9. IN THE MIDST OF CRISIS, GOOD LEADERS ARE MORE CONCERNED WITH A SOLUTION THAN SPECIFICALLY ASSIGNING BLAME.
Ezra 9:5,6,15 - "At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God. And I said: 'O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens...O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!'"
It would have been easy to point fingers and issue severe rebukes because of the widespread sin the leaders and people were involved in, but Ezra does not do such (at least not initially). The nation (at least in part) is penitent; they acknowledge their great transgressions. Instead of assigning blame, Ezra first humbles himself before God as he prepares to deal with an exceedingly difficult situation. He acknowledges God's kindness and mercy toward Israel. Ezra's actions are worthy of our emulation when we find ourselves in a crisis.
10. NO MATTER HOW PRECIOUS SOMETHING IS TO US, WE MUST FORSAKE IT IF IT IS SINFUL.
Ezra 10:10-12,19 - "Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, 'You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.' Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, 'Yes! As you have said, so we must do.'...And they gave their promise that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they presented a ram of the flock as their trespass offering."
Sometimes it is hard and stressful to do the right thing, but it still must be done! 10:9 records that the people who gathered because of the proclamation were "trembling because of this matter." They knew the right thing to do (i.e., sever marriage bonds that they had made in ignorance that violated God's law; cf. Deut. 7:1ff) and were willing to commit to it, but they were a bundle of nerves with knotted-stomachs. These people understood an important principle that many do not seem to comprehend today: that which has been unjustly acquired cannot be justly kept. No matter how precious or desirable, that which is sinful must be abstained from or forsaken. Thus, the question boils down to this: Would they please self or God? As the text explains, they made the right choice, though it was an obviously painful and difficult one. And they made the choice that would please God even though there were children involved (cf. 10:44) and families were split up!
Sometimes today people are faced with similar challenging situations regarding marriages that God does not approve of (i.e., marriages that are really adultery in God's eyes; cf. Matt. 19:9). Dear friends, God cares whom we marry! His will is clearly defined on the subject (cf. Matt. 19:3ff). We must proclaim and follow the truth, even when our emotions try to stop us. Truth must be our standard for behavior. Let us learn from this tragic example from Ezra's day (cf. Rom. 15:4).