Ezra 9:13

While the smoke of the altar rises to heaven from the evening sacrifice, lo! there is Ezra before the temple of the Lord with rent garments and disordered hair, bowed upon his knees, and with lifted hands, pouring out confession of sin in tones of plaintive grief and shame and terror. "O my God,! am ashamed," etc. In this prayer we mark -

I. THE CRIME CONFESSED (vers. 11, 12).

1. Here were open violations of the law of God.

(1) The patriarchal law was pronounced against the intermarriages of the holy race of Seth, with whom was the promise of the Holy Seed, with the profane race of Cain the excommunicate. The infraction of this law provoked the Deluge (Genesis 6:2, 3). Abraham, who, like Seth, was the depositary of the Promise, was averse to the intermarriage of his issue with the daughters of the accursed Cainan (Genesis 24:3, 4; see also Genesis 28:1, 2).

(2) This patriarchal law became incorporated in the Mosaic system (Deuteronomy 7:3).

(3) The prophets also declared against these mixed alliances. In particular, it would seem, Haggai and Zechariah (ver. 11 with 6:21).

(4) This law, in the spirit of it, is still binding upon Christians (1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14).

2. The reasons given for this law are most weighty.

(1) The holiness of God's people. This reason holds in all ages.

(2) The tendency to be swayed from true worship to idolatry (Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:16).

(3) These reasons were vividly before the mind of Ezra. So should they be ever present with Christians.

3. Nothing should induce men to commit this sin.

(1) The wealth of idolaters is dearly purchased by the imperilling of the inheritance of the saints.

(2) Peace with idolaters is costly at the sacrificing of the peace of God.

II. THE AGGRAVATIONS ACKNOWLEDGED. Ezra confessed for his people -

1. That their experiences in the captivity should have taught them differently (ver. 7).

(1) Their humiliation was deep. They suffered from the "sword," viz., of the Babylonians who in the days of Nebuchadnezzar invaded their land. From "captivity," for their Babylonish victor carried them away. Who can estimate the sufferings entailed by that deportation? From the "spoil" which they suffered from the invaders, and from those who removed them. And from "confusion of face," viz., in the remembrance that all their sufferings were on account of their sins. This shame they felt in the presence of their Babylonish lords (see Daniel 9:7, 8). Also before their Persian masters.

(2) Their calamities were sweeping. The people were involved in them. So were their "kings." What a contrast between the condition of David and Solomon and that of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:7)! So were their "priests;" and in the ruin of the priests the ruin of the temple also was involved.

(3) They were also of long continuance. There were the initial sufferings from the time of the first invasion of the Babylonians. Then the interval of seventy years from the date of the captivity to the first year of Cyrus, when Zerubbabel led back the larger body of the restoration. Another period of seventy or eighty years had elapsed before this second contingent was led back by Ezra. What excuse then, after all these sufferings, could be pleaded for their sin?

2. The mercy of God should have been better requited (vers. 8, 9). That mercy was shown -

(1) In his "leaving a remnant to escape." That was mercy not only to the individuals spared, but also to the world, for the holy Seed was among them, through whom the blessings of an everlasting salvation were to come.

(2) In "giving them a nail in his holy place." The margin explains this to be "a constant and sure abode," and refers to Isaiah 22:23 in support of this interpretation. The passage in Isaiah points to Christ; so may this point to him.

(3) In this view there is the greater force in what follows, "that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage." And how the mercy of God in all this becomes increased when the spiritual blessings of the gospel are seen in it.

(4) Even in their bondage God had not forsaken them. For he gave them favour in the sight of the kings of Persia. This favour enabled them to return, "gave them a reviving," and to repair the desolations of the temple, of the holy city, and the wall. Such mercy claimed gratitude, but was requited with rebellion. Ezra is without apology (ver. 10).


1. Here he awaits the judgment of the Lord.

(1) He is ashamed to look up. Who can bear to look into the face of an injured friend when we have nothing to plead in apology? That will be the position of the sinner in the great day of judgment.

(2) He is oppressed by the growing weight of accumulating rebellion and ingratitude. He is terrified by the cloud upon the face of God.

(3) He confesses that wrath to the uttermost is deserved.

2. Here is no formal plea for mercy.

(1) There is the silent cry of misery and distress and blushing shame. But who can trust in this? It is only the consciousness of sin.

(2) There is eloquence in the evening sacrifice. The victim slain is a vicarious sufferer. It is the shadow of a better sacrifice. - J.A.M.

And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve.
We find in Scripture upon the most solemn occasions of humiliation that good men have always testified a thankful sense of the goodness of God to them. The greater and more lively sense we have of the goodness of God to us, the more we shall abhor ourselves, nothing being more apt to melt us to tears of repentance than the consideration of great and undeserved mercies vouchsafed to us. The goodness of God doth naturally lead to repentance. In the text we have —


1. That sin is the cause of all our sufferings.

2. That great sins have usually proportionable punishment.

3. That all the punishments which God inflicts in this life do fall short of the demerit of our sins.

4. That God many times works very great deliverances for those who are very unworthy of them.

5. That we are but too apt, even after great judgments and after great mercies, to relapse into our former sins.

6. That it is good to take notice of the particular sins that have brought the judgments of God upon us.

II. A SENTENCE AND DETERMINATION IN THE CASE — "Wouldest not Thou be angry with us till Thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" This question implies a strong affirmative.

1. It is a fearful aggravation of sin after great judgments and great deliverances to return to sin, and especially to the same sins again.(1) To return to sin after great judgments is an argument of great obstinacy in evil. The longer Pharaoh resisted the judgments of God, the more was his wicked heart hardened, till at last he arrived at a monstrous degree of hardness. And we find that after God had threatened the people of Israel with several judgments, He tells them that if they "will not be reformed by all these things, He will punish them seven times more for their sins." What a sad complaint doth Isaiah make of the people of Israel growing worse for judgments (Isaiah 1:4, 5; Isaiah 9:13; Isaiah 26:11). There is a particular brand set upon Ahaz because affliction made him worse (2 Chronicles 28:2).(2) When sin is committed after great mercies and deliverances vouchsafed to us is an argument of great ingratitude. This we find recorded as a heavy charge upon the people of Israel (Judges 8:34, 35). How severely doth Nathan reproach David on this account (2 Samuel 12:7-9). And he was angry with Solomon for the same reason (1 Kings 11:9). However we may slight the mercies of God, He keeps a strict account of them. It is noted as a blot of Hezekiah that "he returned not again according to the benefits done unto him." Ingratitude to God is so unnatural and monstrous that we find Him appealing against us for it to the inanimate creatures (Isaiah 1:2). And then He goes on and upbraids them with the brute creatures as being more grateful to men than men are to God (Isaiah 1:3; Isaiah 26:10). There is no greater evidence of an untractable disposition than not to be wrought upon by kindness, not to be melted by mercies, not to be obliged by benefits, not to be tamed by gentle usage. Nay, God expects that His mercies should lay so great an obligation upon us that even a miracle should not tempt us to be unthankful (Deuteronomy 13:1, 2).(3) To return to the same sins after great mercies and judgments is an argument of a perverse and incorrigible temper. With what resentment God speaks of the ill returns the children of Israel made to Him for the great mercy of their deliverance from Egypt (Judges 10:11-14) Upon such an occasion well might the prophet say, "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee and thy sins shall reprove thee," etc. (Jeremiah 2:19).

2. To return to the same sins again after great judgments and deliverances is a sad presage of ruin to a people.(1) Because this doth ripen the sins of a nation (Genesis 15:16). When neither the mercies nor the judgments of God will bring us to repentance, we are then fit for destruction (Romans 9:22).(2) Because this incorrigible temper shows the case of such persons to be desperate and incurable (Isaiah 1:5; Matthew 23:37, 38). When God sees that all the means which He can use do prove ineffectual, He will then give over a people as physicians do their patients when they see that nature is spent and their case past remedy. When men will not be the better for the best means that Heaven can use, God will then leave them to reap the fruit of their own doings and abandon them to the demerit of their sin.

(Abp. Tillotson.)


1. The unvarying testimony of Scripture is that transgression and punishment are closely united (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 6:13; Genesis 18:20, 21). Throughout the entire history of Israel this fact was continually brought out into distinct recognition.

2. The "great trespass" deplored in the text. When God gave the law against intermingling with the nations he said, "for they will turn away thy sons from following Me that they may serve other gods." The fatal counsel of Balaam to Belak was to seduce Israel into alliance with the Moabites. And it is recorded of Solomon, "when he was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods." Whatever, therefore, tended to lead them into idolatry was to be regarded as an evil of the deadliest character; and as nothing tended so powerfully to draw away their hearts as this forbidden affinity with the heathen, it might well be termed their "great trespass."

II. THAT DIVINE JUDGMENTS ARE MINGLED WITH MERCY. Ezra's acknowledgment was also made by Nehemiah," Nevertheless, for Thy great mercy's sake, Thou didst not utterly consume them; for Thou art a gracious and merciful God." In the same spirit of grateful humility Jeremiah says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." The Psalmist sings in a similar strain, "He hath not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." Sinners live under a respite — their punishment is intended to alarm,-not to crush them.

III. THE DANGER OF DISREGARDING DIVINE JUDGMENTS. The history of the Jews is a dark narrative of mercies and ingratitude; exhortations and disobedience; warnings and neglect; judgments and impenitence; judicial blindness and total rejection. God's dealings with Israel were typical of His dealings with the Church at large and with its individual members. Religious privileges are sometimes long continued to a Church; but when it proves unfruitful, then is fulfilled — "The kingdom of God is taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." The Churches at Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea have perished. The Spirit strives long with the disobedient; but there is a time when He ceases. As Christians we are under obligations to renounce the world and all familiar intercourse with those whose character and conduct might prove a snare to beguile us into sin (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). In almost every similitude employed in the Scriptures to characterise the situation and deportment of believers, we find something bearing a pointed allusion to this matter. They are called a "little flock"; "brethren living together in the same family"; "a garden enclosed"; "a lily among thorns"; "hidden ones"; a peculiar people; "the light of the world" shining amid the surrounding darkness. The Christian is represented as a "soldier" enlisted under the banner of the "Captain of his salvation," and who obviously cannot discharge his duty if he consort with his Master's enemies. He is a pilgrim who has bidden adieu to all the friends and follies of his youth, and who has set out alone on his wilderness path. In all these figures the idea of separation from the world is clearly implied. Separation from the world is not the supercilious distance of the haughty Pharisee. Isaiah speaks of a people which say "stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou." But what is said of them? "These are a smoke in My nose, a fire that burneth all the day." Neither is it a superstitious exclusion from society. The duties and business of active life must be attended to. The interchanges of civility and kindness must not be neglected. Our Lord and His apostles have left us an example in this matter. But there is a separation which, as the avowed friends of the Redeemer, we must maintain (Matthew 10:37, 38). We must come out of every society where our consistency may be compromised, where our character may be suspected, where our personal piety may be invaded, and our conscience blunted.

(David Arnott, D. D.)

Under the influence of a great grief we have here the soul uttering two voices.


1. That man himself is responsible for his sins. "Our evil deeds and our great trespass." There is a strong tendency in man to charge his sins on others.

(1)Sometimes on God Himself.

(2)Sometimes on his fellow human creatures, as Adam did (Genesis 3:12).

(3)Sometimes on the devil (Genesis 3:13).But an awakened conscience says with emphasis, "Our evil deeds and our great trespass." Conscience speaks —

2. Of the great evil of sin. Man is prone to make his sins look less than they really are. Conscience, like the Divine commandment, shows the "exceeding sinfulness of sin." Conscience says —

3. That punishment is connected with sin. There is punishment connected with the transgression of every law of God, both in the natural and in the moral world. God has so made His laws that they punish every one that transgresseth them themselves. Punishment may also follow sin in the world to come without the direct interposition of God. Conscience says —

4. That sin is not punished in this world according to its in desert. This is accounted for —

(1)Because this is a world in which good and evil exist.

(2)Because there is more mercy than justice in this world.The scale is never level when there is more weight in one end than in the other. The cause of the lightning and thundering in the natural world is the loss of the equilibrium in the air. So in the moral world, we see it sometimes much disturbed, and that in consequence of there being more mercy here than justice. Justice in this life is like an eternal sea kept within its bounds with only a few stria running over its banks just to show that it exists, while mercy is like an eternal ocean deluging the world.

II. THE VOICE OF WONDER IN VIEW OF GOD'S SALVATION FROM SIN. This wonder is caused by. two things.

1. By the greatness of the deliverance. This is seen —

(1)In its origin


(2)In the way in which it has been brought about.

(3)In the vastness of the blessings which it brings to man.

2. By looking at the awful consequences of rejecting this salvation. Ezra is confounded here by thinking of the people's transgression and the awful consequences that would follow if they would not repent and seek forgiveness (ver. 14). "But what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?"


(a thanksgiving sermon for the removal of cholera): —

I. A PAST REVIEWED. We are reminded —

1. That the distresses of a nation come upon them for their sins. Now on this point we must be careful to use nothing but the language of holy sobriety. We reason, indeed, neither wisely, nor safely, nor honourably to God, when we make every national calamity stand in some definite retributive relation to certain national sins. We have no data for establishing such a relation either in reason or in Scripture, or in the constituted order of moral government. Thus, if a country should lose its colonies through misrule or bad government, or if an army should be cut up through a general's inconsiderate rashness, or if our emigrant population should perish by hundreds through being sent out in vessels that were not seaworthy, or if a malaria should infect a neighbourhood where all sanitary precautions have been neglected, it were a manifest misuse of terms to call any one of these resulting evils by the name of a Divine judgment. They are the ordinary consequences of a broken law. Still, while it is neither safe nor Scriptural to interpret as direct Divine visitations what are manifestly only the immediate and perceived result of human misdoing, it is just as bad philosophy to disown the traces of God's hand in calamities where the efficient causes are more occult and indirect and far-removed and untraceable. This world is His world; we must not cast Him out of its management. The pestilence is His servant, not His vicegerent; the strict dispenser of His judgment, not the uncontrolled executioner of its own. Why, I could just as soon be an idolater as one of our modern worshippers of second causes; for, if the one bows the knee to Juggernaut, the other seems to build s temple to the plague. But we have not so learned the rod, or so misinterpreted its harsh but emphatic voice. If Providence does travel beyond its wonted cycles, if the Lord does come out of His place, we know what it is for; it is "to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." Our state is probationary, but God will have some smaller reckonings with us now. "All this came upon us," said Ezra, "for our evil deeds and for our great trespass."

2. When God visits a nation for their sins, He always mingles mercy with His chastisements. "Less than our iniquities deserve!" Why, what do they deserve? What do our murmurings, and crimes, and cruelties, and wicked blasphemies deserve? What do we deserve for the licentiousness of our pleasures, the covetousness of our gains, the stint measure of our charities, the worldliness of our homes? What do our rich men deserve for their pride, or our poor men for their profaneness? What do patriots deserve for their lukewarm love, or Christian rulers for enforcing a breach of the Divine commandments? Oh! in all this we see how far apart are offence and chastisement, the nation's sins and the nation's scourge.

II. A POSSIBLE FUTURE. Two points are here insisted upon.

1. Sins after warning are the worst sins. To go on committing the same sins after judgments and chastisements evinces an obstinacy in evil, a stoutness of heart, a baseness of ingratitude, and almost a defiance of God. A continuance in sin under such circumstances shows a man's spirit to be intractable. Alarm him with warnings, he will not be affected by them; load him with benefits, he will not be obliged by them. His heart is like an anvil, strokes only make it more hard.

2. Judgments after deliverance are the worst judgments. There is an awful expression used by the apostle, "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction." When God has used all merciful expedients to no purpose — when judgments awake no terror, and deliverances inspire no gratitude — then He takes a final leave of us; we must reap the fruit of our own doings.

(Daniel Moore, M. A.)

I propound two things: First, an indictment preferred by Ezra against Israel; secondly, his pleading it for God against themselves. In the first he remembers God's mercy and their rebellion. God's mercy is laid down in the thirteenth verse, and that three ways. First, he shows that they were not punished without cause; secondly, that God punished them less than they deserved; thirdly, that He had totally delivered them. Their rebellion is comprised in the fourteenth verse, in which there are two parts: first, the sin; secondly, the punishment. The sin is laid down, first generally, "Should we again break Thy commandments?" Secondly particularly, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations?" Then follows the punishment. First, God will be angry; secondly, there is the degree of His anger, He will not leave consuming till all be destroyed. Before we handle the particulars there are two things in genera]. The first is out of the party, which was Ezra; the second is out of the course he takes, and that is humbling himself in God's presence.

I. FOR THE PARTY, it is EZRA. Ye shall read in this book that he was a man that set his heart to seek the Lord; neither did he this only himself, but sought by all possible means to incite others to follow his godly example. Had all Israel been such as he, they needed not to have feared judgments coming upon them. Doctrine: Good men, though they be at peace with God, find cause of sorrow for other men's sins. Ye shall see this proved in the Scripture. The Spirit of God calls Lot a righteous man — yet this righteous man's soul was vexed from day to day with the unclean conversation of the Sodomites (2 Peter 2:8). The like we see in Moses (Exodus 32:19). It was so with the prophet (1 Samuel 15:35). The like we see in David (Psalm 119:136). May some man say, "What were the sins of the world to David?" It is true they were none of his, yet he thinks himself bound to grieve for them, because he knew they were displeasing to his Maker. We see the same in good Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1, 2; Jeremiah 13:17). O blessed Saviour, Thou didst mourn for the hardness of men's hearts (Mark 3:5; Luke 19:41, 42). Use

1. It shall be to let us see the stupidity of the sons of Belial. Though they have most cause to weep and mourn, yet they live in jollity and merriment, and are mere strangers to all sadness. Some of these stick not to say, What hath any man to do to weep for their sins? and that by their impieties they trouble none but their own souls, But I tell thee, O wretch, thou troublest not only thine own house and soul, but thou troublest all Israel, thou givest the saints of God occasion to be pensive for that which makes thee jocant and glad; and happy is it for thee that there be such Noah, Lot, Samuel, and David to mourn for thee; for were it not that some did mourn for thy profaneness, thou shouldst not live again to commit it. Use

2. This may answer a common objection which is put to the saints, because they be sad. I would have you know that it is not holiness which makes them sad, but the profaneness of the world (Psalm 120:5). Use

3. Lastly, according to the practice of Ezra, though we have made our peace with God, let us mourn for the wickedness of others; every one knows what a cause there is for this. Religion is out of fashion, and none are so esteemed as fashion-mongers, they be your only men now in credit. First, it is piety to mourn for the sins of others. Shall we hear and see God to he dishonoured and not grieve for it? Piety cannot lodge in that breast where such an ill spirit inhabits. A man will and ought to grieve when his friend is wronged (John 15:15). Secondly, pity requires this duty at our hands. I read of Marcellus, the Roman, that entering a city which he had gained by composition after a long siege, he burst forth into tears; one that stood beside him demanded why he wept. Saith he, "I cannot choose but weep to see so many thousand led into captivity." Shall a heathen weep for the captivity of men's bodies? and shall not Christians mourn for their sins which are enough to enthral souls? Thirdly, if we do not mourn for other men's sins we make them our own. Lastly, we should be moved to this duty by the blessing which attends it. What saith our blessed Saviour (Matthew 5:4)? And in Ezekiel 9:4 the Lord gives command to spare them in Jerusalem, that did "sigh and cry for the abominations done in the midst thereof."

II. THE COURSE WHICH EZRA TAKES — and that is humbling him self by confession, weeping, and supplication. The main receipt in time of affliction is humiliation. This will appear in God's people (2 Chronicles 20:3; Ephesians 4:16; Jonah 3:5; Jeremiah 14:20; Joel 2:12). The people of God have done the same when the sword hath been amongst them; this we find in Joshua 7:6. So likewise in the case of the whole Church (Hosea 6:1). The grounds they went upon were these two: First, they knew it was God's commandment — that place in Zephaniah 2:1, 2, is notable to this purpose. Secondly, the saints were sure that sin was the cause of all their miseries; that being the Achan which troubled the whole host, and the Jonah endangering the whole ship. What shall we think of a number of desiderate wretches in the world who, when they should be humbled under God's afflicting hand, sin more and more and more against Him? This was the sin of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:22; Isaiah 57:17). We now descend to the particulars as they were laid down. We begin with the indictment preferred by Ezra against Israel, in which is remembered God's mercy and their rebellion. God's mercy is laid down in the thirteenth verse, and that three ways. First, he shows that they were not punished without cause; secondly, that God punished them less than they deserved; thirdly, that He had totally delivered them. First, for the first particular in the gradation of God's mercy, "Thou our God hast punished us" — that is, Thou hast punished us deservedly. Tyrants will and do punish men without cause; but the Judge of all the world never proceeds to punish but when He is provoked. In that Ezra saith, "Seeing that Thou or god hast punished us." Take notice in the first place of this observation. Whatsoever is the instrument, God is the author of the punishment (Isaiah 14:7; Amos 3:6). In 1 Corinthians 11:32 St. Paul there labours to persuade the Corinthians that God chastened them; and David saith (Psalm 39:9), "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it." This may inform us what is the ground of all the impatience in the world. There be a number which repine when God's hand is upon them. What is the reason? They stick in the second causes, and look so much on the lower links of the chain, that they forget Him that hath the top of it in His hand. Secondly, here is a use of admonition. Ever look up to God in all thy afflictions. Look to Him in thy fever, in thy ague, in the plague. Lastly, when the Lord s hand is upon us, and that we would have it removed, the nearest way we can take is to have recourse to God by prayer. God doth never punish any without desert (Genesis 18:25). We should ever justify God in all the judgments He brings upon us. The saints of God have done this in all times; thus did David (Psalm 119:75). In the second place, seeing God punishes none without cause, let it teach us patience under His afflicting hand. Further, we may observe that Ezra speaks not only of sin in general, but of "a great trespass." What was it? It was the people mingling themselves with the heathen. The doctrine arising from hence is thus much. When God arises to judgment, He ever sets Himself against the foul sins of men. Wilt thou deal otherwise with God Almighty than with thy physician? When he comes to thee in thy sickness thou wilt conceal nothing from him, but tell him how it is with thee in every particular. And yet when thou comest to confess thy sins to thy God, thou concealest those capital sins which have most offended Him.

(Josiah Shute, B. D.)

We come now to the second amplification of God's mercy. Ezra had said that God had dealt mercifully with them. How proves he the mercy of God? He proves it thus, because that when He punished them it was less than they deserved. Here is one word joined with punishing, which I would have you take notice of, "Thou our God hast punished us." Herein he is a pattern to us when at any time we come to confess our sins before God. "Our God" intimates a strong relation and affection. Certainly, when he saith thus, he knew there was hope of God's being reconciled to them again, giving us thereby to understand what ii required of men in the confession of sin. A man must not only, as David, "water his couch with his tears" (Psalm 6:6); nor with Peter, "go out and weep bitterly" (Matthew 26:75); nor with the woman which was a sinner in the city, "wash Christ's feet with our tears" (Luke 7:38); nor, secondly, must he only with a great deal of self shame confess his sin, as did Ezra in this chapter, and the poor publican (Luke 18:13). Thirdly. nor must he only confess his sins with anger, as did Job (Job 42:6) and Ephraim (Hosea 14:8). But, lastly, he must confess them with faith and confidence; that is, so to aggravate his sins before God as not to let go his hold in God (Daniel 9:9). Let the consideration of this teach us to take out this needful lesson. Some there be that confess their sins, but it is with despair; thus did Cain and Judas. But for ourselves, let us confess our sins with hope that God will pardon us, and with the servants of Benhadad let us address ourselves to Him, and say, "We have heard that Thou, who art the King of Israel, art a merciful King." Let us never despair. God may love and yet punish. I desire from my soul that people would be persuaded of this. I confess it is a hard saying, and men will hardly be drawn to believe it, especially when the affliction is smart. How often did Job think God his enemy when His hand was heavy upon him! So in David, all men knew that he loved his Absolom well, but yet when he turns rebel he must take up arms against him; yet, at the same time, he bids his men intreat the young man Absolom kindly. Now, can man punish and yet love? And shall not God do the same, who is fuller of mercy than the sea is of water? In the second place, it should teach every man to take heed of censuring any to be such as God hates, on whom God lays His afflicting hand. God doth not punish any of His so much as they deserve. Secondly, let us learn of our heavenly Father, to be merciful as He is merciful. The last amplification of God's mercy is, that He had delivered them — "Thou hast given us such a deliverance as this." Will some men say, "What deliverance was that?" It was the delivering of Israel from the Babylonish captivity, which lasted seventy years, and was a very great deliverance. There be certain deliverances which God bestows on men, for which they are to be more thankful than for others. It is true God is so great in the greatest that He is not little in the least, yet some are greater than others. Some of God's works are written in greater, some in smaller characters. It was not every deliverance which caused Hezekiah to pen a song, but it was God's adding a lease of fifteen years to his life when he thought himself past recovery. They were great deliverances that made the Jews keep their anniversaries, as the Feast of the Passover, of Tabernacles, and of Trumpets. Let me call upon you to reflect and to say with Ezra, "God hath given us such a deliverance as this." What a deliverance did God give unto us in this land at the entrance of good Queen Elizabeth of ever blessed memory, who restored true religion among us! As, therefore, at that time of need His mercy was great towards us, so let it appear in our lives that we are sensible of His extraordinary favour, by living holy and righteously all the days of our life.

(Josiah Shute, B. D.)

Should we again break Thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations
I. OUR NATIONAL DUTY TO GOD. This may be viewed in three lights.

1. Of moral and Christian obligation.

2. Of Scripture precedent.

3. Of prophetic promise.

II. The abominations to be renounced. Christian idolatry and the Papacy of Rome.

1. It is unbelieving. True faith is blotted out by a blind credulity.

2. It is idolatrous.

3. It is self-righteous.

4. It is persecuting.

5. In its whole practice it denies the Father and the Son.

III. THE KIND OF AFFINITY WHICH IS SINFUL ANY FORBIDDEN. It is one of sympathy, of partial adoption, and of the direct patronage of idolatrous error.


(T. R. Birks, M. A.)

In this verse we may take knowledge how Ezra justifies God's severity upon the precedency of man's sin. The verse divides itself into two parts: First, the sin; secondly, the punishment. The sin is laid down: First, generally, "Shall we return to break Thy commandments?" Secondly, particularly, "And join in affinity with the people of these abominations?" Then follows the punishment: First, "God will be angry"; secondly, there is the degree of His anger, "He will not leave consuming till all be destroyed." We begin with the sin in general: "Should we return to break Thy commandments?" — in the original it is "Should we return again to commit iniquities?" — which intimates to us that when God's hand was upon them it wrought them to amendment: from whence I note this much. That is sound repentance when a man so sorrows for his sin that he forsakes it. This lets us see the vanity of those who say they have repented of, and yet have not turned from their evil ways. It may be while God's hand was on them they repented. Secondly, as we say, we repent of our sins, so let us turn from them. This was the savoury counsel of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." It is possible for a man to turn from sin and yet be never the better, if he grieve not for it; and it is possible for a man to grieve for sin, and yet far enough from true repentance if he turn not from it. If any of us should have a servant that grieved for his offence, promising no more to commit the like, and yet as soon as our back is turned should run into the same again, we would presently conclude that he did but dissemble. "Should we return to break Thy commandments?" The manner of Ezra's speaking intimates to us, that it is possible for a man to be engaged in sin when he hath had a taste of God's mercy; and if so, give me leave from hence to gather this observation. After the receipt of great mercies, God's children are apt to be engaged in great sins. See it made good in some instances. Was there ever a greater deliverance bestowed on any than that which the Lord afforded Noah, when he outrid that storm of the deluge in the ark, when all the world besides him and his were drowned? But soon after he forgot his great favour, and was overtaken with intemperance. So in the children of Israel, what a deliverance did God vouchsafe them when He freed them from Egyptian bondage! What may be the reason of this? First, it is from the corruption of our nature since the fall of Adam, which is so depraved thereby that we are apt to forget the mercy of God even then, when we have most cause to remember it. Secondly, it proceeds from the malice of the devil; for when he sees God to bestow great mercies on men, he then labours especially to engage them in transgression. And why so? That the mercies of God may be obscured by their unthankfulness. Let me persuade you, that as ye be sensible of God's mercies, so to watch over yourselves Upon the receipt of them that ye may be thankful for them. And as the devil doth labour then to step in when God hath done men most good, so above all times labour at that time to be most thankful and obedient, that God may have His glory and you a sweet relish of His mercy. "Shall we break Thy commandments?" How shall we understand this "break Thy commandments"? How could it be otherwise? Doth any man live and not sin? And yet shall they for this be exposed to God's judgments? His meaning is, that if after so great mercy as God hath vouchsafed them they should fall into gross sins, then God should be just in punishing them. As therefore a man should avoid great sins, so also all lesser impieties. The heart of man should be against all sin, and he should have respect to all God's commandments, that if he chance to fall it may not be presumptuously, but by infirmity. "Shall we join in affinity with the people of these abominations?" Here I could observe how hateful the heathen and all their doings be unto God, as also how odious all gross sinners are in His pure eyes. In the Scripture ye shall find if the godly be compared to gold, the wicked are termed dross. Again, if the godly be termed sheep, the wicked are called goats; nay, in our text "they be abominable." So we may say of the wicked man, be he never so rich and honourable, if he be a gross sinner he is hateful to God. The Holy Ghost makes it a foul sin to join in affinity with the heathen; and, indeed, so it is, for God charges the contrary (Exodus 34:15, 16). And ye shall find that God hath followed those with punishments that have joined themselves to heathens. Esau married strange wives, to the great grief of his father and mother, and he was made the more profane by it. The like we see in Solomon. It was so with Samson, he would needs have the daughter of a Philistine to wife; what followed upon it? she proved his bane. ]Hake no league with gross sinners, for there is much danger in it. First, the danger of suspicion. Let a man be never so good, yet if he associate himself with those that be bad, he will be thought as bad as they; for what will men say? "Birds of a feather fly together." Secondly, he runs the hazard of infection. All the rivers of the world run into the sea, but yet they cannot sweeten it, but are made brakish by it. And a wicked man is ten times more apt to corrupt a good man than he is to be wrought on by the conversation of a good man. Thirdly, there is a danger of a curse by consorting with wicked men. For as many ill men fare the better for one man, thus the household of Potipher was blest for one Joseph; and all in the ship fared the better for Paul's presence. So many good men may sometimes fare the worse for one wicked person, thus for one Achan the whole host of Israel is discomfited. Besides, when a good man maintains inward familiarity with the wicked: First, he seems to approve and applaud their wickedness: secondly, it is a scandal to religion, and doth greatly prejudice weak Christians; thirdly, it is a great means to keep the wicked from repenting, for too much intimacy with them hardens them in their sin. We now come to the punishment: "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us till Thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" First, here is God's anger in the first clause, "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us?" Secondly, we have the degree of His anger in the last words, "so that there should be no escaping." We begin with God's anger, "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us?" Out of this first clause I note two things for our instruction. The first is this: great sins, after the receipt of great favours, are usually followed by great judgments. And wonder not at this, for it is a great dishonour to God that His favours should be slighted (Romans 2:4). The second observation arising from that clause, "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us till Thou hadst consumed us?" is this: there be degrees of God's wrath; it rises by little and little till it consume. This is proved in Leviticus 26. There we find that as men's sins increase, so God's plagues shall increase; and ii they persist in sin, He will plague them seven times more and seven times more. So in Psalm 78:38. Thus the wrath of God rises higher and higher. Could Rehoboam make his little finger as heavy as his father's loins? and could Nebuchadnezzar make his oven seven times hotter than it was before? and shall not God increase His wrath? Yes, He can at pleasure. One meets with a great number Who, ii they have been freed from an ague of which they had four or five fits, they presently say with Agag, "The bitterness is past, and they shall no more have it." What thinkest thou? Is not God able to visit thee again? In the second place, whensoever God's hand is upon us, let us know that He could lay much more upon us if He would.

(Josiah Shute, B. D.)

Ammonites, Amorites, Canaanites, Egyptians, Hittites, Jebusites, Levites, Moabites, Perizzites
Beyond the River, Jerusalem, Judea, Persia
Death, Deeds, Deliverance, Deserve, Deserved, Escape, Escaped, Evil, Evil-doing, Guilt, Hast, Iniquities, Kept, Less, Measure, O, Punished, Punishment, Remnant, Requited, Rod, Seeing, Sin, Sins, Trespass, Works, Yet
1. Ezra mourns for the affinity of the people with strangers
5. He prays unto God, with confession of sins

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Ezra 9:13

     1055   God, grace and mercy
     4019   life, believers' experience

Ezra 9:1-15

     8466   reformation

Ezra 9:4-15

     6624   confession, of sin

Ezra 9:13-14

     7145   remnant

Ezra 9:13-15

     6173   guilt, and God
     6174   guilt, human aspects

September 23 Morning
Our God hath not forsaken us.--EZRA 9:9. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.--If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. The Lord
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

The Sad Case of a Relapse into Known and Deliberate Sin, after Solemn Acts Op Dedication to God and Some Progress Made in Religion.
1. Unthought of relapses may happen.--2. And bring the soul into a miserable case.--3. Yet the case is not desperate.--4. The backslider urged immediately to return, by deep humiliation before God for so aggravated an offence.--5. By renewed regards to the divine mercy in Christ.--6. By an open profession of repentance, where the crime hath given public offence.--7. Falls to be reviewed for future caution.--8. The chapter concludes with a prayer for the use of one who hath fallen into gross sins,
Philip Doddridge—The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul

CHARACTERISTICS OF PRAYER. WHAT is prayer? A sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, for such things as God hath promised. The best prayers have often more groans than words. Alas, how few there be in the world whose heart and mouth in prayer shall go together. Dost thou, when thou askest for the Spirit, or faith, or love to God, to holiness, to saints, to the word, and the like, ask for them with love to them,
John Bunyan—The Riches of Bunyan

The Christian Struggling under Great and Heavy Affliction.
1. Here it is advised--that afflictions should only be expected.--2. That the righteous hand of God should be acknowledged in them when they come.--3. That they should be borne with patience.--4. That the divine conduct in them should be cordially approved.--5. That thankfulness should be maintained in the midst of trials.--6. That the design of afflictions should be diligently inquired into, and all proper assistance taken in discovering it.--7. That, when it is discovered, it should humbly be complied
Philip Doddridge—The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul

That it is not Lawful for the Well Affected Subjects to Concur in Such an Engagement in War, and Associate with the Malignant Party.
That It Is Not Lawful For The Well Affected Subjects To Concur In Such An Engagement In War, And Associate With The Malignant Party. Some convinced of the unlawfulness of the public resolutions and proceedings, in reference to the employing of the malignant party, yet do not find such clearness and satisfaction in their own consciences as to forbid the subjects to concur in this war, and associate with the army so constituted. Therefore it is needful to speak something to this point, That it is
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

Letter xx. Self-Examination.
"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves."--2 COR. 13:6. MY DEAR SISTER, In view of the positive injunction of Scripture, above quoted, no argument is necessary to show that self-examination is a duty. But if the word of God had been silent upon the subject, the importance of self-knowledge would have been a sufficient motive for searching into the secret springs of action which influence our conduct. A person ignorant of his own heart, is like a merchant, who knows
Harvey Newcomb—A Practical Directory for Young Christian Females

The Careless Sinner Awakened.
1, 2. It is too supposable a case that this Treatise may come into such hands.--3, 4. Since many, not grossly vicious, fail under that character.--5, 6. A more particular illustration of this case, with an appeal to the reader, whether it be not his own.--7 to 9. Expostulation with such.--10 to 12. More particularly--From acknowledged principles relating to the Nature of Got, his universal presence, agency, and perfection.--13. From a view of personal obligations to him.--14. From the danger Of this
Philip Doddridge—The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul

The Justice of God
The next attribute is God's justice. All God's attributes are identical, and are the same with his essence. Though he has several attributes whereby he is made known to us, yet he has but one essence. A cedar tree may have several branches, yet it is but one cedar. So there are several attributes of God whereby we conceive of him, but only one entire essence. Well, then, concerning God's justice. Deut 32:4. Just and right is he.' Job 37:23. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

Of Love to God
I proceed to the second general branch of the text. The persons interested in this privilege. They are lovers of God. "All things work together for good, to them that love God." Despisers and haters of God have no lot or part in this privilege. It is children's bread, it belongs only to them that love God. Because love is the very heart and spirit of religion, I shall the more fully treat upon this; and for the further discussion of it, let us notice these five things concerning love to God. 1. The
Thomas Watson—A Divine Cordial

Blessed are they that Mourn
Blessed are they that mourn. Matthew 5:4 Here are eight steps leading to true blessedness. They may be compared to Jacob's Ladder, the top whereof reached to heaven. We have already gone over one step, and now let us proceed to the second: Blessed are they that mourn'. We must go through the valley of tears to paradise. Mourning were a sad and unpleasant subject to treat on, were it not that it has blessedness going before, and comfort coming after. Mourning is put here for repentance. It implies
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Influences that Gave Rise to the Priestly Laws and Histories
[Sidenote: Influences in the exile that produced written ceremonial laws] The Babylonian exile gave a great opportunity and incentive to the further development of written law. While the temple stood, the ceremonial rites and customs received constant illustration, and were transmitted directly from father to son in the priestly families. Hence, there was little need of writing them down. But when most of the priests were carried captive to Babylonia, as in 597 B.C., and ten years later the temple
Charles Foster Kent—The Origin & Permanent Value of the Old Testament

Some of the most complicated problems in Hebrew history as well as in the literary criticism of the Old Testament gather about the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Apart from these books, all that we know of the origin and early history of Judaism is inferential. They are our only historical sources for that period; and if in them we have, as we seem to have, authentic memoirs, fragmentary though they be, written by the two men who, more than any other, gave permanent shape and direction to Judaism, then
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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