“Now What..?” (John MacDiarmid)

Talk given for Poole Christian Fellowship at Poole High School on 1 July 2018.

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Today we come to the end of our series based in and around the book of Ezra, the fifteenth in the series, and we will try to pull together the lessons we have learned. We are covering the final two chapters of Ezra today, chapters 9 and 10, but we are focusing our thoughts around verses 8 and 9 of chapter 9:

But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.

In many ways this summarises the whole era covered by this series:

1. What we were

Ezra remembers that his people were slaves in Babylon, taken captive because of disobedience to God. In the same way, we need to call to mind regularly that we were captives to Satan, without God and without hope in the world because of our disobedience

2. What We have

Ezra reminded himself, with overflowing thankfulness of what God had done for him and for the Jews. He had intervened quite miraculously on their behalf to rescue them from Babylon and to bring them into a place of freedom. In the same way, God has sent His Son, our King, the Lord Jesus, who by His sacrifice has set us free from captivity. The penalty for sin has been paid and we are set free.

3. What We must do

God had not brought the exiles back to Jerusalem simply to have a good life. He has brought them him to do a job – there was a city to be inhabited, a temple to be rebuilt and a wall needed to protect the city. In the same way, we have a job to do! The city needs to be rebuilt – Jesus is building his church and He calls on us to be His labourers.

4. What we face

In many ways chapters 9 and 10 of Ezra, which we are covering today are the most disappointing and disturbing on the story. Incredibly, after all they have gone through to achieve what God had for them, the exiles have gone back to their old ways and are doing exactly what cost them their freedom in the first place. Can you believe it!? Well…it is very believable because it totally corresponds to our own experience. We are all sinners, and the thing that holds us back more and more is our own sin.

Here, in this passage, they have, in totally disobedience to God’s commands, intermarried outside of God’s family. This is not racism, but godliness. God wants his children to be allied with those of his own family. All kinds of problems result when God’s children think they know better and build alliances in marriage outside of God’s family. The remedy they adopt seems harsh, but it demonstrates how ruthless we have to be with sin, and the devastating effect that it has on our lives.

The biggest battle we face in building God’s kingdom is with our own sin. Even as those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit we face a constant battle with sin.

5. What Awaits Us

But the good news is that this battle will not go on forever. Even though this story ends with eh ongoing battle with sin, we know that this too will end. There is come a day when the battle is won and the end is achieved. Until then, we live by faith and not by sight.

We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight

John MacDiarmid
July 2018