A Penitent Proposal
Ezra’s actions and prayer had a tremendous impact on the people. Their consciences were awakened to the seriousness of the problem. At this time a man named Shecaniah stepped forward to make a penitent proposal. He was a man who was not only willing to admit sin, but to do something about it. He proposed that the offenders “put away [divorce] all the [pagan] wives and their children.” While this proposal seems harsh by modern standards, the religious identity of the Jewish people was at stake. Shecaniah exhorted Ezra to act on his proposal and promised him the support of the people. Ezra responded by calling upon the people to take an oath to put Shecaniah’s proposal into action.
A Powerful Proclamation
A proclamation was issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem commanding all the exiles (repatriates) to assemble in Jerusalem within three days to stand examination concerning the issue of mixed [Jewish/pagan] marriages. Those who failed to comply with the proclamation were subject to a two-fold penalty: the forfeiture of their property and exclusion from the assembly [community] of exiles (which meant that they would be treated as foreigners). Ezra had the authority to inflict such a penalty (see Ezra 7:26). According to Ezra 10:9, “all” the people responded by being present within the specified period of time. They all assembled before the Temple were they stood trembling in the cold winter rain.
A Painful Procedure
Ezra addressed the assembly of people and accused them of unfaithfulness to the Lord and exhorted them to repent of their sin by separating themselves from their foreign wives. The people responded by agreeing with Ezra. A court system was set up to hear every individual case. This was important because there were probably women who, like Ruth, were devout followers of God and were bringing their children up in the fear of the Lord. The intent was not to break up such marriages. The investigation resulted in 113 men guilty of marrying pagan women with almost 25 percent of those offenders being religious leaders. Through this painful procedure Ezra helped preserve the national identity and religious purity of Israel for at least one more generation.
We should pray for revival in our churches and nation.
Just as Ezra’s prayer brought about repentance and revival in Judah, so we should pray to the end that God will send revival in our lives, in our church, and in our nation.
True repentance is evidenced by a changed life.
When the people of Judah were convicted of their sin they confessed it and repented of it. Their repentance was evidenced by the fact that they separated themselves from their foreign wives. Someone has said, “‘Tis not enough to say, ‘I’m sorry and repent’ and then go on from day to day just as I always went.”