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The Importance of Purity: How to Stay Clean in an Unclean World

Ezra  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:04:29
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Introduction
If there is one think the world now understand, it is how to prevent the spread of disease.
Coronavirus and it’s disease, Covid-19, have drasticallyh impacted our day to day lives and things may never be the same
From masks to gloves, to plexiglass seperated tellers and salespeople, we have become used to the idea of keeping clean. People are now willing to stand in line and obey the tape on the ground or cross the street to avoid coming in contact with upcoming people.
We have been told that we must assume everyone is a carrier.
Yet often times we don’t give sin the same wide birth. Instead we get as close as possible. Perhaps the question we should ask as we approach things that border on sin in not “how far can I go and not sin?” but rather “why should I do this thing that will take me close to sin or tempt me to go further?”
Someone once suggested to me, rather than asking “what is wrong with it?” , the better question is “what is right with it?”
Today’s text shows us a radical departure from how we approach sin typically.
The people mourn, they weep, and they repent. They change in a way that shows the importance of purity. And in their response we see how to stay clean in an unclean world.
No, it doesn’t usually involve facemasks, gloves or hand sanatizer.
But it does involve real, practical steps that bring physical barriers to keep things clean.
In our mind, the response may seem a little extreme but that shows just how far we have to go to see our sin how God sees it.
I’ve titled this sermon “The Importance of Purity: How to Stay Clean in an Unclean World”
Let’s begin by diving into the text in verse one.
Ezra 10:1 ESV
1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.
Remember the sin
9:1-2 (paraphrase)
The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that God’s separated people has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.”
Their sin is that they have mixed with pagan people specifically when they are commanded to be not mixed
Ezra personally and publically mourned
The people gathered
The people mourned bitterly
So let’s see the reaction in verse 2...
Ezra 10:2 ESV
2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.
They have “broken faith”
By their sin
Yet their is hope
Why?
9:13
God has already punished them less than they deserve
He has proven Himself merciful
God has promised to deliver the world through this people.
NEXT...
Ezra 10:3 ESV
3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.
“Therefore”
They make a covenant with God
A promise
To do what?
To divorce their wives
wait… what?
I think it is Important to break away here and explain something about divorce
Let me make it clear, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:6)
So why is divorce allowed?
Matthew 19:8 ESV
8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
So what is going on here? Is it because these women were not ethnic Jews?
No
Marriage to Proselytes was allowed
No, these are pagan people who have no interest in following the one true God.
....ok....
So does that mean that divorce is allowed when a Christian is an unbeliever?
First of all, this is a very different situation than that
But we should answer that question
What does the Bible say?
Starting principle: Don’t be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
…but what about when it happens?
And it does happen
So does the Bible give us instruction? … yes
1 Corinthians 7:12–13 ESV
12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.
1 Corinthians 7:15 ESV
15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
There is a lot of nuance in this and I would certainly urge anyone who would consider this action to talk it through with your pastor, but the general principle here is, if the unbeliever wants to stay married or is willing to, they you must not divorce but in the event that they are not willing, you have freedom.
So back to the verse...
Ezra 10:3 ESV
3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.
So the plan is set, inorder to purify the people, these unbelievers must be put out of the community. It seems to me, based on studying this passage, that these would have been people who are not only unwilling to convert to following God but that they were ultimately destructive to the community as a whole, breaking the purity that God has required.
Next Verse...
Ezra 10:4 ESV
4 Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.”
Ezra 10:5 ESV
5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.
Ezra 10:6 ESV
6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles.
Ezra mourned over what needed to be done and over the sin that had taken place, this time in private.

I. Sin is absolutely wicked and must not be allowed to take root but must be utterly removed

Exposition 2
Ezra 10:7 ESV
7 And a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem,
Ezra 10:8 ESV
8 and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles.
Ezra 10:9 ESV
9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain.
Ezra 10:10 ESV
10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel.
Ezra 10:11 ESV
11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.”
Ezra 10:12 ESV
12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said.
Ezra 10:13 ESV
13 But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter.
Ezra 10:14 ESV
14 Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us.”
Ezra 10:15 ESV
15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.
Ezra 10:16 ESV
16 Then the returned exiles did so. Ezra the priest selected men, heads of fathers’ houses, according to their fathers’ houses, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter;
Ezra 10:17 ESV
17 and by the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.

II. Genuine followers of God repent when confronted with their sin

repentance...
Third point

The Guilty: Verses 18-44

We are not going to work through all these names
Like in other places, they are not so much recorded for us to know who these people are but rather to see some patterns in them.
I want you to take note that this extermination of sin was systematic and thourough
I want you to notice that the sin was widespread and imbedded in their society
I want you to notice verse 44
Ezra 10:44 ESV
44 All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.
Only some had born children which shows that this was perhaps a recent practice.
God sent Ezra for many reasons but this was one of them.
It is only God God’s grace that this sin was not allowed to fester and God’s people were able to remain pure.
The last point in this chapter and the book is this.

III. Following God is the preeminent priority in life

It seems right now that the preeminent priority in the world is Coronavirus prevention, and on a global scale, that is probaly accurate.
But is people could see the darkenss of sin around them. If we recognized that sin leads to death and it is far more deadly than any virus, we would devote far more resources to combatting it.
We would recognize the truth in Jesus’ words
Luke 14:26 ESV
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
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