Today’s reading: Ezra 9-10; Acts 1
While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Ezra 10:1-2
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
God prohibits His people from marrying unbelievers, but sends them to proclaim the gospel to those same unbelievers.
It is worth reminding ourselves that God promised in His covenant with Abraham that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Meanwhile, God told His people entering the Promised Land to destroy the pagan nations and not to intermarry with them. Whenever they disregarded this command, they suffered for it and brought problems on the nation. Yet there were clear exceptions where foreigners joined themselves to Israel and worshiped Yahweh. Some examples are: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, all who entered into the royal lineage of David and Jesus Christ. Ezra was appalled at the arrogant disregard for God’s law shown by those who intermarried with the pagans. The kingdom had just experienced severe judgment, being ejected from their land and taken captive, in part, for their mixing in marriage and in worship with the heathen.
Yet it was always God’s plan to save people from all the nations. Jesus announced the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit to His Apostles. They would receive power and they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Their mission would not be fruitless. The result was the rapid expansion of the Church into the entire known world within a few generations.
The Church is called to be holy and evangelistic. Naturally, a tension is created as we seek to live and witness among lost people without adopting their beliefs and sinful lifestyles. Rely on the Holy Spirit, not your own power, and be a witness to Jesus. He is the only hope of the world. In Him shall all the families of the earth be blessed.