Confession and Repentance

Morning Devotions November 7th      Ezra 9:1-15

After Ezra had come back to Jerusalem from Babylon, he was approached by the leaders there with a concern over a disobedience to the instructions which related to the time when the people of God had been led back to the Promised Land by Moses. This instruction was that they should not intermarry with the people they found in the Land that God promised. There was a specific reason for this – the people there had been worshipping false gods and idols. God saw that in the weakness of temptation and in the covenant of marriage, there would be considerable accomodation of these gods and thus a turning away from the One True God. Intermarriage was thus forbidden. However it was still practiced with disastrous consequences, including the demise of Solomon’s Kingdom, the division of God’s people into North (Israel) and South (Judah), the utter loss of the ten Northern tribes and the exile of Judah to Babylon. Now, after 70 years in exile, the people are returning and there is the concern over the continuation of intermarriage. As I read God’s instructions about intermarriage, it was not intermarriage per se which was the problem. Rather it was the fact that intermarriage with people who worshipped false gods would lead to a dilution of the relationship with YHWH. Ezra confesses this sin before God and acknowledges God’s righteousness. Later they are to be fully repentant by separating themselves from the foreign.wives which they had married.

I see here a process for confession and repentance, rather than a continued call not to intermarry, so I will not dwell on the latter any longer.

Confession is a forgotten practice in the Protestant Church (dare I say, even in the whole church). Mostly we have a tinge of regret and then move on, and we wonder why we still struggle with the sin. A colleague minister was telling me this week that he had seen statistics that 60% of Christian men today are addicted to pornography. That’s shocking! I guess that every Christian man (perhaps even many of those who are not professing Christians) has a tinge of regret at every venture into pornography, but without actually confessing the transgression and humbling themselves before God, no change actually happens – there is no repentance!

Confession needs to begin with the acknowledgement of God and with a humbling of oneself in His Presence. This is what Ezra said.  “Oh my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.”

And he specifically names the sin. We have disregarded the commands you gave when you said that the land was polluted by the corruption of its people. You said that we should not give our daughters or take their sons in marriage. We however dod these things and what has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt.”

And he admits that because of the sin the nation cannot stand in the presence of God.

Ezra then gathers the people who are themselves weeping and confessing their own sin, and they decide to reverse the situation. That is repentance. When you have found that you are on the wrong road, it is not enough just to say, “Oh dear, I”m on the wrong road.” You need to get onto the right road and that is repentance. Sometimes it can be very painful, sometimes it will require restitution – I read once of a man convicted in his spirit of cheating on his taxes. He worked out how much he had cheated and had to sell his house to make it up. The Tax authorities were not even aware of his transgression but he paid up anyway. And he found incredible peace and was abundantly blessed after that.

Here is the truth for you today. If you are out of line with God over something – you will know exactly what it is! – then humble yourself before God and make confession. Then get on the right track. You WILL be blessed, believe me, I know …

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