The People’s Repentance
Open Your Bible
Ezra 10:1-44, Joshua 24:14-28, 1 Peter 2:1-10
I know from past readings that the ending of Ezra is not pretty. It’s hard, and I was not looking forward to it. The beginning of the book presents a beautiful and resilient story of homecoming and rebuilding God’s house. And with the final chapters come a plot twist most unwelcomed.
But as I read through Ezra this time, I’ve found myself surprisingly moved with appreciation over the inclusion of the last parts. Without it, I don’t think the book is complete. Even if it raises more questions than it presents answers.
As the story of the people’s unfaithfulness continues into this last chapter, Ezra deeply mourns their sin (Ezra 10:1). Even after God’s gracious hand had brought them home, they still wandered outside the bounds of their covenant relationship with Him. This picture of infidelity feels familiar: the nation’s refusal to repent for their rebellion had led them into exile in the first place. However, something is different in today’s reading—the people’s response.
“We have been unfaithful to our God” (Ezra 10:2). Instead of hardening their hearts, the people joined Ezra in grieving over their sin. We have been unfaithful to our God. This response has convicted me, really stopped me in my tracks. It’s prompted me to think about where I’m failing to obey God’s Word. And oh, how unpretty it is—being confronted with my disobedience. How do we move forward after we’ve realized our sin and confessed our wrongdoing? We return.
There is still hope for Israel in spite of this.
We realign our ways with God’s Word, as the people did. The hope that lies before us is that we are His people. That means that we respond to His call to repentance with humility and deep sorrow. But we also rejoice that we are His people and recipients of His mercy (1Peter 2:10).
On this last day of reading through Ezra, I am thankful for every page—from beginning to end. For me, the whole of Ezra has come to be a picture of our ongoing redemption story.
We are His people, rescued and restored. Sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes our tendency to wander from God can lead to potentially devastating consequences. But He continually calls us to return to Him, to reorient our hearts to follow His ways. When we do, He faithfully responds with forgiveness and mercy, again and again.