You might remember from our reading in the Old Testament that God told the Israelites NOT to marry with the foreign women from the pagan cultures in Canaan (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-6). This was one of the major contributing factors to the downfall of God's people all the way back to Judges 3:5-7! Even Solomon was guilty of this gross disobedience to God's law (2 Kings 11:1-8).
It was still occurring in Ezra's time among both the people and the priesthood and would happen even a generation later (Nehemiah 13:23-27). Ezra's first response was self-abasement and sorrow for sin (9:4). His second response was a heartfelt prayer of confession on behalf of his disobedient people (9:6-15). This led to repentance on the part of the people who followed up with their actions by sending away the foreign wives and children, restoring spiritual purity to the people of Israel.
I know some of you are saying, "The poor wives and children!" Here is what The Life Application Bible says about that:
Why were the men commanded to send away their wives and children? Although the measure was extreme, intermarriage to pagans was strictly forbidden (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4), and even the priests and Levites had intermarried. This could be compared today to a Christian marrying a devil worshiper. Although a severe solution, it only involved 113 of approximately 29,000 families.
Ezra's strong act, though very difficult for some, was necessary to preserve Israel as a nation committed to God. Some of the exiles of the northern kingdom of Israel had lost both their spiritual and physical identity through intermarriage. Their pagan spouses had caused the people to worship idols. Ezra did not want this to happen to the exiles of the southern kingdom of Judah. (p. 790-91)APPLICATION
True repentance is followed by action. Do you need to go beyond lip service in your repentance?
Also, you can add much to your Ezra character study today!
Lord, help us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. Amen.