Sunday School Lessons

I Thought That This Was Handled

In the previous article, Ezra demonstrated mourning and distress in Ezra 9:3-4, in response to bad news that he had received about the behavior of some of his fellow Israelites.  Per verses 5-7, after Ezra sits for a while, he gets up around the time of the evening sacrifice (around 3pm, per Schoville, p.120).  However, he’s not getting up to stand proudly before God or to walk away.  Instead, he gets down on his knees and prays to God.  I’d say that’s a pretty good idea for any one of us who becomes aware of sin like this.  In fact, per James 5:13-16, we are to “confess our sins” and “pray for each other”.

Remember, Ezra – as near as we can tell – had not married a woman from the pagan cultures around Jerusalem.  He’d just recently gotten there, after all!  However, he understood that a community that harbors sin shares the guilt of those who are allowed to continue in sin and remain a member of that community.

Note also that, as the Lookout (cited below) reminds us, the very fact that the evening sacrifice was taking place was a gift from God.  If He had not led a foreign king to support the Israelites, the temple would probably still be destroyed.  If God had not guided another king to look favorably upon the Israelites, Ezra might not be back in Jerusalem.

Ezra’s prayer starts with his own shame, and a confession of the people’s sins.  He acknowledges that the people have been punished for sins, and that they are still under the rule of another kingdom.  Put simply, the kinds of sins that resulted in Israel and Judah being overthrown and destroyed were taking place again!

Have you ever thought that a problem was fixed, but found out later that it was still going on?

  • Maybe you fixed a leaking sink, but then heard it dripping at 3am the next morning.
  • Maybe you had a friend who got sober, but you found out later that he or she had started drinking too much again.
  • Maybe there was a debate in your church over something trivial, and all parties had agreed on a consensus (which is a good thing), but then – months later – you hear one of them complaining about the same thing.

This is so frustrating.  You say to yourself, “I thought that we had handled this”, but yet the damage is still being done, whether to your house, your loved ones, or a group.

Let’s read more of Ezra’s prayer.

“But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.
Ezra 9:8‭-‬9 NIV

When we are in despair, it can be natural to just remain there.  However, even in His justice, God is loving, gracious, and merciful, and there is hope for those who have sinned against Him.

Ezra remembers – and testifies to – the fact that God has given them a reprieve.  They have been able to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple.  The people are still under the rule of Persia, but they know that the chance to go back to the Promised Land is God’s work.

Now, some might point out that the walls of Jerusalem haven’t necessarily been rebuilt yet, but God is able to provide a “hedge of protection”, we might say (see Job 1:10), for His people.

The sooner sin can be confessed and addressed, the better off we will be, both as individuals and as a community.  The Lookout says, “The exiles were in danger of turning back to the sinful ways that had caused them to go into captivity in the first place. Ezra was committed to nip that mindset in the bud.”  So, don’t let your own sins grow, and try to help others ditch their sins as quickly as possible, too.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for January 29, 2023


  • The Lookout, January 29, 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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