This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Assimilation. Click here to see the entire series.
Chapter 10 of Ezra contains the story of what happened after Ezra the priest prayed his prayer of covenantal repentance. The response of the people is unlike anything anybody in the United States has ever seen. Verse 1 says, “Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women, and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly.” This is a shocker. The covenant people of God responded to the covenantal prayer of repentance by repenting! A large number of them came before their covenantal head, Ezra, and wept bitterly for their transgressions.
This corporate act of repentance was more than a nicely orchestrated emotional demonstration. It is not unusual to see Ministers of the Gospel in our day that has the ability to whip a crowd into an emotional frenzy. These emotional frenzies, however, are never related to repentance for particular sins. They are usually related to some sort of “feed my flesh” healing service in which God is held out as a powerful Santa Clause here to meet all our physical and financial needs. The end result of most of the modern services is that the people go away with the same physical and emotional infirmities they came in with, but with a significantly lighter wallet.
The true “remnant” of Israel did not simply come before God because they were feeling bad about themselves. They came before God to truly repent; and they understood that to mean that they must bring forth fruits of repentance. Words and tears are cheap. The remnant wanted to prove that they were prepared to really change their behavior in light of the clear instructions of the priest of God. They desired to make a covenantal vow of obedience.
Verse 3 contains the substance of the act of repentance of the remnant of Israel. They said, “So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.” The repentant remnant wanted to prove the sincerity of their emotional display by putting their faith into action. They wanted to swear a covenantal oath to divorce their wives and separate from their children, forever. They realized that it was time for extreme measures. They realized that the degree of their assimilation was so high that there was really no “compromise” alternative to the radical response of complete and total separation from their wives and children. They were so serious about their intention that they wanted it to be “done according to the law”. In other words, the law of the land would require that all Jews put away their families for the sake of the people of God, the Church.
A true act of blessing came upon the Jews at the time of Ezra. They responded to the biblical call of Ezra to put away their families for the sake of obedience to the clearly revealed will of God. Their obedience would have created tremendous social upheaval. Their decision to put away their families would have brought great hardship upon the indigenous people in the land. When the people of God have assimilated to the world, it is not possible to correct the problem without having major surgery. The Jews in the time of Ezra had the courage to repent. Evangelicals in our time not only do not have the courage to repent, they do not even have the eyes to see that there is a need to repent.