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A Moment of Favor

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Would you pray with me before we begin?
LORD we thank you, for the opportunity to gather in this place to hear from You. We ask that Your Holy Spirit would enlighten our minds that we may truly hear Your Word. We ask that the Cross of Your Son would be the foundation of this morning and we ask that You would do, that which only you can do, minister to our unbelief. “Lord, hear. Lord, forgive. Lord, listen and act, for your own sake, do not delay, because your people bear your name.” May your name be made great we pray. Amen.
I must say before we begin that today will be a little heavy of a topic. I promise it will not all be heavy but I can promise the first part will.
Good Morning, First let me begin by thanking everyone for being here this morning to worship the LORD. My name is Cody Bockelkamp and I am the Ministries Pastor here at Vintage Church. A quick introduction of me: I was born and raised in Harrisburg PA where I spent my time until going to college and graduating and immediately starting a Police Academy in Northern Virginia, just outside DC. I was a Police Officer there for 3.5 years until the LORD called my wife Jessica and I out of there to move to Pittsburgh to start a church. So I am here with my wife and team and we are serving here at Vintage Church until such time, LORD willing, that we can launch out from here and start a new work in Monroeville. But enough about me let’s get stared this morning as I have only so much time and we have a lot to cover.
Good Morning, First let me begin by thanking everyone for being here this morning to worship the LORD. My name is Cody Bockelkamp and I am the Ministries Pastor here at Vintage Church. A quick introduction of me: I was born and raised in Harrisburg PA where I spent my time until going to college and graduating and immediately starting a Police Academy in Northern Virginia, just outside DC. I was a Police Officer there for 3.5 years until the LORD called my wife Jessica and I out of there to move to Pittsburgh to start a church. So I am here with my wife and team and we are serving here at Vintage Church until such time, LORD willing, that we can launch out from here and start a new work in Monroeville. But enough about me let’s get stared this morning as I have only so much time and we have a lot to cover.
IF you would open your Bibles to as you are turning there I want you to consider a couple of questions:

Do you believe that Jesus is a perfect savior? Do you believe that Jesus offers true freedom?

Main point: While the sin in our lives only leads us deeper into slavery and death, Jesus offers us true freedom and true life

Here is how we are going to see this main point flesh out in our text today. We are going to see it in 2 areas:
The Bondage of Sin
The Extension of Favor
So with that being said let’s read and consider our text this morning.
Ezra 9:1–9 ESV
After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 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. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
Our First Point:

The Bondage of Sin - Ezra 9:1-2

I need to address the elephant in the room here that some, if not most of you thought about when this was read. Without any historical context or without a proper reading of the Scriptures one could (as many in the past have in fact) used this in an attempt to justice Racism. Because what happens when you don’t read Scripture properly, you take this passage and say “well that sounds like it means mixing of races in marriage is wrong and sinful.” I can say firmly that anyone who would come to such a conclusion is holding to an idea that is wicked at its core and is ignorant of the true testimony of Scripture.
So. If that’s not what it is saying, then what is going on here? Let’s walk very quickly through a history of Israel to show what is actually happening in this passage
Back in the beginning of Exodus, Israel is enslaved to the Egyptians and has been for 400 years. The LORD calls a man named Moses to be His servant and lead the people out of bondage
After being lead out of Egypt the LORD promises to give His people land that He had promised them, a land where they can establish themselves and flourish
After being lead out, the LORD gives His people the law which as the guidelines for living in a way that is glorifying to God and for their own good
And it is in that law that we see
Deuteronomy 7:3–6 CSB
You must not intermarry with them, and you must not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, because they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will swiftly destroy you. Instead, this is what you are to do to them: tear down their altars, smash their sacred pillars, cut down their Asherah poles, and burn their carved images. For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be his own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.
Deuteronomy 7:3–6 ESV
You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
So here we see the reason the LORD gives behind the intermarriage law. It has everything to do with idolatry and nothing to do about race
When the LORD promises this land, within the law He gave, the LORD gives the people a list of blessings that will come to them if they follow the LORD and walk in His ways, as well as curses that will come if they stray from Him. We see these in
Deuteronomy 28:62–65 ESV
Whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God. And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. “And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul.
The LORD also gives Moses the command to give to the people to stay away from the idols of the nations in
Deuteronomy 29:16–18 ESV
“You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit,
And yet with such clear commands what do the people of God do?
1 Kings 11:1–8 ESV
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
Verse 8 of says this:
1 Kings 11:8 CSB
He did the same for all his foreign wives, who were burning incense and offering sacrifices to their gods.
1 Kings 11:8 CSB
He did the same for all his foreign wives, who were burning incense and offering sacrifices to their gods.
1 Kings 11:7–8 ESV
Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
When you see Milcom here, it is another name of the God Molech
To described to you what is going on here, and what a “high place” is and to describe to you the last phrase of what other sacrifices were happening I will show you this verse.
Leviticus 18:21 CSB
“You are not to sacrifice any of your children in the fire to Molech. Do not profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.
Leviticus 18:21 CSB
“You are not to sacrifice any of your children in the fire to Molech. Do not profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.
Let me explain briefly what happens here. Without being graphic, what the worship of Molech entailed was this: They would build a large metal (iron) statue, of a man with a head of a bull and arms extended. The stomach of the statue would be open and hollow. Inside the stomach they would start a fire until the statue was hot at which point the child would be placed on the hands while music and drums loudly played to drown out the cries.
This is what the LORD is talking about. This is why He told His people to stay away from the people of the surrounding lands because He knew it would lead to them worshipping other gods, and those other forms of worship were not what He prescribed and were wholly wicked at their core.
And yet it was not just Solomon but we see in 2 Kings, other kings of Israel not just following suit, but doing worse
He (that is Manasseh, King of Judah)
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2 Kings 21:4–6 ESV
And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.
2 Kings 21:9 ESV
But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.
And it was not just Solomon but as you read through the book of 2 Kings you find King after King after King leading the people to worship Baal and Molech.
These are the things that led Israel into Exile in the first place! And after they return here in Ezra, the first thing Ezra hear’s is what.....that the people of Israel have begun the same process that landed them in Exile…AGAIN.
The thing is, the people had deeply rooted idols and they had chosen to stray from what the LORD had commanded and decided to worship other gods. Yet look how far it took them. And the reason behind that was unbelief. Israel failed to believe the promises of God, failed to believe that He was the one who would bless them, that He was the one who would provided for them and give them peace and rest and they began to trust in things that were not for their good. They began to bow down and sacrifice to these idols because they thought that Baal would give them fertile lands and success and Molech would grant favor and protection rather than realizing it is only the LORD would grants those things. They did not realize you do not get the blessings of God apart from God.
But how does one get from was Israel began, being lead out of Egypt by the LORD in a Pillar of Fire.....to sacrificing their own children? How does one get anywhere? A step at a time. It took the Israelites taking their first step in disobedience....but the problem with sin is that it is slavery. Which means it will tempt you to take that first step but it will never stop there. And then sin drags you to a point that you look at don’t recognize yourself any longer
But that’s sin isn’t it. Sin always promises you life and freedom but it is never freedom. The irony of sin promising freedom is this, anything at all the LORD has called sin, that we pursue is bondage! And the proof of that is how impossible it is to just stop on your own.
Ezra 9:1–2 ESV
After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 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. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.”
Ezra 9:1 CSB
After these things had been done, the leaders approached me and said: “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the surrounding peoples whose detestable practices are like those of the Canaanites, Hethites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites.
Seriously if the things the LORD has called sin were actually freedom then you would be able to stop doing them any time right? Because you would be “free” to stop....But no matter how hard you and I try, the sin in our life has ensnared and enslaved us. And we see in our passage that is exactly what was happening with Israel. Because they refused to believe that in the LORD we find all that we need, it lead them to being enslaved to these sins that even though it was exactly what landed them in Exile....they fall right back into.
Some of you are here today and this is you. You are trapped in sin but you think that if you just try hard enough that you can make it out. I am here to tell you first the bad news. There is no strength you can muster, no power you can get, no resources you can acquire which can set you free from the bondage of sin. While that is immensely bad news I will give you the good news and that is our 2nd point

The Extension of Favor -

Ezra 9:
Ezra 9:6–9 ESV
saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
I know the previous point was heavy and not so fun to hear first thing in the morning we first need to hear that so we can understand the magnitude of this 2nd point.
Despite all that we just read and talked about, Ezra says that “for a brief moment favor has been shown...” THIS is the Good News! Though you can do nothing to free yourself from your slavery the LORD is extending grace!
Notice the dramatic shift in language as well from Ezra from: “utter shame, great guilt, and slavery,” to “Favor, security, brightened eyes, steadfast love, protection”
Some of you here need to stop seeing the LORD as this giant cosmic meany and realize how sin has deceived you and told you that you can trust it and yourself and realize the language used here. If you are a slave to sin and your are told not to trust the LORD than you are ALONE.
But that’s not what God does, He has not abandoned us in our slavery and has in fact extended grace!
Ezra 9:13 ESV
And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this,
So where is the justice of God here? The justice of God is at the Cross!
Jesus says something in the Gospels that illustrates this point perfectly
Isaiah 25:7–9 ESV
And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Jesus says something in the Gospels that illustrates this point perfectly
John 8:34–36 ESV
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:34–46 ESV
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
I ask you today, do you want to be free? Do you want freedom from the sin that has bound you? The pride, the envy, the lies, the addictions, the hatred that has bound you and marred you so much you don’t know who you are anymore. Jesus is offering you freedom. But it is not on your terms. It is on HIS. You can’t free yourself. The more you try the more tangled you become.
You may say “Cody you don’t know what I’ve done, or what I’ve seen, or what was done to me! I’m too far gone.”
You may be a Christian in this room and you have trusted in Christ but have managed to tangle yourself back in sin. You may very well echo the words of Ezra where He says that their iniquities are higher than their heads, their guilt built up to the heavens themselves. Ezra here is describing the height and depth and breadth of the sin of the people. That may be you dear Christian and you believe you have become too messy to come to Christ…that your sin has become to high and lofty a mountain and it has come between you and Your Savior But listen to me, Praise the LORD His Word doesn’t stop with Ezra because no matter the height or depth or breadth of your sin we read this:
Listen. The LORD has extended grace and is calling you out of slavery and into freedom but that freedom only is found in following Jesus. You ask how can I be set free. It takes a step....follow Christ. It takes a step to admit you cannot do this at all and you need Christ, not just for a temporary moment of relief…you need Christ now and forever. I am calling you, boldly to take a step now. Some of you have been coming Sunday after Sunday and felt the LORD doing something in your life but you refuse to take a step. You never put action to it. I am calling you to action. Take the step. Stop believing sin, stop believing the lies that you can be good enough or follow enough religious rules, and trust in Jesus!
Romans 8:38–39 ESV
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Some of you may have thought this.... “Cody, if what you say is true, how could God EVER extend grace to a people committing such wickedness? Where is the justice of God?” Ezra alludes to this very question in a verse we did not read.
So let me ask this,
Ezra 9:13 ESV
And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this,
So where is the justice of God here? The justice of God is at the Cross!
Isaiah 25:7–9 ESV
And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
If you are not a Christian You may say “Cody you don’t know what I’ve done, or what I’ve seen, or what was done to me! I’m too far gone.”
Listen. The LORD has extended grace and is calling you out of slavery and into freedom but that freedom only is found in following Jesus. You ask: “how can I be set free?” It takes a step....follow Christ. It takes a step to admit you cannot do this at all and you need Christ, not just for a temporary moment of relief…you need Christ now and forever. I am calling you, boldly to take a step now. Some of you have been coming Sunday after Sunday and felt the LORD doing something in your life but you have up until this moment refuse to take a step. You never put action to it. I am calling you to action. Take the step. Stop believing sin, stop believing the lies that you can be good enough or follow enough religious rules. I am calling you to turn away from your sin and turn and walk with Jesus.
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