Is this an exclamation of profanity or a righteous expression of deep grief over sin?
FROM HEIGHTS OF GLORY
Ezra goes from heights of glory as we conclude Ezra 8:31-36 to depths of grief over sin in Ezra 9:1-10 Everything was going his way in Ezra 7:11-28 as King Artaxerxes gave him everything he needed for the four month’s journey from Babylon to Jerusalem.
About 1500 men, besides their wives and children, which might have totaled 5000 people, joined him on this journey. Ezra 8:1-14.
Ezra found Levite priests to accompany them to administer the animal sacrificial system back in Jerusalem. Ezra 8:15-20
Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for military protection for the journey since he was trusting God for his protection. God was faithful and protected them. Ezra 8:22-23
At the beginning of the journey they weighed out the gold and silver and when they finally arrived in Jerusalem four months later, they weighed it again and found nothing missing. Ezra 8:25-34
After arriving in Jerusalem, they offered a huge burnt offering in thanksgiving to God after all those years of Babylonian captivity. Ezra 8:25-34.
TO DEPTHS OF GRIEF
Ezra 9:1 begins “Now when these things were done.” What things? The blessings mentioned in chapter 8, then Ezra heard the bad news found in Ezra 9:1-2
What was the bad news? The princes and the priests, the leaders of Israel, were setting a sinful example to the people. Ezra found that these leaders had been intermarrying the heathen. In Ezra 9:3-4 we find Ezra shocked and grieving, weeping over the sin of these leaders.
Weeping and general grief over sin is rare today. So many see sin as just an error of good judgment. Their prayer of confession amounts to a “Sorry I goofed, God.” Their hearts are never broken over their sins.
It has always been that way. Pharaoh’s confessions were not genuine. Read about them in Exodus 9:3-4 and 10:16-17.
Esau showed no grief over his sins. Hebrews 12:17
King Saul showed no grief over sin when confronted by the prophet Samuel. I Samuel 15:13-35 and 16:1. He was more concerned with losing his stature before the people than he was the grossness of his sins before God.
In contrast, King David, who had committed adultery with his military officer’s wife, Bathsheba, and then saw to it that the officer, Uriah, was killed; broke down in grief over his sins toward God. Read Psalm 51 for his genuine prayer of contrition. Sin ought to break our hearts. See what Jesus says about this in Matthew 5:3-4. Our sins ought to cause us to cry out in grief, “O, my God!”
We also honor God in worship when we sing, ” O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works Thy hands have made.” You know that beautiful song of worship, “How Great Thou Art!”
PRAYERS OF CONFESSION
It would do us all well to read some prayers of confession. Here are three of them all found in a ninth chapter.
Ezra’s confession in Ezra 9:6-15
Nehemiah’s confession in Nehemiah 9.
Daniel’s confession in Daniel 9.
Then there is David’s confession, I already mentioned in Psalm 51.
Note that Ezra, as the leader of the people, included himself in the guilt, we read in Ezra 9:6-10. There he recalls God’s warning about intermarriage with the heathen in Ezra 9:11-15.
Crushed by anguish and grief before a holy God, he cries reverently to God in grief, “O, My God!”
This phrase, “O, My God!” has become a careless, irreverent slang phrase used thoughtlessly in times of surprise or pleasure, or for just about any reason whatsoever. Sometimes the letters OMG are used as an abbreviation of it, as one would use a smiley or frown face in a letter or a post on Face Book. Perhaps it has never occurred to you that this is taking God’s name in vain, a violation of the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:7. I would encourage you, Christian friend, to ask God to help you use His name only for His glory.
GOD’S WARNINGS OF COMPROMISE WITH SIN
Repeatedly through the Bible God warns of the danger of compromising with sin. In Exodus 34:11-16 and Deuteronomy 7 God warns Israel of the sin of compromising with evil. King Solomon is an extreme example of how far a godly man can slip when he starts down the road of sin. Read his sad story in I Kings 11 as you see the wisest of men becoming the greatest of fools.
When you can find time, take time to read through these various warning of compromising with evil throughout the Bible. II Corinthians 6:14-18, is perhaps the chief warning on separation from sin in the Bible.
I Corinthians 5:9-11
I Peter 1:13-16
II Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15
I Corinthians 10:12
Stay in the Word of God and be led by it to find victory over sin.
Psalm 1:1-6, 101:3-4, 119:1-5
National revival begins when God’s people confess their sins and get right with Him. II Chronicles 7:14
In my previous message I dealt with the lure of Babylon and how it held captive many of the Jews in Babylon; even when they had been given permission by Cyrus of Persia to freely return from their seventy years of captivity to their homeland of Israel to rebuild Jerusalem. In the two returns under Cyrus and Artaxerxes, only about 55,000 returned to Jerusalem. The great majority of Jews chose to settle in Babylon as their home.
Revelation 17-18 speaks about how Mystery Babylon; the present false religious, and crumbling economic, political, Satan-dominated world system in which we live, will be destroyed when Christ returns to this earth to reign. Presently men, under the rule of Satan, are ruining and contaminating God’s beautiful creation and their minds and hearts are being polluted by an ever-growing stream of immoral pollution from the deepening darkness of Mystery Babylon.
Satan does not need to deal with any of us personally to accomplish his purposes for us. He has all the tools he needs through our sinful flesh nature described in Romans 7 and through the cosmos or world system of which he is in control.
THE SATANIC COSMOS OR WORLD SYSTEM
II Corinthians 4:3-4 teaches us that Satan, the god of this present cosmos or world-system, blinds the minds of the lost to the glorious Gospel of Christ. Sadly many Christians today continue to be at home in this cosmos, that is, the world system; fascinated and enamored by its sinful culture and under the domination of Satan, the god of this cosmos.
In I John 2:15-17 Christians are commanded to love not this evil world system with all it sinful attractions that draw us away from finding our satisfaction in God Himself.
Galatians 1:3-4 teaches us that although Satan is the god of this cosmos, that is, this present evil world system in which we live, Christ died and rose again from the dead; not only to save us from eternal hell, but to save us now from the destructive influence and power of this present evil world.
Understand, that anyone who rejects Jesus as Saviour and Lord; by default, continues to be enslaved by Satan who is his king, even though he is deceiving himself into thinking he is free to run his own life.
The infatuation of Christians with this world system concerned The Lord Jesus and it was His concern in His final prayer with His disciples the night before He went to the cross. That prayer, recorded in John 17, shows Jesus’ concern for you and me. I encourage you to read that prayer and consider your own relationship with and attraction to this world system.
THE FEW AND FAITHFUL
Not everyone who chose to stay in Babylon were compromisers and unfaithful to God. There were at least four and perhaps others who stood true to God, surrounded by Satan’s crowd. The four I’m thinking of are Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, with whose stories you are, no doubt, familiar. I wrote about them earlier in this Ezra series. The lure of Babylon held absolutely no attraction for them. These were men of God who stood true to Him. Their testimonies influenced Babylonian and Persian Emperors to know and surrender to God.
What was Daniel’s secret of faithfulness to God? It’s found in Daniel 1:8. As a young man, no doubt, a teenager, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” With that purpose of heart, Daniel made right choices and before long he was counseling Babylonian emperors and sixty years later, Persian emperors.
WHERE WILL YOU GO TO SCHOOL?
God has His individual plan for every Christian young person. Most are not spiritually mature enough to sit under godless, secularist professors A few can, no doubt, come through unscathed spiritually. But most will be spiritually harmed.
Personally for our own two sons and daughter, we chose a Christian education from elementary through college. I personally enjoyed the privilege of Christian education from fifth grade through college. Yes, I helped work my way and paid my own expenses through a Christian high school and a Christian college; though God provided financial help in amazing ways.
I have a cousin who trained for the ministry in a liberal seminary. He almost made spiritual shipwreck of his life; but by God’s grace, he recovered and God gave him a fruitful ministry.
Here are some verses you need to read and think on as you determine what education is best for you and for your children.
Psalm 1:1-6, 11:3; 101:3,
Psalm 119:37, 97-105, 113, 127-128,
Proverbs 1,2,3,4, 13:20, 19:27. In fact, read the entire book of Proverbs,
II Timothy 2:15-16
I John 2:15-17
So what kind of education is best for you? Only you can determine that answer as you seek the Lord with all you heart. I would caution you that if in your heart you entertain a little love for this sin-contaminated world system you are not ready to seek an education from it. If you insist, you will probably crash and destroy your future. I would encourage you to seek a sound Biblical Christian college and give yourself at least one year and see where it goes from there. As a bonus, you may very well meet your life mate in that college.
My wife and I met going to two different Christian colleges. I was a student at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. and she was a student at Columbia Bible College in Columbia, S.C. 100 miles away. You can read that story under the Category Virtuous Woman. Our two sons and our daughter each met their godly spouses while attending Bob Jones University.
TESTING FOR A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE
One simple test is to check the science department. If they teach theistic evolution, run from it! Theistic evolution says that God created the world, but He did it through evolution.
WHERE IS YOUR HEART?
That’s the question. If your heart and love is in the world system which “lieth in wickedness” or lieth under the control of Satan, according to I John 5:19, then you need to “flee or come out of that wicked system” according to Revelation 18:4. Read again Revelation chapters 17 and 18 to learn of the end of Mystery Babylon when Christ returns to this earth.
On the other hand, if your heart is hidden in Christ and you are built up in The Faith, and His will is everything to you; God may place you right into the midst of the filth and corruption of Babylon to enable you to rescue the perishing in this corrupt world system, according to Jude 20-25
The story of Ezra is a story of a remnant of godly Jews who chose to leave their homes in Babylon. It’s also a sad truth that many of that same tribe of Judah after seventy years in captivity, were now at home in Babylon and chose to remain there.
In this message, I challenge you to consider the lure of Babylon for those who chose to stay there 2500 years ago and the lure of Mystery Babylon, described in Revelation 17-18, for many Christians today.
CONSIDER THE LOCATION OF BABYLON
Babylon, as many of you know, is situated between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. From geographical hints in Genesis 2:8-15 it’s probably the vicinity of the Garden of Eden from which Adam and Eve had been driven by an angel after their Fall into sin. Of course, no one can be certain because of the geographical changes that took place on the earth at the time of the world wide flood in Noah’s day.
THE LURE OF BABYLON
The Garden of Eden, which God had made perfect for Adam and Eve, while in their sinless perfection and innocence before The Fall; was now according to Genesis 3:22-24, out of bounds for them after The Fall.
For awhile, the entrance to the Garden was guarded by an angel with a flaming sword which kept Adam and Eve from reentering the Garden until it had deteriorated under the curse of sin.
NOAH’S THREE SONS
Later, after the Flood of Noah’s day which God sent because of the intense wickedness of the earth’s population according to Genesis 6; Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth, who with their wives survived the Flood in the ark which they and their father, Noah, had built; fathered three distinct groups of people on the earth.
Japheth is the father of the Gentiles, according to Genesis 10:1-5
From Noah’s son, Ham, came Nimrod, who established the Kingdom of Babel, which became Babylon. Genesis 10:6-20
Also through Ham came the Assyrians and the Canaanites.
Through the line of Shem came Abraham, from whom the promised SEED, CHRIST, would come according to Genesis 10:21-22 and 11:10-26. Thus Abraham became the Father of Israel.
THE TOWER OF BABEL
Later, as the earth began to repopulate following the Flood, Genesis 11:1-9 tells about how they gathered together in the Plains of Shinar in the land of Babylon to build a tower to reach Heaven. This was all about man’s feeble, futile efforts to reach up to God in Heaven by their own effort and ingenuity.
God confused and nullified their efforts by causing them to all start speaking in a wide variety of languages, as though they had been born with those languages. Because they could not understand one another, they gave up their building project and scattered over the face of the earth.
ABRAM BORN IN UR OF THE CHALDEES, BABYLON
Abram, whose name was changed by God to Abraham, was born to Terah in the line of Noah’s son ,Shem and became father of the Jewish nation and the forbearer of Jesus who would be born of the Virgin Mary five hundred years later in Bethlehem. Jesus, the Saviour of the world, is the Promised Seed of Genesis 3:15.
SATAN AND HIS BAG OF TRICKS
Satan is our chief enemy; however, usually he does not fight us directly. Rather, he uses our sinful flesh nature and his cosmos (the world system, known as Mystery Babylon) under his control to try to ruin our testimonies and destroy us, making us useless to the cause of Christ.
The Apostle Paul describes in Romans 7 the struggle all of us face with our sinful flesh nature. In Romans 8 he shows us how we can have victory over our sinful flesh nature.
The other tool in his bag of tricks is his seductive influence through his control of the cosmos, the sinful world system which he controls and uses in his battle against God for our souls.
THE LOVE OF BABYLON
The lure of Babylon has always been the love of Babylon, the world system, and it is still today. This system has an amazing magnetic hold on Christians, as well as on the lost. Our problem is that we tend to love the world system more than we love God. In fact, we tend to try to compartmentalize our lives, giving some parts to God and others parts of our lives and our love to the Satan-controlled world system. That does not work. God will not put up with two-timers.
The love of the world system causes our sin-loving flesh nature to feed on the attractive garbage and raw sewage of this world which we permit to spill into our homes via salacious television fare and movies, degrading literature and music and through the internet.
To all of this God warns us in I John 2:15-16 “To love not the world system, neither the things that are in the world system. Such love of the world proves that we have little or no love for God and His Word.
Such feed on the garbage of this world system and socialize with it until we fall in love with it and marry it. Eventually we become lost in and one with this Satanic world system which is passing away, losing our lives for the fleeting, unsatisfying pleasures of this doomed world system.
THE PURPOSE OF SALVATION
The purpose of salvation is not just to be forgiven of our sins and made children of God through faith in Christ Jesus; but according to Galatians 1:3-4, it is to be freed from our infatuation with this sinful world system. This world system is doomed and passing away. Revelation chapters 17 and 18 describe this sin-cursed world system and tells of how Christ is going to destroy it once and for all. Where are you going to be and what are you going to be doing when Christ returns to destroy this world system as described in those two chapters in The Revelation?
RETURNING NOW TO THE BOOK OF EZRA
It was necessary that the Jews be back in their own land so God’s plan of redemption could be carried out in the land of Israel, as prophesied. Ezra 8 tells the story of the Jews second return to Jerusalem from Babylon, this time under the leadership of Ezra, the Jewish priest and scribe who wrote this book.
This is the story of the Children of Judah returning home to the Land of Israel, getting into place all the details for the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, who would be born of a virgin, live and minister to the people and then be crucified and slain as the perfect and complete sacrifice for our sins and then rise again; thereby delivering us from sin and Satan and his contaminating, sin-cursed world system.
This involved the people of Judah traveling from their former slavery in Babylon, even though it might have been a comfortable life; to a new life of freedom in Jerusalem with all its burdens of rebuilding.
All of this is a picture of New Testament truth in Hebrews 11:8-13. Let me hit just the highlights as you read the passage.
By faith Abraham went out, dwelling in tents with his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, following God, but not knowing where he was going.
By faith he dwelt in tents, not settling down and building a permanent home for he looked for a city with permanent foundations, whose builder and architect is God. Now down to verse 13. These all died in faith not having received the promises, but saw them by faith afar off. They recognized themselves as pilgrims and strangers on this earth.
THIS WORLD IS A FOREIGN, HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT FOR US
Christians, we live together in a foreign, hostile environment. Satan is the temporary god of this present world system. That’s not difficult to believe as we observe the explosive political atmosphere in this world today. In all my years in America, coming here as a child in the mid 1940’s during World War II, I’ve never sensed a more discouraging atmosphere in America than right now. Thank God, He is in control.
A VOLUNTEER ARMY
Understand that those who followed Ezra to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, came of their own free will. They were not compelled nor forced by either Cyrus or Artaxerxes. It was all voluntary. That’s the only service God desires. God does not draft people into His service. True, in His sovereignty, He called us from before we were born, but, as far as we are concerned, He calls those who willingly volunteer and freely choose to serve Him. See Acts 9:6, Romans 12:1-2, Isaiah 6:8, and II Corinthians 8:1-6.
As Abraham and as the Jews returning to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity; so we Christians who are saved and bound for Heaven, are presently in a journey from the bondage of this hostile, Satan-dominated world system to our Heavenly Home. This religious/political world system, known as Mystery Babylon, identified and described in Revelations 17 and 18, is doomed for destruction when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to set up His Millennial Kingdom in Jerusalem.
DON’T CONFUSE GOD’S WONDERFUL CREATION WITH THE COSMOS, WHICH IS OF THE DEVIL
Don’t misunderstand. This world is still ultimately God’s world which He created. Many Scriptures, especially the Psalms, make that clear; but Satan has usurped it and is presently the god of this God-dishonoring, sin-cursed religious/political world system. According to II Corinthians 4:3-4, Satan has blinded his subjects to Christ and to His gracious Gospel. Thank God, that today, in His sovereignty, God is opening eyes to the Truth of the Gospel, as He did for Lydia in Acts 16:14.
In the fullness of time, Christ is returning to this earth to catch Christians up into Heaven to be with Himself. Then following seven years of Tribulation and the reign of Antichrist, Christ will return to cast Satan into a bottomless pit for one thousand years while Christ Himself reigns over the whole world from Jerusalem. Faithful Christians will be involved with Him in His reign, according to II Timothy 2:12. For the Biblical background for all of this, go to the PROPHECY category for a full 32 part series on this subject.
IN CHRIST WE CAN BE VICTORIOUS!
What about this Church Age? Does Satan have any power over Christians today? Here’s an encouraging truth I want you to try to grasp concerning the power of Satan and his evil world system today, as far as Christians are concerned. In the Upper Room with His disciples, Jesus announced in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Now look at John 12:31 “Now is the judgment of this world: Now shall the Prince of this world be cast out.” and John 16:7-11. Here Jesus speaks of sending His Holy Spirit to live in us as believers. In verse 11 Jesus announces that Satan, “the Prince of this world is judged.”
Then in John 17, just before Jesus is crucified and returns to Heaven, He prays His great intercessory prayer for us, His children, who are left behind in this present evil world. Read also II Corinthians 2:14. In all these passages we learn that Satan is even now, for the Christian, a defeated foe.
Though it’s a fact that many Christian are enslaved by sin and Satan; no Christian need ever be. II Corinthians 2:14 states, “Now thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place.” Let me paraphrase that for you. Now thanks be to God who always enables us to triumph over sin, through the indwelling presence and power of His Holy Spirit so that wherever we go, whatever we do; we carry the fragrance of the presence of Christ upon us.
SOME CHRISTIANS NEVER EXPERIENCE VICTORIES
As we’ve been focusing on the returning Jewish exiles from Babylon, I want to call your attention to those Jews who chose to live and die in Babylon, outside the city of Jerusalem, the city of promise and blessing. They were content to live and be fed and be satisfied with Babylon, a type of the Satanic-controlled world system. They were content to never experience the victories of their brothers and sisters who had returned to Jerusalem.
I remind you again that those Jews who followed Zerubbabel and Ezra back to Jerusalem did it of their own free will. They were not compelled by Cyrus and Artaxerxes.
The lesson for us as Christians is that’s the only service God wants of us. is volunteered. God does not draft people into His service. It’s true that by His foreknowledge, He calls us from before we were born. See Isaiah 49:1 and Jeremiah 1:5 But it’s also true that God only calls those who surrender to His Lordship and freely desire and choose to follow Him. Study the following Scriptures concerning this truth. Acts 9:6, Romans 12:1-2, Isaiah 6:8 and II Corinthians 8:1-6
May God strengthen you, my Christian reader and friend, to fully surrender to Christ as your Lord