Sunday School Lessons

Get Rid of It!

Sometimes, when I realize that I don’t need something anymore, rather than throwing it out or giving it away, I move it to the basement.  Whether it’s a basement, attic, shed, closet, bin, or spare room, I suspect that a lot of other people have one of these “junk collector” locations.  I once described our basement as “the place that things go to die”, and my wife – while initially offended at this – now quotes that as an unfortunate reality.

I’d like to tell you that we’re getting better about cleaning up junk from the basement now, but it’s a slow journey!

In  Ezra 9:5-15, after finding that certain Israelites are practicing the same sins that got them exiled in the first place, Ezra prays for the people.  He confesses their sins (spelling out the specific commandment of God that the people have broken), and acknowledges God’s grace and mercy.

While Ezra is praying, a lot of people gather around (see also Ezra 9:3-4), and mourn over the nation’s sins (in this case, probably including prohibited intermarriage with pagan nations).  Whether specific individuals had practiced this sin or not, they were part of a people group that had allowed it to happen, in violation of God’s commands.

While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly.
Ezra 10:1 NIV

In fact, in Ezra 10:2-4, someone suggests that they commit to send away family members (wives and their children) who were from foreign nations.  This might seem a little harsh, but God takes the holiness of His people seriously.  (A commentator [Schoville] points out that, in this culture of arranged marriages, these wives should be able to return to their parents’ homes, bringing back the dowry that their parents had paid.)

So, while this might seem dramatic to a modern era (where we sometimes like to preserve the status quo), consider what Jesus said in Matthew 18:8-9 (see also Matthew 5:29-30, Mark 9:43-48).  If something is keeping us from being holy before God, as part of His family, we should get rid of it!  Block a channel on your TV, unsubscribe to a service, or add a filter to your router.  Or, stop hanging out with people who draw you away from God, or stop reading a particular author or source.  I don’t know what your challenging sins are, but if something is causing you to sin, and you could break ties with its hold on you, what is keeping you from doing exactly that?

As a side note: I appreciate that we are stuck in this world with a sinful nature or flesh, which doesn’t seem to get redeemed, even after our soul or spirit is made new in Jesus Christ, until the next life.  There are some temptations that we may need to fight until we are clothed with righteousness at Jesus’ return.  However, when something is pulling us into sin, and we can disconnect ourselves from the source of that temptation, what are we waiting for?

Our reaction when we read passages like this might be to complain that these sources of temptation are important to us, or that we can’t get along without them, but what in the world [literally!] is more important than your holiness before God, and the impact on your soul?

In fact, in verses 5-8: Ezra accepts this offer to send away non-Israelite wives and their children, and binds the people to this commitment (“under oath”).  He sets a three-day window for the exiles to return to Jerusalem (with consequences for those who don’t follow the instruction).

If you’re struggling to get rid of something that keeps pulling you into sin, I encourage you to read the rest of Ezra 10, to learn how the people of Israel did what they said they would do, but have to get through some very real obstacles to doing so.

So yes, let us strive in our own lives (and help those that we love) to choose partners – in marriage, business, friendships, and elsewhere – who share our faith, and to prioritize that sort of common ground over any other differences.

But perhaps more importantly, if something is keeping you from being holy before God, get rid of it.  Today!  Don’t just move it to the basement.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for January 22, 2023


  • The Lookout, January 22, 2023, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press NIV Commentary – Ezra-Nehemiah, by Keith Schoville.  © 2001 College Press Publishing Co.

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