For we have forsaken your commandments, which you commanded … saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Ezra 9:10-12
Therefore … never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’
In the book of Ezra, we’re told that after the first wave of exiles returned from Babylon to Israel, the people grew spiritually cold. Ezra the priest returns with the second wave of exiles and is told that they have not separated themselves from the peoples of the surrounding lands and had married foreign women against the command of God. Being a godly man who had devoted himself to the study, observance, and teaching of God’s law, Ezra cries out in anguish and pulls hair from his beard and his head and tears his clothes in grief because of the gravity of their sin. His weeping and intercessory prayer on behalf of the Jews is so heartfelt and moving that they respond with profound repentance and make a covenant to make things right with the Lord. In other words, spiritual revival breaks out because of one man’s commitment to the Word of God and his love for the Lord (see Ezra 9-10).
In much the same way, the American church has grown spiritually cold and has “intermarried” with the world. Instead of being the “set apart ones,” holy saints, we have brought the views and desires and customs of the world not only into our lives but into our churches. Except for meeting on Sunday and possibly being a bit more moral, we look and smell a lot like the world. We watch the same TV shows and movies they do. We listen to the same music and read the same books. We wear the same clothes. We even have the same goals of a fine education and a successful career so that we can live comfortably in the land.
Rather than relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to grow us spiritually and increase the church’s reach, influence, and maturity, we import the world’s marketing strategies and business plans so we can grow in numbers, social status, and finances. We use man-made methods to build little man-centered kingdoms.
In essence, we have the same gods the world does.
God told us to keep ourselves separate from the world because he knew how easily our hearts would turn to idols—just like King Solomon, once “wholly true to the Lord his God,” whose many foreign wives turned his heart to their false gods (1 Kings 11:4). Like Solomon, we have ignored the Lord’s command. We have abandoned our first love (Rev. 2:4) and replaced it with entertainment and comfort. And we wonder why America is spiritually dead and question why we have not seen mass conversions, as the first-century church did. We pay lip-service to the idea of revival without a willingness to do the work of repentance.
Today is the day to search our hearts and find the idols we have made. Now is the time to turn away from all that detracts us from worshiping our God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), to strip away all that has been built on with hay and wood and straw (1 Cor. 3:12) – in our churches and in our lives — and to repent of our adulterous ways. Maybe God will, as He did for the Jews in Ezra’s day, hear our confession and turn his face toward us. Perhaps a great revival will spark throughout America, one that will burn brightly no matter our financial, physical, or political circumstances.