READ: Ezra 9:10-15 (or see the EXTENDED
PASSAGE: Ezra 7, 9:1-10:19)
"And now, our God, after all this what can we say for ourselves? For we have thrown your commands to the wind,
the commands you gave us through your servants the prophets. They told us, 'The land you're taking over is
a polluted land, polluted with the obscene vulgarities of the people who live
there; they've filled it with their moral rot from one end to the other. Whatever you do, don't give your daughters in
marriage to their sons nor marry your sons to their daughters. Don't cultivate their good opinion; don't
make over them and get them to like you so you can make a lot of money and
build up a tidy estate to hand down to your children.'
"And now this, on top of all we've already suffered because of our evil
ways and accumulated guilt, even though you, dear God, punished us far less
that we deserved and even went ahead and gave us this present escape. Yet here we are, at it again, breaking your
commandments by intermarrying with the people who practice all these
obscenities! Are you angry to the point
of wiping us out completely, without even a few stragglers, with no way out at
all? You are the righteous God of
Israel. We are, right now, a small band
of escapees. Look at us, openly standing
here, guilty before you. No one can last
long like this."
THINK: Think about how you relate to this
prayer. Have you ever felt similar
remorse to what Ezra expresses here?
Maybe you feel frustration with the injustices of your community or
nation, or maybe you experience guilt on a deep level--not for anything in
particular, but just a general sense of not getting it right, ever. What have you done with that feeling? Stuffed it?
Allowed it to constantly criticize what you do and say? Have you ever thought of sharing it with God?
PRAY: Ezra's raw confession of messing up before
God indicates that he feels very secure in God's merciful love; otherwise,
being this defenseless before anyone is hard.
Read Ezra's prayer again, looking for
a word, a phrase, or even something about his tone that resonates with
you. Take several minutes to mull this
over, and listen for what it gives voice to in your heart. Allow yourself to make Ezra's prayer your
own, repeating it and following him in prayer to God. Or perhaps you don't identify with what he
says, yet beyond your words is a pain you want to share with God. Sit with him in this.
LIVE: When you mess up today, remember Ezra, and
remember God's merciful love.
of the many things I've dealt with over the course of the time my husband has
been gone is my tendency to catastrophize things. I have a tendency to fall into a pattern of
all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking that can keep me from being creative
enough to think outside the box, and come up with alternate solutions to my
problems. This all-or-nothing thinking
tends to spill over into my daily walk with the Lord as well and, many times,
I've allowed myself to be driven to a point where I think I can't do anything
right, or that nothing is ever going to go my way. When I get like this, especially right after
I've sinned, I begin to feel like there's nothing I can do right and that I'm
always going to mess up. That, my
friends, is condemnation.
does not come from God. Conviction, on
the other hand, that feeling - like your conscience - that tells you "You
really need to do….." or "Maybe you should call…." Conviction is that feeling nudging you into
obedience because you can't not do what he's asking you to do.
don't know about you, but one thing I've noticed about condemnation: it tends to rear its ugly head right around
the time that I am struggling the most.
So, right about the time we need God the most, and the grace he wants to
give us for the steps we are on at the moment, up pops this little imp of a
voice to tell us: "Surely, this
time, you've gone too far. Surely, NOW,
he's going to write you off. " Let
me share something with you. The plain
and simple fact that you feel like you must go to God to ask forgiveness is
your proof that Satan is lying. If God
was going to write you off this time, why would he bother to let you know that
you need to make amends. If he was truly
done with you, why wouldn't he just leave you to your own devices?
Heavenly Father, you know us inside and out, coming and going. You know our rising up and lying down and
every hair on our heads. We know that we
can never be good enough to merit anything you deign to give us and, far too
often, we have snub what kindnesses you have given us because they don't look
the way we'd like them to or expected or hoped they would. Forgive us, Lord, for those times when we've
bought the lie that we can do anything good for you on our own strength.