So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.” (Ezra 10:9-12)
They Were Willing To Do The Impossible
The bond of marriage is one of the most intense relationships known to man. Men and women are drawn to one another in a union of marital harmony for many reasons. In many countries, marriages are arranged by parents while in other places individuals make choices based on personal tastes or prerogatives. Generally speaking, marriage is an honorable occasion for two people to enjoy their lives together with happiness and contentment. Tragically, because of sin, God ordained various laws that impact the marriage. The intent of God from the beginning was one man and one woman for life. Sin defiled that purity. Under the Law of Moses, the people were forbidden to marry foreign wives that would take their hearts away from the Lord. Like so many laws given to the Israelite’s, in time this prohibition would be ignored and the land would be polluted with the intermarriages of the Jews and pagan women. After the seventy-year bondage of Israel to Babylon, the people returned to the land rebuilding the Temple first and eventually the walls of Jerusalem. During the days of Ezra, there was a remarkable revival that took place in the hearts of the people when they came to the scribe of God and confessed they were in unlawful marriages. The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites had taken for wives among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. It was noted by the people the leaders and rulers had been foremost in this trespass. As a result of this sin the people were fearful and they came to confess their sin to Ezra. The scribe did not instruct the multitudes to remain in their marriages and allow God to forgive them as they were. It was the voice of the people who confessed they had taken pagan wives in disobedience to the will of God and they recognized they must put away all those wives and those who had been born to them. Three days later the people gathered in heavy rain in the open square of the house of God, trembling for fear of God’s wrath and the pounding rain confessing their sin. One by one they all confessed their sin and they put away their pagan wives. Sacrifices were made and appeasement from the Lord graced the nation as the heart of the people turned to the Lord.
Marriage is a relationship that men find has deep roots and deeper feelings of companionship. It would seem impossible to tell a man married to a woman that in order to please the Lord they must remove themselves from their marital relationship. There are many reasons given why this could not happen. The love of the man and woman toward one another, financial considerations, family involvement and a host of logical reasons stand in stark contrast why two people married to one another must leave each other. In almost all cases this would be considered impossible. What made the heart of the people so determined to put away their foreign wives? They favored the blessing of God more than the carnal blessings of an unlawful marriage. There is no higher love than shown toward the Creator of the world and His word. They put away their pagan wives and did something that would be viewed as impossible. Later Jesus Christ would tell His disciples that with men a thing like this would be impossible but with God anything is possible. The key to the story is the faith of the people in the grace of God and His mercy. From a worlds viewpoint putting away their wives was nonsense. In light of God’s word that prohibited the marriage of the Jews to foreign women, the action by the people was an expression of their deep faith in the will of the Father. They believed in the impossible.
Marriage has always been under attack since the day the devil deceived the woman. The law of marriage is not an institution of the church but a law established before sin entered into the world. Many people do not believe in such a thing as an unlawful marriage but this is determined by the mind of God. He ordained a man to be married to a woman for life and anything short of that has consequences. Jesus explained that what God had joined together men should not seek to put apart because He is the author of the marriage law. Today there is a law of marriage that joins a man to be married to a woman for life and any other arrangement will suffer eternal consequences. Divorce is not in the mind of God and He hates it. There is one exception to the marriage law and that was given by Jesus alone. If a marriage is ended for any reason other than sexual immorality there can be no cause for another marriage. Like the Jews of old, a man will be in an unlawful marriage requiring repentance and change if they refuse to honor the word of God. After the Jews tried to trap Jesus in His teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, a rich man came to the Lord seeking salvation. Being told to sell all he had and give to the poor he walked away sorrowful. He was unwilling to do the impossible. So many today are unwilling to walk away from the treasure of their unlawful marriage. The Jews of Ezra’s day were willing to stand in driving rain to make confession and sacrifice to God for their unlawful marriages. They did the impossible; with God’s help.