Focal Passage: Ezra 7:1a,6-10,25-28; 9:4-6; 10:10-12
Meditate on the following word and concept for a moment:
con·tam·i·nant kən-‘ta-mə-nənt noun : something that soils, stains, corrupts, or infects by contact or association.
My wife works one shift a week as a registered nurse on the Progressive Care Unit of one of the middle Tennessee hospitals in our area. During the thirteen or so hours she’s there, she sees a cornucopia of nasty biological contaminants. So, we have a strict policy when she comes home from the hospital in the morning: she cannot touch our three children, who are between 5-years-old and 10-months-old, until she’s showered and changed out of her scrubs. We do everything we can to control contamination.
We as a culture certainly take germs seriously, but how seriously to we take our sin? Sin is soiling, staining, corrupting, and infecting. Nevertheless, as if sin was contained in a pool, we often toe up to the edge of it. From time to time we splash in it or worse, dive on in and immerse ourselves in it. Would you do that with a pool filled with the dreaded Ebola virus? No way! You’d do everything in your power to not come within a country mile of that place. Yet, sin’s infinitely more dangerous with ramifications stretching into eternity.
When Ezra, the learned and godly scribe, arrived in Jerusalem around 457 B.C., he saw a people soiled, stained, corrupted, and infected. Not with a virus or bacteria mind you, they were contaminated with the sin of worldliness. They’d been exiled in the pagan nation of Babylon for the greater part of a century. They had swum in their ways and dived in their customs. At first, they probably resisted, but progressively, eventually, they were covered with ungodliness and continued in it once they’d returned to the land of Israel.
They were to be a “peculiar” people for God (Dt 14:2, KJV), but there was no difference at this point between them and the world. At this discovery, Ezra was dumbfounded and grieved. The epitome of their contamination was the fact that from the common person up to the princes and rulers, even the priests and Levites, the men had married pagan women who introduced pagan ways to the Jews. It grieved Ezra so much that he tore his garment and robe, pulled some hair from his head and beard, and sat down appalled and in grief until the time of the evening offering (Ezra 9:3-4).
Those who trembled with fear for God gathered to Ezra, and he began to pray, “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens,” (Ezra 9:6). As he prayed, the Holy Spirit began to move in the midst of the people, causing them to feel the weight of their iniquities, guilt, uncleanness, abominations, impurities. Ezra began to weep and prostrate himself before God; the congregation began to weep bitterly too (Ezra 10:1). They finally began to see their sin as sin. That day they began to repent of their sin and be cleansed of contamination.
Oh, that we would be leaders in our own circles of influence like Ezra. I would that God be gracious to us so that the numbing effects of sin would be reversed, that sin would sicken and truly grieve us. I pray a fresh falling of the Holy Spirit on our people and especially our leaders so that we would take sin seriously and seek God’s cleansing from all contamination.
May it begin with me!
-This article first appeared in the May 11 edition of the Baptist and Reflector, the official newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, as a commentary on the May 15, 2011 LifeWay Sunday School curriculum Bible Studies for Life, and can be accessed through the B&R website at https://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=3824. The article has been slightly edited here for westmainbaptist.com.