is that God’s mercy will be unleashed