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Ezra 9:10-11 • When Pronouns Matter

“‘Now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments, which You have commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, “The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from end to end and with their impurity.”‘”
    —Ezra 9:10-11 (NASB)

Leading the return of the second remnant from Persia to Israel, Ezra finds that the first remnant living in the land has returned to the original sins which got them all into trouble in the first place. There were specific people groups which God commanded to remain apart from, groups which God judged for destruction because they did not simply reject Him, but actively led everyone with whom they came into contact to follow false gods. Ezra is overwhelmed that these Believers have allowed the practices of the world to live side-by-side with what they claim is obedience to God’s ways. So is Ezra simply being polite — or perhaps empathetic — in his prayer by using the pronouns “we” instead of “they”?

These verses have been perverted by some who claim they speak of God’s plan for racial purity. The proper context is the holiness of His people. The only purity God is concerned about is purity from sin and the removal of its pollutive effects on everything with which it comes into contact. A right relationship with God is most often illustrated in the Bible in terms of a faithful marriage, a faithful and devoted husband and wife; a wrong relationship is likewise expressed in the terms of adultery and marital unfaithfulness. To enter into an intimate relationship with those devoted to leading others astray is to render unholy — that is, to pollute with uncleanness — everything else. Where there is no exclusive devotion and desire to be set apart for God alone, there can never be found holiness.

But getting back to the use of “we” in Ezra’s prayer, the fact is that EZRA did not commit this sin. In fact, not everyone committed this sin but he includes everyone as guilty. Well think about how marriages worked in those days. They were long, protracted processes over which families could spend years negotiating, even arranging them years in advance of when their children would be old enough to marry. The engagement process itself could last for years. What was everyone thinking as they attended all these weddings? Why did not the “innocent” — those who did not engage in this behavior — ever speak up to the “guilty”? They were ALL guilty for allowing it to happen. The centerpiece of sin may have been the issue of earthly marriage, but the more serious crime committed was that EVERYONE allowed God’s Word to go unbroken without ever saying a thing. The fact is, we ARE our brother’s keeper!

Do not think that because THEY got an abortion that WE who silently observed are innocent of that abortion. Do not think that because THEY continue in an improper sexual relationship that WE who turn our heads away in silence are innocent. Do not think that because THEY are living a compromised lifestyle that WE are not responsible in any way when we choose not to speak about it to them. Why is there no distinguishable difference today in the American church between those claiming the label “Christian” and those who are not when it comes to ANY moral issue? Because WE have allowed it. WE had better start praying for OUR forgiveness in this manner as the first step towards addressing THEIR issues because we are ALL guilty.