One of the reasons that Ezra writes to the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem was to remind them to retain & protect their “Jewishness”, if you would. He exhorted them to remain pure in their beliefs, their commitments & their covenant with God. Upon returning to Jerusalem, Ezra had found that they had intermarried with foreigners & had begun to take on pagan practices & worship. They had adopted the customs of the very ones that they had mingled. Ezra comments on this:
“So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages.” (Ezra 9:2 NLT).
Pollution happens when something is introduced to a pure substance that causes an adverse reaction. Pollution takes one in an undesirable direction, usually a direction completely opposed to one’s very own desires. Pollution makes one unclean, impure, & tainted. And that is how Ezra is describing God’s chosen people – polluted. They had become so intertwined with the foreigners of their time that one could not distinguish one from the other.
They had lost their identity.
Their unique identity as God’s holy & chosen people.
The very things that were to distinguish them & set them apart from all others was no longer visible. It had cost them to lose their effectiveness.
Before I get too hard on them, the very same thing happens in our lives today. We, too, lose our identity when we compromise.
“Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing the wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are.“ (1 Corinthians 5: 6, 7 NLT).
Paul exhorts us to live in the identity of who we truly are in Christ.
Remaining pure & untainted matters. It mattered then & it truly does matter now. You see, Ezra made a most sobering observation:
“Worse yet, the leaders & officials have led in this outrage.” (verse 2b NLT).
The people followed the example that was set before them. We all lead someone meaning that we all have others that are watching our lives. It may be our family, our spouses, our friends, our co-workers, our children. May we be faithful to be an example worth watching.
“Preach the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.” (Francis of Assisi)