About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Ezra Helps Us Pray For The Church

 

In 538 B. C. King Cyrus of Persia freed the Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity.  He allowed them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple and their city.  About 50,000 exiles felt Godís call to make the trip to their homeland.  In 458 B.C., a devoted teacher of Godís word named Ezra, along with 1500 others felt the same call of God.  The trip to Jerusalem lasted a long four months for Ezra and his friends.  They were anticipating wonderful and glorious things upon their arrival.  The 50,000 exiles who had gone before them had been stirred by the Spirit of God to rebuild both the temple and the city.  So you can understand why Ezra and his friends would be excited.  They expected to see a rebuilt temple and a holy city, but they didnít see what they expected.  

 

When these people finally arrived in Jerusalem they were appalled at what they saw (Ezra 9:3).  The Jews who had been living there for the last eighty years had forsaken the building project.  Worse still, they had forsaken their God by compromising themselves with the pagan world around them.  Jewish men married pagan women and formed business partnerships with pagan men.  They actually began to participate in pagan religious practices resulting in Israel losing her distinction as being the people of God.  They were no different than the pagan world around them.     

 

In this state of shock and despair Ezra fell to the ground, ripped his clothes, pulled hair from his head and beard, and cried out to God (Ezra 9:3).  Even though he had not paganized himself like the others, Ezra came to the Lord in serious repentance as if  he had.  He was totally ashamed at what Israel had become (Ezra 9:6).  He prophesied that God was giving Israel ďa brief momentĒ of graciousness in order for them to repent (Ezra 9:8).  Ezraís prayer was a prayer of serious repentance and hope.  This spirit of repentance spread to the rest of Israel, resulting in a national revival of repentance.  If you want to know the practicalities of their repentance, read Ezra 9 and 10.  The details will disturb you, but youíll certainly see how real their  repentance was.   

 

In general terms, itís my opinion that the church today is not that much different than Israel was in Ezraís day.  In many respects we have paganized and secularized ourselves as Israel did.  We look more worldly than godly, as Israel also looked.  Weíve lost the distinctiveness that should set us apart as the people of God, and I donít just mean the way we dress as was taught a few decades ago.  Iím speaking about the way we live and who we are.  I believe Ezra can help us.

 

Iíve often prayed about the state of our churches today. Iíve usually been at a loss to know just how to pray.  I used to pray for another Holy Spirit revival, another outpouring of the Spirit on us.  Yet even when praying for this I hesitated because I think we tend to waste such Holy Spirit revivals.  I lived through the Charismatic Movement of the 1960ís and 1970ís.  Itís my opinion that we organized and structuralized much of that revival of Godís Spirit out of existence. 

 

I finally know how to pray.  We should pray as Ezra prayed.  We should take personal  responsibility for the present state of the church, even if it wasnít of our making.  We should take this burden on our own shoulders, come to our Lord in serious repentant prayer until a spirit of repentance comes on us all. There is still time for Godís graciousness to come our way, but I believe the time is brief as Ezra stated.  God gives us all space to repent, and thatís on all levels; individually, collectively as the church, and nationally.  Once that time is over, itís over.  Judgment follows.    

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