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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Inspired by . . . Holiness over Happiness

"All these had married foreign women, and they dismissed them, together with their children." Ezra 10:44

This abrupt ending to the book of Ezra disturbs me every time I read it. It's so easy to set aside the sin that was committed and only imagine how these women and children must have felt. Our inclination, or at least mine, is to ignore the devastating effects of the sin that had been committed and romanticize these relationships that were so, seemly, casually destroyed.

Was Ezra really following God's will by breaking up these families and sending away all these women and children?

Surely God cared about them. Surely, He wanted them to be happy. Didn't He?

Time to reign in our emotions and look at the facts. First, marrying foreign women was a direct violation of God's command in Deuteronomy 7:3. God didn't need a reason for this "rule" but He had a good one. Foreign women meant foreign gods and God knew that if His chosen people mixed with people that worshipped false gods, they would soon worship them too. And that is exactly what happened. In fact, it is the very sin that made them exiles in the first place!

That's why Ezra's response when he learned about these offenses, was so great. (see Ezra 9)

Secondly, the work of righting this offense was not taken lightly or done rashly (10:13). The families were to be presented at a stated time before the leaders. If the women had been proselyted, they were not turned away. (consider Ruth, a Moabite woman who we find in the lineage of Christ!) It was the women who clung to their worthless idols and threatened to cause their husbands to stumble who were sent away.

Still, despite all this, there were certainly bruised and broken hearts. The issue was far from being resolved as we find it brought up again in both Nehemiah and Malachi.

We've all used the "God would want me to happy," card a time or two when trying to justify our less than obedient actions. Especially when society's moral code flies in the face of God's commands.

Does God want you to be happy? Absolutely. But never at the expense of our obedience.
"Happy are those whose lives are faultless, who live according to the law of the LORD. Happy are those who follow His commands, who obey Him with all their heart." (Psa 119:1-2)
True happiness comes from obedience to His commands.

Something that Hannah Hurnard once wrote, which I have written in my Bible, has been a great help to me:
"Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible - terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved."
This is what God's love for us is like, Beloved. This is why Aslan is not a tame lion.

That passage in Ezra still stings whenever I read it. But it reminds me that there is Someone who loves me enough to do the painful work of cleaning the wounds that the sin of this world inflicts upon my soul. The painful work of cleansing. And when the blood flows brightest it is not my blood at all . . . but His.


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