Ezra’s Prayer About Intermarriage (9:1–15)
10–15 And yet how had the Jews repaid God for His love? They had disregarded the commands He had given to them through His prophets—above all, through Moses (Exodus 34:10–16; Deuteronomy 7:1–6). These commands were not burdensome; they had been given to the Israelites so that they might enjoy the land (Deuteronomy 5:29,33) and leave it to their children as an everlasting inheritance (verse 12).
But now what did these post-exilic Jews deserve? Up till then they had been punished less than their former sins deserved. But now they deserved to be destroyed completely—without remnant, without survivor (verse 14). And if God did destroy them completely, He would be righteous in doing so. They would have brought this JUDGMENT upon themselves; not one of them could stand in His presence (verse 15).
And this has been the situation of every human being right up to this present day: we cannot stand in God’s presence; that is, we cannot claim any RIGHTEOUSNESS of our own. Because of our sin and guilt, we are deserving only of death (Romans 6:23). Our only hope is to do as Ezra did, to cast ourselves on God’s mercy and confess our sins. And God will hear our prayer, just as He heard the prayer of Ezra.
Note something very important about Ezra’s prayer: when he learned about sin in the community, he did not point his finger at others; he did not behave judgmentally or self-righteously. He identified with those who had sinned, even though he had not committed the same sin himself. In this, Ezra has given us an example of how we should confront sin in our own families and churches. Though each individual must bear the punishment for his or her own sin (see Deuteronomy 24:16 and comment), it is still true that members of a community share responsibility for one another; it is possible that some sin or weakness in myself has caused another brother or sister to stumble. Let us not judge (Matthew 7:1); rather, let us confess our sins one to another (James 5:16).