Too often we have preached a gospel of eternal, abundant life, but not a gospel of offence to a righteous, holy God. The promise of eternal life without understanding the offense of sin is no gospel at all. It is just a benevolent Santa Claus who winks at our indiscretions and lavishes us with gifts because we’re such great kids. But God is a holy, righteous, just and gracious creator before whom we stand in dirty rags that we call righteousness.
Ezra was written to remind those who had come back from captivity that they are a covenant people. Ezra reminds them of God’s grace in allowing them to come back to a land that He had promised them but which they did not deserve. Ezra reminds them of how God moved the heart of the king, how God provided and protected them, and how God enabled them to rebuild the temple and restart temple worship. As a result of this Hesed (covenant love and mercy) of God for his people, Israel is called to a life of covenant love toward God. They are called to righteousness.
Under the New Covenant we as believers are also called to a life of righteousness. So, in our own struggle to live out the righteousness of God what principles can we glean from Ezra 9 to help us keep our focus and walk rightly before God? Over the next two weeks I intend to spend some time in Ezra 9. There are four principles that we find in this chapter regarding how to deal with sin in our lives both individually and corporately as a church. In short we need to look back, look down, look out and finally look up.
It is time we stop looking at God as Santa Claus. He is not there to keep us happy. He is a righteous and holy God. As such he is a benevolent and just God who sent his own son to the cross that he might offer us the gift of righteousness through faith. By faith we enter into this New Covenant in which he promised new hearts. By faith his Holy Spirit dwells within each believer teaching us and empowering us to live lives of holiness. It is time we stop sitting by the gate of God’s Kingdom pleading for handouts, and step into the new identity we have in Christ by grace through faith. It is a new identity of holiness and righteous living.