Assimilation: Covenantal Repentance

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Assimilation. Click here to see the entire series.

Ezra repented. This is difficult for Christians today to understand. Why did Ezra repent? He had done nothing wrong. He had not been assimilated into the local culture. He had not married a foreign wife. Nevertheless, Ezra says, “I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to Thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads, and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.” Why is Ezra ashamed and embarrassed when he had done nothing wrong? Why doesn’t he just separate himself from the sinners and let God judge them? Why does he include himself in the sin of the Jews by saying “our iniquities”?

Modern Christians have no answer to the question of why Ezra repented because they, by and large, do not understand the covenantal nature of the Church. In modern, pietistic, evangelicalism, it is the individual, and the individual alone, who count. There is no such thing as a group. Evangelicals have private, exclusive, personal relationships with God. Furthermore, they see themselves as having only a loose contractual relationship with their fellow believers in the local church. See my essay on “Authority” for a full explanation of the error of this pietistic position.

Ezra repented because he was the representative head of the Jews. He repented on their behalf. Their repentance was included under his. He led them in repentance for the sin of assimilation to the worldly culture in the land. The example of Ezra should inspire the leaders of the churches today to do the same. Our pastors and elders should be on their knees confessing the sin of assimilation to the world. They should be confessing to God “we have forsaken Thy commandments (vs 10) and that we “are before Thee in our guilt, for no one can stand before Thee because of this” (vs 15).

What we see instead is an almost universal agreement among pastors and leaders that we are living in a Christian nation that is experiencing a massive outpouring of the blessing of God. A new wave of patriotism is sweeping the Church and the invocation of “God Bless America” is on every mouth and on every car bumper. The prayer of invocation for God to bless America is a strange one in light of what Ezra prayed for the assimilated Jews.

Ezra 9: 12 contains Ezra’s advice on how to deal with the sin of intermarriage with the apostate indigenous peoples and how to relate to the native people in the land when he says, “So now do not give your daughters to their sons nor take their daughters to your sons, and never seek their peace or their prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it as an inheritance to your sons forever.”

Now that is a prayer that you are never going to hear from a pulpit in the United States. In reference to the people and the land in which the Jews were living, Ezra says to “never seek their peace or their prosperity”! Evangelicals do the exact opposite. Evangelicals run around invoking the blessing of God upon everything and anything that they see. No sin is too extreme, no worldly behavior too disgusting, to escape the invocation of blessing from today’s tolerant, loving evangelical.

Rather than seeing the United States as under the covenantal blessing of God, it would serve our purposes well to do two things. First, repent of our sin by confessing that “Thou art righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before Thee in our guilt” (vs 15). Second, stop invoking the blessing of God upon an evil and adulterous generation. The culture of the United States is in need of destruction, not blessing. Asking God to bless our vile culture is simply another symptom of how far the assimilation of the Church has progressed.

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