READ: Ezra 7-10, Psalm 141, Luke 9, 2 Peter 3
Six times in two chapters Ezra comments on the hand of the Lord that is upon him. God miraculously provides for temple reconstruction and furnishing (from pagan donors!) and ensures the safe delivery of resources through hostile lands. Ezra arrives in Jerusalem exhilarated at God’s unmerited favor. Euphoria quickly descends into horror, however, as Ezra discovers that the “grace given for escape, enlightenment, and a measure of revival in bondage” (Ezra 9:8) is in jeopardy because God’s people have married pagan wives. Ezra acutely understands that the nations current plight (exile and punishment) can be traced back to unholy matrimony (Solomon’s foreign wives introducing idolatrous worship in the heartland). Though it seems like a minor offense, Ezra sees the ultimate implications and is devastated. He prays, confesses, weeps, tears his robe, plucks out his beard, sits down astonished, falls on his knees, and spreads out his hands to God. “Here we are before you in our guilt, though no one can stand before you because of this,” he moans (v. 15).
Ezra, with the consensus of the leaders of the people, takes radical steps. A careful review is conducted and all those who have married pagan women (including those who have children) take the imbalanced step of ending that alliance. Only this costly action turned away God’s fierce wrath (10:14).
A common lie of the enemy is that success allows fudging. When we experience the hand of the Lord and our ministry grows, our influence increases, and our giving to missions expands, the serpent attempts to sneak into our ears that we can go visit Delilah. We marry all kinds of inappropriate spouses. We partner with those who are proud. We take help from those who are vain. We compromise principles for comfort, ease, or personal profit. All these are unholy alliances. They may initially seem like minor compromises but the Ezra in us knows that they ultimately are deadly, costly, and abhorrent to God. We cannot be too careful with whom we link–either in life or in ministry.
More to the point, if we are currently linked with those who are not godly or if we are supported (bought) by those who are immoral–no matter their public reputation–we are in danger of judgment and great punishment. We have no biblical recourse other than godly sorrow and the painful severance of any links with them. I am not referring to those who are married to ungodly spouses; I am referring to those in ministry who partner with ungodly others. At whatever cost to the public ministry, private purity must be regained.