Some passages of scripture are clearly easier to understand and apply than others. The Sermon on the Mount has some pretty clear teaching. Who cannot understand what God expects from us when he says, "even if a man looks on a woman to lust after her he has committed adultery already in his heart"? That's pretty clear. Ezra 2 is not one of those passages.
Ezra 2 is pretty straight forward. It is just a list of exiles who left Babylon to go home to Israel. As far as that goes it is pretty clear. But the scriptures teach that all scripture is "profitable." It is passages like Ezra 2 that make me wonder about that. What possible profit could there be in me reading a list of names I can hardly pronounce? But there is profit when we understand the context of the passage and take the time to think about what it is saying.
The first verse of Ezra 2 is interesting. It reads, "Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town." (ESV) Three things in this verse catch my eyes first, the captives are no longer captive. The prisoners have been set free. Second, the word "captive" is a very different word than the word "captivity." Finally, they didn't all go to Jerusalem. They all went to their towns.
Le's talk about the difference between captivity and captive. The word "exiles" is more closely related to the word "captive" than is the word "captivity." Captivity is a Hebrew word that means they were prisoners. They were held captive in a foreign country and were not allowed to go home. Captive and exiles are words that refer not to their imprisonment, but to their shame. To be captive, or to be an exile means to be stripped naked and shamed. It was what a conquering nation would do to their captives to shame them and flaunt their fall.
When Israel is coming "home" from Babylon they are leaving their shame. When they get home, however, they still have to face the consequences of their shame. Their city is a shambles and their temple is in ruins. They need to rebuild. Sin is like that. It shames us. It shames the name of the God we serve. And, unfortunately, we sometimes strut around in our shame not realizing how shameful it is. It reminds me of a nose bleed I had in the 5th grade. I had gotten the bleeding stopped, but I didn't realize that my face was still covered in blood. Sin on the part of believers always damages the reputation of Christ and leaves us looking bad. Too many times, for the sake of protecting our reputation, we try to cover up sin. That only makes it worse.
It takes time to rebuild when God and his people are shamed by our actions, but rebuilding can be done. As with Israel, we may never be restored to our former glory, but we need to rebuild. It was for freedom that Christ set us free Galatians 5 teaches us. When the people of God are not living in that freedom we bring shame and dishonor to his name. When the people of God are still living in the captivity of sin we shame him. But when we rebuild, when we move from slavery to freedom, when we learn to rest on his finished work then the glory of our Lord begins to shine again and rebuilding has begun.
Father, let the light of your glory be seen in me, and if there is anything in my life that brings shame to your name reveal that to me that I might live in your freedom and honor you.
By His grace,