Ezra’s community prayer

3 02 2010

Ezra, relocating to Jerusalem to help rebuild it, discovered something shocking. First off, Ezra himself was a bit of a nerd – “skilled in the law of Moses” (= pure academic) who sought “to do [the law]” (= faithful believer) and “to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel” (= teacher). So, he was basically a theology professor….

So this ancient theology professor had just lead a huge group of exiles back to the land of their fathers (no small feat, considering they crossed the desert with hundreds of pounds of gold & silver without getting mugged). They arrive, they join the people already in Jerusalem, and they all worshiped.

Sounds great, sounds like a success. He managed to organize and bring the people back. Then, for reasons that escape me, some men run up to tattle on the people who are already living in the Jerusalem area. Best I can figure, these men just didn’t know who else to too. They saw Ezra walking into town with quite the array, and figure he can deal with their problem. So they tell him how all these people of Israel are marrying foreigners.

Now, Ezra, the man who led a crowd through the desert guarded only by angels, did not become angry. He didn’t say, “Who cares?” and he didn’t storm off to yell at the people committing the sin. Instead, he mourns. He actually cries out and “sat appalled”. Have you ever done that? You ever sit appalled? Over your own sins? How about over someone else’s? I don’t think I have – maybe over someone’s pain, but never their sins.

Alright, all this was to get to the point: After sitting appalled all day, he prayed, “O my God! I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you. My God!! Our iniquities have risen higher than our heads. And our guilt has mounted up to the heavens!!” (9:6)

“Our iniquities” and “our guilt”. He’s not married to a foreign woman. But he accepts responsibility for the guilt of his people. He prays on their behalf from within the community. Oh, that we could learn to do the same! How would things looks if we identified with our communities in this same way? And no, I don’t just mean our churches.