Ezra 8:21-9:15; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13;
Psalm 31:1-8; Proverbs 21:1-2
To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
As Ezra contemplates leading the remnant from Babylon to Jerusalem, Ezra is concerned for the safety of the group. They will be going through territory known for having robbers and will be carrying large amounts of treasure. Ezra is embarrassed to ask the king for protection because the whole journey has been set up to glorify the powerful God of Israel. Ezra does what each person of faith must do when faced with a fearful situation. He prays. Not only that, he asks his fellow travelers to fast and pray with him that God would give them a safe journey. Ezra records in this book that God heard their prayers and gave them safe passage.
Being a learned scribe and scholar of the Book of the Law of Moses, you can imagine Ezra's horror when he gets to Jerusalem and discovers that the Israelites have intermarried with the local pagan people. Not only that, they have begun to adopt the religious pagan practices of the land. Ezra is distraught to find that the officials and religious leaders are some of the worst offenders. Remember, it has been approximately 75 years since the first group of the remnant returned and built the Temple. Ezra cries out, tears his robes, and pulls out his hair upon learning of Israel's sin. Do you react to the sins in the modern Church in this way?
Ezra is once again brought to his knees at his situation. Rather than judging this rebellious group, Ezra includes himself in the beautiful prayer of confession to God. Here is an example of how to confess sin in prayer. Ezra confesses:
- I am ashamed.
- Our sins are piled higher than our heads and go all the way to heaven.
- Our history is a history of sin.
- You have given a brief moment of grace, Lord. A remnant has survived.
- God has granted relief from slavery and allowed us to rebuild the Temple.
- We have ignored your commands.
- We are being punished because of our wickedness.
- We are punished far less than we deserve.
- We stand before you in guilt.
- None of us can stand in your presence.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."This requires humility and honesty before God. In order to fight the good fight we must develop our skill of prayer. Being a prayer warrior is key to defeating our enemy, Satan, and living a victorious life.
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Paul reminds the Corinthians that they have no reason to boast about their spirituality when this sort of behavior is going on. The advice of Paul is to remove this person from the community. The Christian community is not to abide with people who claim to be Christian, but are openly rebelling against God's principles about sexual purity. Sexual immorality is not to be tolerated in the Church. As a matter of fact, Paul lists the following behaviors that are not to be tolerated in an unrepentant way:
- sexual sin
- idol worship
- swindling people out of money
"It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders (non-Christians), but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. God will judge those on the outside; but as Scripture say, 'You must remove the evil person from among you.'"
What do you make of all of this? Do you feel the modern church is dealing with sin within the Church in this manner? How could we as a group encourage repentance from sin? Should we approach this like Ezra?
David prays a psalm that Ezra might have used before his journey. Prayer is the key to victory.
You may think that you are living your life correctly, but this proverb tells us that the Lord examines a person's heart.
What did you notice today?