Pondering Ezra's Mass Divorce

Sometimes in this space, in the coming year, I will reflect on a passage from M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading plan. Today includes Ezra 10. 

It’s worth reflecting on the goodness of what is recorded here. The people of God, right after their return from exile - which was itself God’s discipline for disregarding His law - disregard His law, and marry women from foreign nations. Ezra the prophet weeps at this, trembling because it invites again God’s displeasure, which they just recovered from. Then some of the men, noticing Ezra, agree, mourn, and agree to divorce and send away the foreign wives, and their children, back to their nations. 

Was this action right? Is this what repentance should look like? Should we be THIS zealous for righteousness? D.A. Carson answers this way: “Without meaning to avoid the issue . . . [t]here is something noble and courageous about the action taken; there is also something heartless and reductionistic. One suspects that this is one of those mixed results in which the Bible frankly abounds . . . Some sins have such complex tentacles that it is not surprising if solutions undertaken by repentant sinners are messy as well.”⁠1 

I think that’s about right. We should deal radically with sin. God is holy. We should not be unequally yoked. Something had to be done. But when our attempts to deal with sin result in us treating others in “heartless” ways, something’s off. But sin is the great complicator of life; saying what should not be done is sometimes easier than saying what should be done. 

Map this over to today. Does this have anything to do with current events? With your friend’s troubled marriage? With your own repentance of sin? Sin complicates, and untangling its rat's nest is not easy. But the Bible does give us first principles. See, for instance, Micah 6:8:

7  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, 

with ten thousands of rivers of oil? 

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, 

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 

8  He has told you, O man, what is good; 

and what does the Lord require of you 

but to do justice, and to love kindness, 

and to walk humbly with your God? 

God-pleasing repentance first asks, “What does the Lord require of me?” Where do justice, kindness and humility meet perfectly? At the cross. Christ’s grace frees us to ponder wisely, with others, our next steps. 

How might justice, kindness and humility clarify and inform our nation's current events?


1 Carson, D.A. "For the Love of God”, Vol. 2, Jan. 10.