The 365 Day Devotional Commentary


Reading 99

NEHEMIAH’S REFORMS Nehemiah 8–13“Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God” (Neh. 8:18).Nehemiah had restored the walls of the city. He then turned to his most important task: restoring the relationship of the people of Judah with God.


Ezra read and explained God’s Word to the people of Judah (8:1–18). The people confessed sins (9:1–38) and determined to give God priority (10:1–39). Nehemiah resettled Jerusalem (11:1–12:27), and the people joyfully dedicated its restored wall (vv. 27–47). Later, returning for a second term as governor, Nehemiah found the people had failed to live up to their commitments and initiated further reforms (13:1–31). Ezra and Scroll. Nehemiah 8:8 says Ezra read from the Book of the Law “making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand.” The biblical text recorded on ancient scrolls is in Hebrew. By Ezra’s time ordinary people spoke Aramaic, a related but different language. Ezra had to translate as well as explain the text!

Understanding the Text

“Day after day . . . Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God” Neh. 8:13–18. A highlight of the eight-day Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) reported here was daily reading of the Old Testament. By spending one fourth of the day in reading (9:3), Ezra was probably able to cover the entire five Books of Moses. This reading of Scripture laid the foundation for the spiritual renewal that Nehemiah was so eager to stimulate. Scripture still has power to lift us out of any spiritual low. “They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers” Neh. 9:1–38. The reading of Scripture provided the people of Judah with perspective. The history of their fathers was one of persistent rebellion, yet one shaped by continual expressions of God’s grace. The Jews were now “slaves in the land You gave our forefathers” to Gentile kings, who “rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please.” And this was “because of our sins” (vv. 36–37). The perspective provided by Scripture produced a dual response. First, the people acknowledged that their present “great distress” was a consequence of their own and their fathers’ failure to obey God. Second, the people determined to make a formal “binding agreement” to obey God from that time onward. Scripture still speaks in the same voice. We are convicted of sin, and at the same time called to commitment. Conviction leads to conversion—if we too hear and respond. “All these now join their brothers . . . and bind themselves” Neh. 10:1–39. The religious reforms stimulated by Ezra and Nehemiah touched the whole people. The reforms reveal areas in which Judah had fallen short. There was a general commitment to “follow the Law of God,” but specific promises were made to avoid marriage with neighboring peoples, to keep the Sabbath holy, and to actively support temple worship. The very concept of “reform” means that we identify weaknesses and commit ourselves to correct them. Self-examination is important for believers of every age. Self-examination, however, must always have correction as its goal. Without renewed recommitment, confession alone is unlikely to transform. “To live in Jerusalem” Neh. 11:1–12:26. The agricultural lands that supported the small Jewish community after the Exile lay far from Jerusalem. The now-walled city had been sparsely occupied, especially as the people had failed to pay the tithes which would have supported the priests and Levites who were supposed to minister at the temple. To support themselves, these worship leaders had been forced to move out to their villages and till their own fields. The repopulation of Jerusalem, while necessary for its security, was religiously motivated. This is seen in the emphasis in the text on priests, Levites, and other temple officers (11:10–12:28). All these persons would have to be supported by the tithe pledged by the rest of the community. Such sacrifice could be motivated only by a pure desire to worship and honor God. Sacrifice remains a significant measure of our commitment to and love for the Lord. The giving of many Christians goes beyond tipping God out of their excess, to tightening their belts in order to contribute more. “The dedication of the wall” Neh. 12:27–47. The text emphasizes the fact that the dedication of Jerusalem’s walls was an occasion to “celebrate joyfully.” As two choirs marched in opposite directions to meet before the temple, the whole community rejoiced “because God had given them great joy.” There were two sources of this joy. The first was external and visible. The people of God had successfully rebuilt the walls. This visible accomplishment not only honored the Lord, whose city Jerusalem was, but also boosted Jewish morale. The Jews were no longer despised by their neighbors, who realized that the work had only been achieved “with the help of our God” (6:16). We do live in a material universe. Visible accomplishments not only impress others, and thus testify to the reality of God, but also serve as a testimony to us. We have a right to be joyful over visible as well as strictly spiritual achievements. Yet the great well from which Judah’s joy flowed was inner and spiritual. God’s people had confessed their sins to Him, and had recommitted themselves to serve Him. There was a great sense of spiritual well-being. All sensed that they were again right with God. For you and me too, the ultimate source of joy is to be found in our relationship with the Lord. When we are right with Him, visible signs of His presence become less important to us. When we are right with God, we can rejoice even when external things go wrong. “I was not in Jerusalem” Neh. 13. After a productive first term as governor of Judah, Nehemiah returned to serve the King of Persia. During his absence the people drifted back into their old practices of mixed marriage, doing business on the Sabbath, and failing to support those who conducted temple worship. Nehemiah did return, and immediately set things right again. Nehemiah’s whole life reminds us of an important spiritual principle. Leaders are called to encourage others to complete commitment to God, and to help them maintain that commitment. Today, as in Nehemiah’s day, we need leaders who will help us serve God wholeheartedly.


Remember Me for This (Neh. 13)

Here, in the last chapter of the book that bears Nehemiah’s name, we find the clearest expression of this great Old Testament leader’s heart. In his “remember me” statements, Nehemiah identifies those actions which he sees as his most significant service for the Lord. What is striking about the list is that nowhere does Nehemiah say, “Remember me, O Lord, for rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.” The one accomplishment which his contemporaries might have seen as most important, isn’t even mentioned! It’s helpful for us to remember this in a day when so many take pride in buildings—in founding universities, in constructing beautiful churches, or in building great networks over which the Gospel can be heard. Certainly these are worthy endeavors, just as building the wall of Jerusalem was a worthy and holy endeavor. Yet what we see in Nehemiah 13 is that these are not the most important of spiritual endeavors. For Nehemiah, what was most important was promoting the worship of God (v. 14). It was helping Judah honor God by keeping the Sabbath Day holy (v. 22). It was insisting that those who served the Lord remain pure (v. 30). What counted most to Nehemiah was his impact for God on the lives of the men and women of his own time. What a blessing to see this in Nehemiah. You and I may never stand among the great builders of our times. But we can stand, with Nehemiah, as persons who encourage the men and women among whom we live to worship the Lord better, to honor Him more fully, and to remain pure. If we do, when the day comes that God honors His servants, you and I will stand beside Nehemiah among the most significant people of God.

Personal Application

It is more important to touch one life for God than to build a great city.


“I believe that the reason of life is for each of us to simply grow in love. I believe that this growth in love will contribute more than any other force to establish the kingdom of God on earth.”—Leo Tolstoy

The 365 Day Devotional Commentary


Reading 98

OPPOSITION TO REBUILDING Nehemiah 4–7“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ’Their hands will get too weak for the work and it will not be completed’ (Neh. 6:9).Nehemiah faced serious opposition. The way he met various challenges serves as a model for us today.


Nehemiah faced ridicule (4:1–5) and the threat of attack from Judah’s neighbors (vv. 6–23). He also found injustices in Judah that delayed the work (5:1–19). Nehemiah avoided traps set by enemies (6:1–14) and completed the wall (vv. 15–19). After checking genealogies, he repopulated Jerusalem (7:1–73).

Understanding the Text

“Can they bring the stones back to life?” Neh. 4:1–5 The stone in Judah is a soft limestone. When fired, all moisture evaporates and even massive stones crumble into dust. The very idea that Nehemiah might “bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble” amused the surrounding peoples. They openly ridiculed the Jews, and joked about their efforts. Ridicule can be discouraging, especially when we undertake a difficult task. Nehemiah’s response serves us as a guide for dealing with ridicule. He prayed that God would “turn their insults back on their own heads.” Nehemiah did not argue or defend his calling. He knew that God could bring success, and that success alone can silence ridicule. “We rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height” Neh. 4:6–23. As the wall gradually rose, the ridicule of the Jews’ enemies turned to angry hostility. No one likes to be proven wrong! Hostility soon turned to open opposition, as the neighboring peoples plotted an attack on Nehemiah’s work force. Nehemiah met the threat by showing determination, and by preparedness. He showed determination by arming his men. This evidence that the Jews were ready to defend themselves frustrated the enemy, who had planned a sneak attack on defenseless people. A show of determination in the face of an enemy often avoids conflict. Nehemiah did not rest on that initial bloodless victory. From that time on half the people stood guard while the other half worked. Trumpet signals were established so the whole group could respond to an attack on any section of the wall. When we know enemies surround us, we need to plan in advance how to meet any attacks. “A great outcry against their Jewish brothers” Neh. 5:1–19. The work was also threatened by injustice in Judah’s society. The wealthy oppressed the poor, and rather than follow God’s laws, they loaned money at high interest, then claimed lands and forced families into servitude in payment of the debt. Nehemiah confronted the practice, and won agreement by the whole congregation to stop the usury and to return seized lands. Note that Nehemiah was able to confront this internal sin because he himself was blameless. Unlike other governors, who lived by taxing their subjects, Nehemiah had paid all the expenses of his office himself! Leaders need to be blameless if they are to exhort others with integrity. Parents too must be sure when correcting children that they are setting a good example. Nehemiah was able to accomplish all that he did not because he had secular authority, but because of the moral force of his example of full commitment to God. “He had been hired to intimidate me” Neh. 6:1–14. Three more attempts were made by the Jews’ enemies to halt work on the wall. They attempted to isolate Nehemiah so they could harm him (vv. 1–4). Nehemiah refused to abandon his mission even for a brief time. We need to concentrate on the task God has given us, and resist those who would harm the work by distracting us. They attempted to frighten Nehemiah by accusing the Jews of rebellion (vv. 5–9). It’s not unusual for Christians to be misrepresented and falsely accused. All they can do in such cases is to assert, as Nehemiah did, that the accusations are not true, and to continue their work. They attempted to intimidate Nehemiah into an act of unbelief (vv. 10–14). Nehemiah rejected the so-called prophecy of one Jew, who wanted Nehemiah to lock himself up inside the temple for self-protection. If Nehemiah had fallen into this trap, he would have displayed a lack of that faith in God that he was exhorting, and forfeited the confidence of his people. If we are calling on others to trust the Lord, we must surely display trust in Him ourselves. Each effort of the enemy failed to distract Nehemiah from his mission. The result of Nehemiah’s faithfulness was successful completion of his mission. “So the wall was completed” Neh. 6:15–19. The impossible task was accomplished! The enemies of God’s people “lost their self-confidence,” and God was glorified. Even the enemies realized that the work had been done with the help of the Lord.” When you and I are called to any ministry we can approach it as Nehemiah did—with steadfast faith, and the knowledge that when we succeed, it will all be to the glory of God. “The city was large and spacious” Neh. 7:1–73. Most of those who had resettled Judah lived in smaller towns, where there were fields to cultivate. Jerusalem had been largely unpopulated. Nehemiah, after carefully consulting the genealogical records to ensure each family’s claim, settled 1/10th of the people in the city (cf. 11:1–2). Once again the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob not only lived on lands promised them by God, but also occupied the city God chose as a resting place for His name.


Danger! Danger! Danger! (Neh. 5)

A favorite TV show of mine, long even off reruns, was “Space Family Robinson.” One of the characters was a rotund robot, who each show would sense some approaching threat and cry out, “Danger! Danger! Danger!” The danger might be a meteor storm or a space pirate or the breakup of a planet. But it was always a threat that the family met and overcame together. Reading Nehemiah 5 reminds us that the greatest dangers to God’s family aren’t from without, but from within. Nehemiah easily met outsiders’ ridicule, their threats, and their attempts at intimidation. What really threatened his mission was injustice in Judah itself! Wealthy Jews took advantage of their neighbors’ poverty to defraud them. These injustices created more poverty, hunger, and despair. How could the people of Judah unite to build Jerusalem’s walls when so many were distracted by their deep personal needs? It’s the same today in Christ’s church. The greatest hindrance to accomplishing the mission Christ has set for us is sin. When we ignore the needs of our brothers and sisters, when we put money ahead of ministry, when we are insensitive to others’ hurts, we defraud our brothers and sisters of the love that can meet their needs and bind the body together in unity. Only when we cleanse ourselves of sin, and practice Christian love within our fellowships, will the church be ready for mission.

Personal Application

Sins of Christians must be addressed if we are to have an impact on our world.


“Sixteen years ago, I talked about the desperate needs in other parts of the world. Now I tell Christians, wherever they are, that they must ’refall’ in love with Jesus. Christianity in the West today says we must have a bigger church and bigger car and a better suit. Once Christians fall out of love with that and fall in love with Jesus, I won’t need to talk mission: they will become missionaries because they love Him.”—Helen Roseveare

The 365 Day Devotional Commentary



Reading 97

NEHEMIAH’S MISSION Nehemiah 1–3“Send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so I can rebuild it” (Neh. 2:5).Nehemiah’s concern for the state of the city of Jerusalem was in fact concern for the glory of God. The Holy City was in disrepair. Nehemiah’s mission was to restore the city that God had chosen to represent His name.


City walls.

In the ancient world a city without walls was vulnerable to enemy attack, and thus insignificant. Only a walled city was considered respectable. This perception explains Nehemiah’s grief when he heard that Jerusalem’s walls were broken down and its gates burned, and also explains Nehemiah’s references to the Jews’ “troubles” and “disgrace.” By rebuilding the walls of the city, Nehemiah would force the surrounding peoples to respect the Jews and to respect Israel’s God.


Nehemiah was moved at a report of Jerusalem’s ruined condition (1:1–4). After prayer (vv. 5–11), he begged King Artaxerxes to appoint him governor of Judah (2:1–10). In Judah he rallied local support (vv. 11–20) and set the people to work rebuilding the city walls (3:1–32).

Understanding the Text

“I mourned and fasted and prayed” Neh. 1:1–4. Nehemiah was secure in an important position in Susa, then the capital of the Persian Empire. Yet when he heard about conditions in Judah, he was broken-hearted. Not every Christian can be a wall-builder. But each of us can have Nehemiah’s concern for the welfare of fellow believers. First Corinthians 12 calls on us to view the church as a body, in which each believer is intimately linked with every other Christian. Thus the apostle writes, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (v. 26). Not every Christian can be a wall-builder. But each of us can pray. When we hear of others in need, the most important thing we can do for them may well be to follow Nehemiah’s lead, and express our concern in heartfelt prayer. And let’s remember. Nehemiah’s great ministry began with this prayer. If you or I wish to become spiritual leaders, we must begin where Nehemiah began. With prayer. “The place . . . chosen as a dwelling for My Name” Neh. 1:5–11. Nehemiah’s prayer acknowledged the sin which led to Jerusalem’s destruction. Yet Nehemiah remembered that God had chosen Jerusalem as a “dwelling for My Name.” The phrase means that God had chosen to identify Himself with the Holy City. Thus the glory of God was intimately linked with the condition of the city. The ruined condition of the city walls not only indicated hardships experienced by the Jews in Judah, but also cast a shadow that disguised the glory of God. This is another important aspect of prayer. Prayer rightly expresses concern for brothers and sisters in need. But prayer is also to reflect concern for the glory of God. We urge God to act, not only that we may be blessed, but that He may be glorified. First John observes that “if we ask anything according to [God’s] will, He hears us” (5:14). Nehemiah gives us a simple way to check whether our prayers are in God’s will. Does a prayer express concern for others? Does a prayer seek an answer which will glorify God? If the answer to these questions is yes, we can be confident that our prayer is in God’s will. “I was cupbearer to the king” Neh. 2:1–6. In ancient times the “cupbearer” had an important post in the administration of an empire. The holder of the office had direct access to the king, symbolized by the privilege of handing the ruler his cup at official banquets and functions. Thus Nehemiah was a very important person in Persia, whose services were highly valued by the king. How fascinating that Nehemiah was willing to exchange the honor of this post for the relatively insignificant title of governor of tiny Judah! Yet Nehemiah did not look at it this way. To him the importance of the post depended on the importance of the person he served. In Susa he served the ruler of the mighty Persian Empire. But in tiny Judah, Nehemiah would serve God. Let’s remember this truth and grasp its meaning for us. The simplest Sunday School teacher is far more significant than a person on the President’s staff, for the God he or she serves is far greater than any mere man. “The king granted my requests” Neh. 2:7–10. Nehemiah attributed the king’s permission to go to Judah and rebuild its walls to God’s favor. We can thank others who help us. But when our requests have been preceded by earnest prayer we realize the help is evidence of God’s grace. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said” Neh. 2:11–20. When Nehemiah arrived, he surveyed the walls to discover how great the ruin was. Despite the heaps of shattered stone and burned timbers, Nehemiah then challenged the Jews to “come . . . rebuild the wall.” How did Nehemiah succeed in enlisting their aid? Rather than order, he encouraged. And he encouraged by (1) telling what God had already done, and (2) confidently predicting that “the God of heaven will give us success.” Effective spiritual leaders realistically evaluate difficulties. But they keep the attention of everyone on the Lord, seeking to build confidence in Him. “The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa” Neh. 3:1–32. Nehemiah showed effective leadership in his plan for rebuilding. Teams were formed and given specific responsibilities. The fact that each team is named here shows that Nehemiah was careful to give credit for accomplishments. Effective leaders learn from Nehemiah to assign ministry teams specific missions, and to give them credit by name for all they accomplish.


Spiritually Prepared (Neh. 1:1–2:6)

One of the sermons I remember hearing when I was young was on Nehemiah 2:3–4. Our pastor pointed out that Nehemiah must have been a fast prayer. The king asked him a question, “What is it you want?” And the text says, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.” You can bet Nehemiah didn’t keep the king waiting for an answer for two minutes while he slipped out to pray. What Nehemiah did was to aim a quick prayer toward heaven, and answer the king immediately. As I remember, the point of the sermon was to encourage frequent, brief prayers offered during the day. Something like my wife’s habit of asking God for a parking space when she drives to the mall. And her more significant prayer for protection as she watches five or six cars on our dangerous Highway 19 zoom through an intersection after the light has changed. I think the point is well taken. Prayers can be brief, pointed, and frequent. But looking at Nehemiah we realize that the brief, pointed prayer is not really enough. Nehemiah himself says that “for some days I mourned and fasted and prayed” before seeking permission to go to Judah. Yes, standing there holding the king’s cup, Nehemiah did offer a brief prayer. But Nehemiah had prepared spiritually for that critical moment during the preceding days. Brief prayers are important. But they can never be the whole of our prayer life. It is taking significant time alone with God that provides the spiritual preparation we need to meet the emergencies of our life.

Personal Application

A vital prayer life prepares us to meet emergencies successfully.


“For me, prayer means launching out of the heart towards God; it means lifting up one’s eyes, quite simply, to Heaven, a cry of grateful love from the crest of joy or the trough of despair; it’s a vast, supernatural force which opens out my heart, and binds me close to Jesus.”—Therese De Lisieux

The 365 Day Devotional Commentary



This book continues the story of the Jews who came back to Judah after the Babylonian Captivity. Nehemiah, an important official in the Persian Empire, asked for the post of governor of tiny Judah in order to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. He arrived for his first term in that office in 444 B.C., almost 100 years after the first group of exiles returned. He succeeded despite much opposition and, with the aid of Ezra, also carried out spiritual reforms. Nehemiah serves today as a model leader and model man of prayer.


I.Nehemiah Rebuilds Jerusalem’s WallsNeh. 1:1–7:3
II.Nehemiah Institutes ReformsNeh. 7:4–10:39
III.Nehemiah Repopulates JerusalemNeh. 11–13

The 365 Day Devotional Commentary


Reading 96

A SECOND GROUP RETURNS Ezra 7–10“Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).Some 80 years after the first group returned, Ezra led a smaller contingent home. Ezra’s return was significant. This man who was dedicated to God’s Law called the people of Judah back to their original commitment to God.


An exciting revolution took place in Babylon. The Jewish people, shaken by the loss of their land and temple, turned to Scripture in a desperate search for hope. They met together weekly to pray and to discuss the Scriptures—and thus the synagogue was born. Some men devoted themselves to study, to do, and to teach God’s Word—and the scribal movement was born. From the Babylonian Captivity onward the Jews, cleansed at last of idolatry, would be a people of the Book. Ezra is the most famous representative of this group of scribes, and perhaps its founder. His ministry in Judah is a beautiful illustration of the purpose of Jewish scholarship, and of the important role generations of rabbis played in encouraging faithfulness to the Lord.


Ezra’s journey from Babylon was summarized (7:1–10). Ezra recorded his commission from Artaxerxes (vv. 11–28), listed his companions (8:1–14), and gave details of the journey (vv. 15–36). In Judah, Ezra’s prayer confessing Judah’s intermarriage with foreigners (9:1–15) brought repentance, and the foreign wives were divorced (10:1–44).

Understanding the Text

“This Ezra came up from Babylon” Ezra 7:1–10. Ezra had had no opportunity to minister as a priest in Babylon. The temple rested in a faraway land. Though Ezra was uniquely equipped by his lineage to serve God as a priest, his circumstances made this impossible. But Ezra did have the Scriptures, and determined to serve God by studying them. Ezra’s problem, and his solution, have application to us today. For instance, some churches limit women to certain roles, even when they are equipped for other ministries. Ezra reminds us that a person who is determined to serve the Lord will find a way—and possibly have an even greater impact in that role than in the role he or she is denied! “Now I decree” Ezra 7:11–28. The Persian ruler Artaxerxes I issued this decree in 458B.C, and Ezra began the 900-mile journey the first of Nisan (March/April). The decree explains the purpose of the expedition: Ezra was to bring offerings from the Jews in Babylon to the temple, and offerings from the king himself. Levites and priests who accompanied Ezra were exempted from taxes. Most significant, Ezra was authorized to see that God’s Law served officially as the “law of the land,” and to appoint judges to administer that law. Ezra’s authority in Jewish affairs was thus absolute: “Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.” Judah was no longer an independent kingdom. But under the enlightened rule of Persia, God’s Old Testament Law would be better enforced than under many of Judah’s own kings! “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers” Ezra 8:15–36. It’s clear that Ezra had represented the Lord as all-powerful to the rulers of Persia. How could he then ask to be protected on the long, dangerous journey by a guard of soldiers? Rather than turn to the king, Ezra turned to God. He called his company to join him in prayer and fasting. Ezra acted in what some might call a foolish way. He had announced that his God helps “everyone who looks to Him.” Now Ezra had to “put up, or shut up.” Sometimes we hesitate to make claims about what God can do. What if we make some claim, and God doesn’t come through? Ezra reminds us that God can and will care for His own. Speaking out about who God is and what He can do for those who love Him is not foolishness, but faith. Balance Scales. Ezra 8:24–30 records the weights of gifts donated for transport to God’s house. Many archeological finds demonstrate how carefully royal archivists weighed and recorded gold, silver, and commodities. “While Ezra was praying and confessing” Ezra 10:1–44. On arriving, Ezra discovered that many in Judah had married foreign wives and had children by them, in clear violation of Old Testament Law. Ezra’s anguished confession moved the people of Judah. Soon a large crowd was weeping and praying with him. As the spirit of conviction spread, all Judah assembled in Jerusalem. Ezra confronted them with God’s prohibition against such marriages. The people confessed their sin, set up an investigating commission, and forced all who had married foreign wives to “send away all these women and their children.” The event suggests a number of lessons for you and me. First, we are more likely to move others to confession by taking sin to heart, and weeping over it, than by being judgmental. Second, while it may have been painful to break up families, it was necessary. God’s people were to retain their racial purity. Third, the pain of separation could have been avoided by keeping God’s Law in the first place. If the men named had not married foreign wives, no breakup of families would have followed. Let’s remember, when we are moved by sympathy for those who suffer pain as a consequence of some sin, that the pain could have been avoided.


Pointing the Finger (Ezra 9:1–10:4)

It’s tempting, when someone we know sins, to come down hard on him. After all, we’re to discipline erring brothers, aren’t we? The more blatant the sin, the more justified we feel confronting or criticizing. Yet Ezra reminds us that it’s not appropriate to point the finger of judgment. What is appropriate when others sin is tears. Not tears for them. Tears that we have let God down. Tears that we, the people of God, have failed. When Ezra arrived in Judah, he learned that many Jews had taken foreign wives. This was a clear violation of Old Testament Law, and Ezra was appalled. But rather than strike out angrily at those who had sinned, Ezra identified himself with the sinners and confessed to the Lord. He did not speak of “their” guilt, but of “our guilt” (9:7). He did not condemn “their” disregard for God’s laws, but cried out that “we have disregarded the commands” (v. 10). Rather than stand self-righteously in judgment, Ezra cried, “Not one of us can stand in Your presence” (v. 15). Ezra’s heart was broken by the sin he found, and he accepted partial responsibility for the failure of men he had never even met. We can’t read Ezra’s prayer of confession in this chapter without sensing the depth of this godly man’s sense of anguish and shame. He was deeply hurt by the sins of his people: hurt for them, and for God. The reality of Ezra’s hurt, expressed openly in weeping, prayer, and confession, moved the men and women of Judah to confess as well—and to purge the sin from their lives. So next time you or I see sin in the body of Christ, let’s not point the finger. Let’s realize that if the church was what God called it to be, and if we were the Christians God called us to be, our brother or sister might not have fallen. Rather than judge, we need to let our hearts be broken, that through confession of our responsibility for one another God might purge the church as He did Judah in Ezra’s time.

Personal Application

We are to grieve over other’s sins as well as over our own.


“The world doth scoff at what I now say, namely that a man may weep for his neighbor’s sin as for his own, or even more than for his own, for it seems to be contrary to nature. But the love which brings this about is not of this world.”—Angela of Foligno

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