Hello friends! Today finishes out the book of Ezra. While it seems to end on an abrupt note that's somewhat by design as Nehemiah is closely related to the content that most scholars consider them one singular work. Ezra is about the struggles the people dealt with when rebuilding the temple while Nehemiah is about the rebuilding itself. As we finish Ezra try to think what parts of it you are grateful for and what parts of it you struggle with. Meditate on that until you find peace from God.
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this teach me about God?
What does this teach me about what was happening at the time of the writing? In other words, what is this in response to? (best guess as we'll never really know!)
What about this reading, if anything, feels applicable to today? What does it challenge me to do in response?
- My Thoughts -
Blah, this is another tough reading. Not just because of the 34759348574389574389 difficult names to pronounce towards the end but also because of the content specifically found in chapter 9, Ezra's prayer concerning intermarriage. I've often said in private conversations, study groups and occasionally when preaching that the Bible is either the sharpest of swords of the strongest of shields and it's up to use on how we wield it. Ezra 9 is an occasion where the sword slices and hurts just a little bit. When discerning what the will of God is we often come to difficult scripture passages. Perhaps that on gay marriage, or science, or divorce, or money, or sometimes it's on race or slavery. Today's reading seems to give defense to those who believe intermarriage is a sin and a disgust in God's eyes. The reasoning? They might become tempted to try the ways of the strange cultures of those they marry and forget God so soon after their freedom from exile. I recognize the trauma the people have just come out of and I recognize the fear of going back to that trauma, but frankly, God is being a little two faced here.
In Jeremiah 29:5-7 the prophet tells the people "settle in your captivity, and build homes and find wives." Where were they to find wives? Well, Babylon as they were there at the time! In other words, these were foreign wives in a foreign land that mistreated them anyways. But God gives the thumbs up to that one. But, when the people are free in living freely with the permission and extreme kindness of Persia who even upfront the cost of everything the people are scorned for finding wives among a land that treats them fairly? I just don't get it.
I'm fine with accepting difficult Biblical truths, even if I have to keep and scream to accept it, but I just can't wrap my head around inconsistencies. Maybe I've read this wrong though. What are your reactions to the text?
P.S - I never actually outright said it but I proudly affirm intermarriage relationships and consider them a beautiful witness to the diversity of God's love.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer today is inspired by hymn 202 in our United Methodist Hymnal - People, Look East! (Such a fun Advent hymn!) I invite you to close your eyes and listen to the song in meditation or join in the music by humming, singing, or reciting the words aloud as you enjoy this time of prayer to God.
This is a pretty fun version of the beloved hymn
1. People, look east. The time is near Of the crowning of the year. Make your house fair as you are able, Trim the hearth and set the table. People, look east and sing today: Love, the guest, is on the way.
2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare, One more seed is planted there: Give up your strength the seed to nourish, That in course the flower may flourish. People, look east and sing today: Love, the rose, is on the way.
3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build, Guard the nest that must be filled. Even the hour when wings are frozen God for fledging time has chosen. People, look east and sing today: Love, the bird, is on the way.
4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim One more light the bowl shall brim, Shining beyond the frosty weather, Bright as sun and moon together. People, look east and sing today: Love, the star, is on the way.
5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth Christ who brings new life to earth. Set every peak and valley humming With the word, the Lord is coming. People, look east and sing today: Love, the Lord, is on the way.