Open Your Bible
Ezra 9:1-15, Psalm 130:1-4, 1 John 1:5-10
Of all the spiritual disciplines available to us as believers, I’ll confess that confession is my least favorite.
Call it the chronic perfectionist in me, but I cannot stand having to face feelings or emotions commonly associated with confession. While I know the promise of freedom that’s on the other side, it’s still hard to honestly face the sin of my pride.
If it’s that difficult for me to do with my own sin, I can’t imagine having to go to the Lord and confess the sins of an entire nation. That’s exactly what Ezra has to do in our reading today—carry this huge weight before God in openness and honesty so he can receive God’s wisdom. And it’s not even Ezra’s sin! Ezra didn’t disobey God’s commands not to marry into neighboring tribes and fall into pagan worship. Ezra’s the guy who wanted to restore true worship and the law of God in the newly rebuilt temple! Yet he’s the one we see devastated before God and distressed that this degree of separation has occurred between God and the people—so much so that he takes it to God as if it were his wrongdoing.
I can’t help but see a little foreshadowing of Jesus here. Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for all sin, committed no wrongdoing and yet was so heartbroken over the sin of humanity that He carried that weight to the cross Himself. We vividly see how painful this brokenness is for Jesus—John’s Gospel tells us that in His final breaths, Jesus cries out to God, asking why He’s been abandoned. That’s how deeply the pain of separation from His Father cut. Ezra had a taste of that sorrow as he watches the Israelites stepping away from God’s law.
In reading this chapter, I’m reminded of how seriously God takes sin. Ezra did not mince words when he honestly stood before God in confession.
We also must carefully navigate the tensions between understanding the damaging effects of separation from God and the enemy’s lies that want to keep my attention trapped inside the shame of sin. The unwavering hope of salvation in Christ promises I am free to follow Jesus, unencumbered by sin’s weight of death and shame.
I love that 1 John 1:9 is paired with today’s reading in Ezra because it helps me focus on the reason Ezra models confession for the people: to grant them the freedom of repentance, of turning back to God—because the promise of forgiveness is always waiting for them.