Are We Appalled Any Longer?
You’ve probably heard it said that all sin is equal in the sight of God. In one sense, this is a true statement. All sin makes us equally deserving of the wrath of God and needful of the grace of God. However, in another sense, all sin is not equal in the sight of God in how He responds to it and we should respond to it.
In chapter 8, Ezra discovers that there are no Levitical priests who have returned with the remnant to Jerusalem to serve in the rebuilt temple. So, they set out to fetch some. Fearful of the opposition they will face on the journey, they fast and pray humbly asking God for safety. But note 8:22:
For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”(ESV)
Ezra is ashamed of the separation between what he knows of God and the insufficiency of his faith in God. He is ashamed because insufficient faith in the goodness of God is sin. That shame leads him to fasting and humble prayer. We see the result in v.23 — “…and He listened to our entreaty.”
Part of the process of our our growing in faith and our sanctification will always include sins of unbelief. We should be ashamed of such sins and ask God to deepen our faith as we learn to obey and see Him at work through our obedience.
There is another sort of sin that is of a different order, however. These are sins of knowingly, intentionally, and repeatedly disobeying the will of God, as the Israelites do by once again intermarrying with their unbelieving neighbors. We have seen time and again in reading the Old Testament the tragic results of this sin. Note the difference in Ezra’s response from the sin in the previous chapter:
Ezra 9:3-6 (ESV) 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, 6 saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.
Ezra finds it shocking, horrifying, and unbelievable that they would once again turn away from God in this way. He goes on to speak of all the ways God has shown His steadfast love for them. How could they respond to His goodness with such blatant rebellion?
I can’t help but wonder how many Ezra’s are left today? How many of us are ashamed at the sin of our unbelief? How many of us are appalled at how quickly we as Christians so quickly run after the world again and again, forgetting the goodness of God toward us? How many of us weep that our people knowingly rebel against the will of God? Far too often, we simply offer excuses or plead the grace of God as if repentance were not a prerequisite.
So, ask yourself with me: Am I ashamed of my faithlessness? Am I appalled at my rebelliousness? Am I willing for my life and my repentance to be a testimony against the sin of my friends and loved ones that they might be confronted with their own?