“Lord, thank You for Your forgiveness and compassion. Teach me to grieve for the lost, and, more importantly, to grieve for my sins against You. I know that I commonly seek the approval and acceptance of my neighbors, and sometimes feel greater embarrassment over the shame of embarrassing myself socially, yet forget that my spiritual trespasses against You are far more grave. Thank You for today’s reminder of my weaknesses, and your encouragement to continue in my maturing through accountability to my faith.”
Key Verses: Ezra 8:22-23; 9:6,15
I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
“O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.”
“O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence."
As I read yesterday, Ezra was blessed to have been guided by the very Hand of God. The closeness of that relationship, which all Christ-followers desire, provided a secondary, and perhaps more important, blessing in his life…the capacity to grieve deeply for his sin and the sin of God’s chosen people, the Jews.
When I first read the passage today, I was immediately struck by the shame he experienced, both in his relationship to an earthly king (socially) and his King of Kings (spiritually). My thought was that, certainly, the passage must have used two different terms for the social shame that we experience in the form of embarrassment over rash words or actions, and the spiritual shame that we experience when confronted with our sins; but the term used in both instances was the same: buwsh (Heb, pronounced “boosh”).
He was embarrassed and ashamed to ask the king for protection on the trip back to Jerusalem because of his convincing words regarding the protection that God alone will provide for the faithful, because it would be akin to a lack of faith in the truth of his convictions about God. It might even lead the king to assume that this God of the Jews was not a powerful and glorious God at all, and he might have reconsidered his generous offer of treasure and sacrificial animals for the Temple altogether.
In the ninth chapter though, we read of the abject shame and overwhelming sense of worthlessness that Ezra experienced in the knowledge of the sin of his people before God. He was so ashamed that he could not even lift his head before God. The crushing weight of his shame was not even for his own sin, but the sin of the Jews in rebelling against the Law through intermarriage.
How often so we turn those priorities around in our lives? We say a rash word or make a mistake in front of those that we esteem socially, and we react by avoiding them, while at the same time hoping desperately for their forgiveness. How often do we beat ourselves up with thoughts of “I wish I would not have said that…” or “I wish that I would not have done that…” when it comes to our friends and acquaintances…and yet when it comes to God, we boldly confess our sins, taking for granted the awesome forgiveness that He faithfully provides.
Our weakness, so often, is our prioritization of acceptance by other people over the desire to please God.
This passage provided me with a stark reminder that if my shame and grief over my personal trespasses against my Lord and Master, Christ Jesus, as well as the sins of my brothers and sisters in Christ, is not so heavy on my heart that I cannot even lift my head or rise from my knees, then I have far to go in understanding the enormity of God’s wrath against sin.
It also convicts me of how much I marginalize the magnificence of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness in my life.
Ezra understood the abject spiritual poverty and shame we should all experience in light of our sins against our loving Father. As my journey continues, I hope that I, too, will grow in my humility before God, rather than men, and demonstrate more deeply my grief over my trespasses against Him.