For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Ezra 9:4-9, 15-10:1
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Here’s what’s happened:
The best people, royalty and wealthy and strong families were captured by Babylon.
Persia conquered Babylon.
Things mostly stayed the same, but God was working. And the king of Persia made it so Some of The children of Israel who were in captivity in Babylon have returned to Jerusalem. Ezra and Nehemiah capstone the history of Israel as written in Scripture. After this, we read of events that happened during that history- the historical record is necessary to understand all that happens in the rest of scripture: from the prophets to Jesus, knowing who the children of Israel have been and who God has been to them sets the stage for all of what we read in the rest of scripture.
The remnant who have returned from Babylon to Jerusalem after the exile realize it was and is their sin that have caused them to lose sight of God. The temple has been and is a representation of their relationship with God and as they are rebuilding that – more on that next week in Nehemiah – they also begin to seek God’s favor by repenting of their sin.
Ezra has returned as a priest who will stand between the people and God, convincing them of their sin and pleading on their behalf to God. This is how it would be until Jesus cried It is finished and the curtain that separated us from God was permanently ripped apart. God invited us to see our sin for ourselves and to be reconciled to God, redeemed no longer through animal sacrifice but by the very blood of Christ. In the view we have of God working through Ezra to call the people to repentance is a view that points us to Christ today.
Repentance looks to regain the standing the sinner needs with God. It is a renewal and refreshing of the covenant that God made with them, as children of Israel and it is initiated by a recognition of their own part in breaking the covenant in the first place. These people are asking for God’s grace to move them forward as a people dedicated to God.
They recognize their need for repentance, but also they recognize all the ways God has been gracious to them along the way – even in captivity/exile, they have seen God’s hand. In fact, the whole reason they are in this place at all is because of the way God’s grace moved on their behalf while in exile.
This, too, we can find in our own hearts: what are the ways you have separated from God? What do you need to do to seek repentance?
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like him.
God loved us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loved us enough to still let us choose our destiny.
God loved us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.