OT: Ezra 8:21-9:15
On his journey to Jerusalem, Ezra has the battle the whole, "Trust in God, but lock your car" conundrum. He believes that God is with them....but they are also carrying a whole lot of gold and silver. Shouldn't he ask the king for some soldiers and horsemen to protect them from bandits along the way?
Interestingly, Ezra doesn't. You kind of get the impression that he wanted to, but that he was too embarrassed. He says, "I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, 'The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him...'" (22). Thankfully, God is indeed with them, and they make it to their destination safely.
Me, I tend to lock my car door.
Like I said yesterday, I get a little confused on the timeline, and on who's who, but in chapter 9, there is some point where some people are intermarrying. Is it shortly after Ezra arrives, and he sees that the exiles who were already there were intermarrying? Or is it awhile later and his own exile group is intermarrying? Inquiring minds want to know.
Regardless, Ezra is not happy, and he delivers an intense, profoundly sorrowful prayer to God. According to his words in the prayer, what really seems to get Ezra is the fact that the people screwed up again so quickly after being shown such amazing mercy. I can totally relate to that sentiment. I have had several times in my life where I was just stupefied by how quickly I fell back into sin after I had repented and felt God's wonderful grace. I can attest that the guilt during those times can be quite overwhelming and hard to bear. Thankfully, God does not give up on us as we struggle toward holiness and toward communion with Him.
I will be interested to see what God's response is, though I already have a clue from my Bible commentary.
NT: 1 Cor. 5:1-13
This has always been such an interesting passage to me. It introduces such a complex picture of judgment, which contrasts with Jesus' relatively simple message of, "Don't do it."
First of all, I do find it freeing to realize that even hard-core Paul does not believe that we should judge those outside the church. Specifically, he says, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked man from among you'" (12-13). Phew! I am soooo glad to be reminded that it is not my job to judge or regulate culture. Am I to be salt and light to the world? Yes. Am I to live a counter-cultural life if my culture is not pleasing to God? Yes. Can I have an opinion on the behavior of outsiders? Yes! Is it my responsibility to regulate that behavior? No. Paul even realizes that we can't not (do you like that double negative?) associate with people who live and believe differently from us. He tells us that if we try to avoid everyone who lives in ways with which we disagree, then we "would have to leave this world" (10b). Now, I have to admit that my maternal instincts read that last phrase and say, "And that's....bad?" Part of me sooo wants to shelter my kids from this world, to remove them from the world and to place them into my little safe bubble for them. But no. In the world, but not of the world. It is critical that my kids learn to be both.
At the same time, Paul sings a different tune when talking about people in the church. And granted, he is talking about a type of overt immorality, but still. According to him, we should kick people out and stop associating with them if they are sexually immoral. Paul believes that this practice will ultimately help the immoral person "so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord" (5). I am ambivalent in my reaction to this advice, and I'm not quite sure how it is supposed to play out today. As far as I know, my church has never kicked anyone out or "shunned" anyone. And Lord knows we aren't perfect, nor can I vouch for everyone's sexual morality. So I'm not sure how much we are applying this verse. At the same time, I have to say that part of me thinks that the heart of Paul's instructions here are practical and necessary. Much harm is done to the kingdom by Christians who live in immoral ways. Surely we have an obligation to confront immorality within ourselves, to stand up for what is right. I have had people talk to me before about something I was doing wrong, and I have talked to people about things that I thought they were doing wrong. And it is never pleasant at all, but when it is done right (i.e. when it is done out of genuine love), it is usually a good thing.
Still though, I do have questions about exactly how to apply Paul's specific instructions ("expel the wicked man from among you") to the church today.
David calls out to God to save him from his enemies, claiming, "Into your hands I commit my spirit" (5a).
These verses make for an interesting juxtaposition.
Verse 1 says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases."
Verse 2 says, "All a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart."
Why bother to weigh the heart or judge it? He is the one directing it wherever He pleases! Man. There is SO much that I do not understand about God.