Today we complete the book of Ezra. The last four chapters were written by him, the first six are a continuation of 2 Chronicles. The people – led by Zerubbabel, and encouraged by Haggai and Zechariah (5:1,2) – had rebuilt the Temple. When Ezra arrived it became plain many had not regained the spiritual vision of a true relationship with their God.

The nation to which Ezra came had compromised their separation from unbelievers. They lived among people who had some knowledge of God (such as the Samaritans (4:2)) but also among idol worshipers. When Ezra realized many had taken wives from among them, including some of the priests, he inspired them to correct this situation. We read Ezra’s confession of great concern in 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).

His words to Ezra are an inspiration to turn back and serve God and His Son in the way that was established in the First Century. There are verses in today’s chapter in Colossians which 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. Let us not be guilty of that. Paul feared that some “may delude you with plausible arguments” (verse 4) and so it has happened through the centuries.

Finally, we note the ‘punch line’ in Ezra of Shecaniah’s final words to him, “we are with you, be strong and do it” (verse 4). This is a recipe for action by all who have slipped from true belief and service to God.