Letter to Guilt
Coffee with Holley Gerth
After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. Ezra 9: 1-4
According to Dr. David Jeremiah in The Jeremiah Study Bible, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are one unified book in the Hebrew Bible. These two books tell the story of rebuilding the temple in Ezra and in Nehemiah the walls around Jerusalem. Chapters 1-6 of Ezra covers the first group of exiles returning after the Babylonian captivity and they rebuild the temple under Zerubbabel. Chapters 7-10 covers the second return those who were back sliders. Ezra finds many of the Jewish men had married pagan wives. The intermarriages violated God’s law in Deuteronomy 7: 1-5.
Ezra credited with rebuilding the spiritual integrity of the people. Dr. David Jeremiah says, “Ezra’s themes revolve around the monumental task of moving God’s people from a foreign country to their homeland. The Road to Restoration in the book of Ezra covers dependence on God’s guidance and protection in difficult circumstances. Separation is still important, separation leads to holiness; Ezra had to convince the Jews not to intermarry with pagans or worship idols. Opposition is still going to occur, Satan is alive and well and helpers will always oppose God’s work. Repentance is the only way that addresses sin; one must confess and repent and Ezra calls the Israelites to full repentance for the sin of intermarrying. Community is important.”
Here is his prayer for the people in Ezra 9: 5-
Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed:
“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.
“But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm placea in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.
“But now, our God, what can we say after this? For we have forsaken the commands you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its people. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other. Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.’
“What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this. Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the people who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor?Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.”
Beloved, reading this last paragraph, the word guilt referred to as “our great guilt” and “before you in our guilt.” The result of Ezra’s praying leads to repentance, revival and restitution. Beloved, Ezra confronted the sin of intermarrying and the people responded. Beloved are you willing to do whatever it takes, confess whatever is standing between you and God? Setting things right with God leads to repentance, revival, and renewal. With this process, forgiveness is the key. We must follow 1 John 1:9,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Beloved, after Nathan confronts King David he confesses his sin with Bathsheba Psalm 32 in the Message Bible describes sin and forgiveness and quilt the best.
1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be – you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.2Count yourself lucky – God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him.3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans.4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone – my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.6These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched.7God’s my island hideaway, keeps danger far from the shore, throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.8Let me give you some good advice; I’m looking you in the eye and giving it to you straight:9“Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle to stay on track.”10God-defiers are always in trouble; God-affirmers find themselves loved every time they turn around.11Celebrate God. Sing together – everyone! All you honest hearts, raise the roof!
Often I struggle with regrets of choices I made in my past. Foolish choices made while running away from a God that loves me and calls me daughter. When I think back to those choices, I am guilty of those poor choices, overcoming feelings of guilt take me to a very dark place. However, guilt is useless emotion in the life of a believer. Guilt you have no place in the life of the believer. Guilt you used to make a person feel less than worthy, worthy of the love of God. Guilt you keep a person under your thumb causing feelings of oppression. However, one day guilt, I realized you were lying to me. You want me to believe that forgiveness is for everyone except me. You want to make me ineffective, laden-down, filled with loathing and self-hate. You want me asking why I made those choices and to live in the past instead I just need to confess and ask for forgiveness. Today, I bury guilt and I choose freedom in Christ.