Reflections on Ezra’s Prayer of National Contrition and Repentance (Ezra 9.5-15)
Father, I humble myself before You. I am a lump of clay, nothing without the breath of life from Your mouth. You are my reason for living; there is no other. I can’t even exist without Your divine will for me to do so. And then in my living, I have been unthankful and disobedient – making my existence even more absurd. Lord, how merciful You have been to a creature who barely acknowledges You…to one who walks in darkness, groping for significance in wrong places. If it were not for Your light, I would be utterly lost.
Our sins? My sins are weight enough to condemn me in the strongest way. I alone have made myself a wretch and needed no help from another. But I understand Ezra’s plea. Because with this symphony of iniquity, You must groan. How You must dread looking into every work place, every home, every cell, every bedroom, every hotel room, every bar, and every heart where sin is conceived and where its birth gives way to a grotesque miscarriage of Your original intent. O God, forgive us!
Father, we as leaders lead Your people to the gallows. We happily trudge along toward death without mind or thought of our eternity. And we march over the flaming edge with arrogant confidence in our ways and understanding. We have pronounced ourselves as godlike. We are the center of all things. We know best. And in this proclamation, we march multitudes into destruction, simply because we will not bend the knee to Divine love.
But through a small crack in the door, the Light comes streaming into the darkness. It is the sliver of Light that gives an unmistakable call, “Come unto Me.” It is Your hand extending in the crucial time of our rescue, grasping my hand as I fell. In the last second, I am rescued by my God, a Savior strong and able. In a time of last breaths, You came — barely time in the glass left for me. I am saved!
He has broken the chains of darkness. I was a slave with no worth to a cruel master. You came to my deliverance, You remembered the place of my captivity, and Your love for us compels Your strong presence to free the oppressed. A cup for the thirsty and bread for the hungry, You revive my soul from destitution. I enter into the courts of my God, the brilliance of Your presence. And I am in awe. I am safe!
And now, I kneel before Your throne because of the realization that nothing, nothing, nothing was done on my part to merit such love. I was utterly captive to my own destruction. There was no strength. There was no hope. I should have perished with millions of others. Why me, O Lord? Why extend Your hand to me? Fairness is the pit. Justice is the flame. Right is judgment and wrath. But instead, I have mercy. Oh, the wonderful grace of Jesus! How precious the entrance into the Kingdom of God through His mercy. I am on my face. I have no strength as I consider the disaster I have escaped. I am saved! I am safe!
And now, left with only a second in the stretch of eternity, what shall I do? I will give the whole in service to You. I will proclaim my Rescuer’s love for all. It is no duty. I do not need to strain. I am compelled by His lovingkindness to invite others to this wedding feast of the Lamb. Come to Him! Come to the light! Be saved! Be safe! Warn others before the second slips into eternal darkness! Trade your chains for light and love!
The second gone, any suffering has faded from memory. The King enters. We bow. Now begins eternal gratitude and praise of the weary soldiers of the Lamb. Now His victory is won. We are a testimony to Your love and glory forever! AMEN
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