“The riches of full assurance”

Today we completed reading the book of Ezra. Only the last four chapters were written by or for him, the first six are to be seen as a continuation of 2 Chronicles. Before Ezra came, the people – led by Zerubbabel, and encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (5:1,2) – had rebuilt the Temple. When Ezra arrived it became plain many had not, however, regained the spiritual vision of a true relationship with their God.

We can see some comparisons with today’s Christianity – and also with the nation of Israel. Churches continue to exist and be built and a few flourish – but mainly in an emotional way. The nation of Israel has now sustained its existence for seventy years, but these achievements are physical, they are not an end in themselves.

The nation to which Ezra came had compromised their separation from unbelievers. They lived among people who had some knowledge of God, especially those who came to be known as Samaritans (4:2) but also among idol worshippers. When Ezra realised many had taken wives from among them, including some of the priests; Ezra proved himself to be the strong minded God fearing man needed to inspire them to correct this situation.

We read Ezra’s confession of great concern in yesterday’s chapter 9. “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to you for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up …” (verse 6). Today’s chapter starts, “… Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly”.

Shecaniah, one of the leaders, addressed Ezra, “we have broken faith with our God … but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us make a covenant with our God and put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God” (verses 2,3). How many “tremble” today? Do we need to?

His final words to Ezra are an inspiration to all who have fallen away – or who are in the process of doing so – to turn back and serve God and his Son in the way that was established in the first century as we read today in Colossians: many verses illustrate this point. Paul encourages them that “being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding …” (2:2). Truly, God is a “mystery” to those who do not search the scriptures he inspired to be written; let us not be guilty of that. Paul feared that some “may delude you with plausible arguments” (verse 4) and so it has happened more and more through the centuries. Let us gain and maintain a “full assurance” – and what “riches” will be seen and experienced when Christ returns! And how soon now!