I have some follow up that is probably more confessional than anything else.
My recent Bible reading and devotion had me in Ezra, and now Nehemiah. I had read those books before, but sadly, not with genuine interest—what a loss to me! Ezra is the great history of God’s use of Cyrus king of Persia, Ezra, and others to bring about restoration of Israel to their homeland after the deportation to Babylon in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar.
Cyrus, a thoroughgoing pagan, empowers the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. He places in their hands not only items restored from the temple after it was ransacked, but also documents needed to authorize the rebuilding, and to supply the builders with goods.
The work under Ezra is highly successful. However, like any other righteous work, man’s sinfulness is present. Several years into the process, it comes to the attention of Ezra that many of his fellow Hebrews have chosen pagans as wives, and many have had children. The response of Ezra is overwhelming. His grief is recorded in the ninth chapter, followed by a call to repentance. In addition, the detractors are called on to “put away” these wives of pagan beliefs.
Amazingly, the book of Ezra ends with a list of the many who took this defection from faith, and with no real resolution. A couple of decades later, the problem reemerges in Nehemiah. Sadly, this man of God must continue to deal with the same evil situation.
The reading hit my spirit like a sledgehammer. I have, over the past year and a half since my repentance and return to the fold, leaned heavily on my own innocence, knowing myself to be the Christian, and my wife to be in resistance to the call of God. (And actually, that is a realistic assessment.)
However, I am the one, after all, who chose to leave a Christian wife thirty years ago. Yes, it was a bad marriage, and yes, there was lots of pain to go around, with guilt on both sides. Nonetheless, I made the choice.
God, in his infinite love and mercy, will continue to guide, guard, and direct. It is up to me, however, to recognize that, having chosen a path of rebellion, I am called to walk among thorns. I believe in his grace, and know that healing has taken place, and will continue to take place.
Praise God’s holy name for I Corinthians 7, and Paul’s revealed teaching about not divorcing a spouse because one finds them outside the faith. Were it not for that, Ezra’s words would move me in the direction of divorce. I am confident that the Holy Spirit led Paul (who after all said, “To the rest I say [I, not the Lord] that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her”) to reveal that teaching in order to do away with any confusion to Christians on this issue.
So…anyway…good to have an outlet in this forum. As I progress in faith and in my new church home, I will find more friends and brothers to share with (some of which I already have).