In today’s reading, Ezra learned that the Israelites had already succumbed to the temptation to intermarry with the local foreigners. Even though less than one hundred years had passed since the people first returned to Judah, they were already diluting the Jewish faith with foreign gods.
Some might judge Ezra’s response as extreme. He tore his clothes and wept and mourned. But he knew what this meant for the future of his people. He knew that compromising in this one area would open the floodgates and lead to apostasy and judgment. He did not want Israel to repeat her history!
Fast forward to today’s reading in 2 Corinthians and we find Paul addressing the exact same issue. Paul uses Old Testament imagery to drive home the point that the church is God’s covenant family, and because of His grace and mercy, we should strive to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
Our sin should bring us much grief and sorrow. But, it should not lead to despair and hopelessness! Listen to the Israelite’s response to their sin (from Ezra)…
…the people wept bitterly. And Shecaniah […] addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this (Ezra 10:1-2)!
Why was there hope? Because of God’s Great Grace and Mercy!
But God’s grace and mercy can only be experienced through humility and repentance. Both Paul and Ezra describe repentance in today’s passages. Ezra describes how the people not only “wept bitterly” over their sin, but made drastic decisions to make things right. And Paul describes how the Corinthians’ repentance brought him much joy.
In both cases, repentance restored the relationship with God and brought about God’s comfort and grace. This is the beauty of repentance!
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret… (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
We must never believe that our sin is out of the reach of Forgiveness. The shadow of the cross covers our greatest sins!