September 2: Set Apart

Read Ezra 9:1-15

Years ago, we were made to think that it was somehow odd, perhaps even unnatural, when a man and woman from different races or nationalities would marry.  Today, it is quite common.  In fact, you may look back to that former attitude and wonder how immature, old-fashioned, or prejudice that thinking was.

If we try to understand Ezra’s despair in the ninth chapter through those same lenses, we may just chalk it up to some kind of ancient inappropriate pride.  What was so bad about Jews intermarrying with people from the surrounding nations?  There was more at stake than ethnic purity.  It had everything to do with spiritual purity and preservation.

The Jews were distinct from the other nations in that they were followers of Jehovah God.  He is the one and only God.  He had given to them the Law that outlined how to approach Him and how to conduct their lives in ways that pleased Him.  Meanwhile, the surrounding nations worshiped other gods.  Their moral code allowed for practices that were contrary to Jehovah’s.

The danger of intermarrying, you see, was that it would dilute the Jews devotion to Jehovah.  The influence of the spouse would cause God’s people to potentially turn from His ways.  And, with each successive generation, the diluted commitment to Him would become weaker and weaker.  As a result, Ezra prayed this great prayer of confession.

God really does want our full devotion; not a diluted version of it.  Even in the New Testament, as followers of Jesus, we are told not to “be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14).  The application and warning reach from marriage to business ventures and beyond.  While that does not give justification for divorce of your current spouse, it does give you reason to consider all relationships and the level of influence you allow them to reach.

Similarly, Romans 12 instructs us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  God, you see, wants people who are committed, not compromising.  They are devoted, not diluted.  They are set apart, not similar.


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