Pull it together Ezra!
While Ezra is weeping and wailing, Shecaniah offers up some hope for Israel. He proposes that they put aside the foreign spouses and children according to the Law.
Deuteronomy 7:3-6 They weren’t supposed to intermarry in the first place because the foreign people would lead God’s people astray by worshipping idols and other gods and then God would be forced to destroy them.
The Israelites had been warned.
After putting forth this proposal, Shecaniah seems to rebuke Ezra in order to snap him into action. In Vs. 4 he basically tells Ezra to pull it together, get up, and do what needs to be done, be responsible. Be courageous.
The whole time I’m reading this, I’m hearing, “Pull up your big girl panties Ezra!” (Crude, but effective!)
Keep in mind that Ezra was not alone in his grief. A huge crowd was there weeping and showing their own grief over the sins committed against God too. I don’t mean to make light of the public display of humility before God, as Ezra was praying and making confession to God for all, but there comes a time when action needs to follow up intent, and Shecaniah reminds Ezra of the need for action.
David Guzik’s commentary includes a beneficial tidbit about confession which I thought was really nice. Confession isn’t a focus in most churches (unless you’re of the Catholic faith) but everyone can benefit by “coming clean” when it’s appropriate to do so…
vi. The Bible has much to say about the confession of sin, and we can surmise some general guidelines about the confession of sin:
Confession should be made to the one sinned against.
Confession publicly of specific sins should be made as far as the circle of those sins.
Confession of general spiritual need, while being discrete about the specific sin, is appropriate when the circle of the sin is either personal or very small.
Confession should be appropriately specific.
Confession should be thorough.
He got up and made them all take an oath to honor the proposal from Shecaniah, and they did.
They called for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem within 3 days. If any didn’t come they would forfeit their possessions and be excluded from the assembly of the exiles. Huge consequences here.
All the men came. It was the 20th of 9th month (Chistev Nov/Dec) and they sat in the open in the heavy rain. (This shows an understanding of the severity of their sin).
It was decided that each would be investigated to determine if they sinned and broke the Law. It took about 3 months to investigate each marriage. They were finished by the 1st of Nisan (1st month). There would be no sin found for those wives that put aside their old beliefs and shared the beliefs of their husbands and obeyed the Law.
The men who were found guilty of marrying foreign wives (who would not repent) and breaking the Law, they offered a ram for their offense and put away their wives.
It doesn’t specifically say if all the men put away their wives or not.
This is all about repentance. You can’t repent of a sin if you truly don’t recognize the sin in the first place. This is why being part of a church community is so important. Without being surrounded by others who share the faith, sins are easy to overlook. Humans are hugely gifted with an ability to deceive themselves and justify pretty much everything.
It’s not enough for Ezra and the others to “feel bad” and “grieve” over the sin. Repentance is necessary.
We are not under the Law anymore but the same truth holds for us too.
Mark 1:14-15 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
“Repentance (metanoia, ‘change of mind’) involves a turning with contrition from sin to God; the repentant sinner is in the proper condition to accept the divine forgiveness.” (F. F. Bruce. The Acts of the Apostles [Greek Text Commentary], London: Tyndale, 1952, p. 97.)
Repent is a verb. It demands some action on the part of the person. Change has to take place at some point, or there is no repentance.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit grants a change in us that is immediate and indisputable. Other times, it can take a long time for change to come about. Either way, change does happen if a person is truly repentant.