God’s followers while on this Earth still have the potential of caving in to temptation to do evil things though they are saved. When temptation comes, how we handle it is a reflection on our level of maturity and our character.
Such was the case in the book of Ezra. When God blessed the Hebrews after their captivity to return to rebuild Jerusalem, many of them exercised their faith by leaving their lands of captivity and returning. However, as they were carrying out their mission to glorify God in the rebuilding, temptations came quickly. During the period when the city’s wall was being reconstructed, many men fell in lust over the pagan women of the land and married them.
Soon after Ezra’s arrival to Jerusalem, those who were upset by this sin of mixed marriages out of godly fear approached Ezra to make him aware of the situation. Ezra spent several hours in mourning over this sin and went into a prayer of intercessory repentance, asking God’s forgiveness (Ezra 9). In the next chapter, upon seeing how Ezra reacted to their sin, the people gathered around Ezra to show their sorrow over their sins to the point of weeping with him. Ezra’s prayers and weeping moved them to repent.
In the midst of weeping they came up with the solution to their sins and one of the men, Shechaniah, assured Ezra and the whole congregation, “…yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.” Their hope was putting their repentance into action by divorcing their pagan wives and children and moving them out of Judah and Jerusalem. They knew what to do right away without Ezra dictating it to them. History shows they prospered as a nation for a while after this.
We can learn a lot from what happened here, namely:
- When people of God fall to temptation, God will send a person or situation to confront them about it. This shows how much God cares about them and his desire to bless them.
- If a believer is more spiritually mature (although they may lack some maturity in giving in to temptation), they are quick to acknowledge their sin without making excuses and then quick to repent.
- They back up their repentance with godly action when necessary.
- Godly sorrow for sin brings about hope that God will forgive and bless. Throughout the Bible, those who truly believed God looked forward to what life on Earth would bring in the future even if they had deep sorrow over sin. Those who resisted God, like King Saul and Judas Iscariot, sometimes even sorrowed without hope to the point of suicide.