July 02, 2020
Most people treat their sin lightly, never feeling the weight of what they have done. There is an appropriate time to mourn over sin. In fact, without mourning over how we have offended God, there is generally no real repentance.
The Jews had been taken in captivity to Babylon, but a remnant had been left in Israel. When Ezra the priest of God was allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, he discovered all kinds of sin had occurred with the remaining population. Most grievous was that they had taken up pagan gods and practices and intermarried with those who worshiped and served false gods.
Ezra’s response was mourning, and his actions describe to us what real mourning is like.
When I heard about this matter, I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel on account of the unfaithfulness of the exiles gathered to me, and I sat appalled until the evening offering. (Ezra 9:3-4)
His grief led to fasting and prayers of confession.
But at the evening offering I arose from my humiliation, even with my garment and my robe torn, and I fell on my knees and stretched out my hands to the Lord my God; and I said, “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. Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt, and on account of our iniquities we, our kings and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity and to plunder and to open shame, as it is this day. (Ezra 9:5-7)
Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God. (Ezra 10:1)
He did not eat bread nor drink water, for he was mourning over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. (Ezra 10:6b)
Notice that Ezra did not just mourn for his own sin, but he was grieved over the sins of God's people and he prayed prayers of confession on their behalf, accepting responsibility with them.
The people saw Ezra’s mourning and it moved them to see their sin and take responsibility. Out of this mourning came a turning from their sin and a return to God.
It is a time for mourning for the church in America in multiple ways. We have sat quietly in our Sunday morning chairs, enjoying our worship, and then mingled with the gods of this world in great measure throughout the week. We have failed to mourn and repent for the sins of our own lives and our land.
And the sin has increased exponentially. Things once seen as disgraceful are now embraced and “enjoyed.”
It’s a time for mourning and a time for repentance. Perhaps God, as He has done before, will relent from His judgments and restore our land.
Father, forgive us. Help us to see our personal sins and the sins of our land and mourn properly. Help us to have such mourning that it leads to repentance without regrets. Help us to turn from all that is displeasing to you and compromising to our witness for you. And restore us, oh God, to a right posture before You.
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