Ezr 10:2-3 “And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.”
God had done a wondrous thing in Ezra’s day. He had caused the king of Persia to desire to see the House of God restored. The king had declared that all who had been carried away captive and desired to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild were free to do so. Not only that, but he had made provision for them to have what they needed on the journey and once they arrived at Jerusalem. However, once Ezra arrived at Jerusalem, he was met with another great disappointment.
The princes of Israel came to Ezra and confessed they had transgressed greatly against the word of God during the time of captivity. “ . . . The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass (Ezr 9:1-2).” The people of God had married themselves to the daughters of the lands around them and had children by them. The people who should have been leading according to the teaching of God were among the worst of the transgressors. Ezra’s heart was broken, and he was in utter despair. The unions they had formed had lead them away from the love and worship of God. Shechaniah presented what, on the surface, appears to be a harsh solution to the problem.
There is no doubt that the men of Israel, the priests, and the Levites had fallen in love with these women. I am sure they loved the children they had conceived with them. Yet, in order to seek the will and favor of God, they were willing to separate themselves from these wives and the children. This could not have been an easy decision to come to. Now, what does that have to do with us today?
Have we been guilty of taking “strange wives” from the lands around us? I am not speaking here of physical marriage, but rather the adoption of ideas that lead us away from (rather than closer to) serving our God. Many of these ideas may be attractive in appearance. We may have become deeply enamored by these ideas. We may have loved these ideas so much that “children” have come from our marriage to these ideas and enmeshed us even more deeply in things that pull us away from our service to Him. Even worse, those that are looked upon as religious leaders may be among the worst of the transgressors. There is a solution to the situation, but it will not be without sacrifice.
Whenever we are blessed to recognize that we have married ourselves to anything that is pulling us away from God, we need to divorce ourselves from it. If there are other ideas or activities that have sprung from our original union, then they need to go to. We may have fallen deeply in love with the supposed prosperity or position that these things have brought us, but if it is causing us to trespass against God then it needs to be removed from our lives. Only then can we truly see the work of building the Lord’s House move forward. However, we cannot do this on our own strength. This requires making a covenant (through prayer and faith) with our God. It requires confessing to Him our trespass, expressing to Him our sorrow in it, and asking Him for grace and guidance to remove these things from our lives. It should also be recognized that this will be a process, and not necessarily accomplished overnight. The scripture indicates that Ezra and the leaders in Israel spent at least two months in accomplishing this.
God grant us the grace to recognize the trespass in our lives that pulls us away from serving Him. Once recognized, may He give us the wisdom to know we cannot extricate ourselves from the situation without His help. May we be granted the perseverance to see it through, and the strength to endure until we have “put away” that which distracts us from our devotion to God, our Savior!