“THE TRAGEDY OF SIN”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 8/27/95 a.m. Ezra 9:1-15
PROPOSITION: The sight of sin awakens in the heart of a righteous man a burden for intercession, a sense of shame, memories of sorrow, thoughts of God’s rule.
- FOR the past several weeks we have been engrossed in the story of the book of Ezra.
- IT is the story of the Jewish people straggling back from exile in Babylon...between 538 and 458 B.C.
- THEY make the four month trek back from a dismal period of captivity in a strange and foreign land so that they can rebuild the City of God and restore the Temple of the Most High.
* They want to be the people of the Lord again.
* For well over 70 years they had celebrated Passover in Babylon by saying, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
* They wanted to see the shekinah glory of the Lord over the Holy of Holies again.
* The sacrifices for sin offered in the altar again.
* The sweet aroma from the altar of incense in the Holy Place again.
- YOU see, it was their sin that had landed them in exile in Babylon in the first place.
- GOD had given the Jews the land of His Promise. And it was a beautiful and fruitful.
- BUT they had taken God’s blessings for granted and had come to believe that there was something deserving and invincible about themselves.
- SO way back, around 900 B.C., they backslid and started mixing in with the people and the gods of the pagan nations surrounding Israel.
- THEY started living like the pagan people lived, doing what they did, worshipping the gods that they worshipped.
- FOR 400 years God was patient with them.
- HE sent them prophets to warn them, and plagues and enemies to bring them back to him.
- BUT for 400 years they basically ignored the Spirit of God...under kings like Ahab who encouraged the worship of Baal, even the sacrifice of children in the fire to Molech.
- SO God sent Nebuchadnezzar, a Chaldean king from Babylon and his army to destroy Jerusalem, the temple of the Lord, and take the people captive to Babylon.
- THIS discipline under the hand of God broke the people.
- IT lasted 70 years...and then God initiated plans to bring His people back and restore His House.
- SO, under Ezra’s leadership 9,000 people return with everything they need to rebuild the City of God.
* Gold, silver and articles of worship for the Temple.
* Levites for the work of the Temple.
- THIS is a people with a heart for revival.
- THEY get back to Jerusalem after a grueling four month trek in the desert.
- THEY offer sacrifices for sin and thank offerings of praise to God.
- THEY settle into their towns and the work of restoration begins.
- THE families who had returned with Zerubbabel some years before started to get excited about the things of God again.
- EZRA must have been on cloud nine.
- THE mission was on task.
- AND then something happened that brought everything to a sudden stop.
ii. the offense
- EZRA 9:1-2,
“After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, ‘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.’”
- SIN brought everything to a sickening sudden stop.
* It happened right after the incredible crossing of the Jordan River, back in the book of Joshua, and the incredible victory at Jericho....And then Ai and the losses in battle and Achan sin that affected the whole nation.
* That is what happened to king Saul after 40 years of incredible reign....But his love for popularity and haughty disregard for the Word of God brought him down.
* It happened to Eli’s ministry.....when he winked at sin in the House of the Lord.
* And to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5....when cheating God cost them their lives.
- THERE are some interesting points in these first two verses about sin.
1. This sin was spotted and reported, not by the priests and the Levites, but by the leaders of Israel.
2. The spiritual leaders, priests and Levites, had not kept themselves separate from sin.....taking pagan wives...mixing the holy with the profane.
3. In fact, the leaders of the people had actually led the way into this sin.
- THIS was the sin that brought the nation of Israel down in the first place....mixing with the pagan nations of the region so that after a while you couldn’t tell the difference between the holy and the profane.
- AND here they were, just back from an exile brought on by sin, on the verge of bringing revival back to the land....and back into the same sin.
- SIN threatened to abort what God was getting ready to do in the land.
iii. THE response
- LET’S look at the response of the man of God.
“When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. (4) Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. (5) Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God (6) and prayed:....”
- HE tore his clothes as an expression of grief at the situation.
- HE pulled out his hair and his beard to signify the wounded honor of the land before God.
- HE sat down in awful shame...complete despair.
- HE was joined by those who feared the Lord.
- AND several hours later he fell on his knees in prayer.
- THERE are some things in Ezra’s response and his prayer that I would like you to see.
- THE sight of sin....
1. Awakened in him an earnest desire to prayer.
• There is humility in his prayer....falling to his knees.
• There is intensity in his prayer....spreading out his hands.
• There is focus in his prayer....only God could help this situation.
• There is relationship in prayer...”O my God!”
2. Awakened in him a sense of sin’s shame.
• In verse 6 Ezra prays,
“O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.”
• He is morally sensitive to sin. Righteousness does that.
• He understands the true nature of sin....”our sin”.......”our guilt.”
• He understands the magnitude of sin....”higher than our heads.”
3. Awakened in him memories of sin’s sorrow.
• In verse 7 Ezra prays,
“From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.”
• He is keenly aware of the damage done by sin down through history.
• He has seen the degradation.
• He has seen the cruelty.
• He has seen the bondage.
• He has seen the loss.
4. Awakened in him thoughts of God.
• God’s mercy.
“But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.” (vs. 8)
• God’s faithfulness.
“Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.” (vs. 9)
• God’s patience.
“What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this.” (vs. 13)
• God’s righteousness.
“O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant......” (vs.15a)
• God’s justice.
“Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” (vs. 15b)
- JOHN Bunyan, author of the famous book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” wrote another book called “The Holy War.”
- IN this spiritual allegory of the battle between good and evil, the name of the town is Mansoul.
- DIABOLUS is the evil giant who seeks to destroy the people of Mansoul.
- THE Prince is sent by Father to save the town from destruction.
- AND after accomplishing this feat, and right before his departure he says,
“Remember, O my Mansoul, that you are my beloved. As I have taught you to watch, to fight, to pray, and to make war against my enemies, so now I command you to believe that my love is constant. O my Mansoul I have set my heart and my love upon you. Watch and hold fast to my words until Paradise becomes your eternal home.”
- I OBVIOUSLY can’t tell you the whole story of the book, but there is another quote from the very end of the book that I must give you.
- PRINCE says to Mansoul,
“Nothing can hurt thee but sin; nothing can grieve Me but sin; nothing can make thee base before Thine enemies but sin; take heed therefore my Mansoul for sin.”