Wednesday, January 24, 2017
But in spite of this there is still hope for Israel. Ezra 10:2b(NLT)
Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action. So Ezra stood up and demanded that the leaders of the priests and the Levites and all the people of Israel swear that they would do as Shecaniah had said. And they all swore a solemn oath. Then Ezra left the front of the Temple of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. He spent the night there without eating or drinking anything. He was still in mourning because of the unfaithfulness of the returned exiles. Ezra 10:4-6(NLT)
So far this week we have seen the failed spiritual condition of Israel, and how the only recourse they had short of God’s hand of judgment was to repent and return to their covenant vows with God. We in America have also gotten ourselves behind that 8-ball!
Notice that Ezra the leader lost his appetite over the sin of his people. Fasting is not a practice talked about much any more. Perhaps it is because we are not a people that deal well with self-denial. We do not deny ourselves much in this country. Perhaps that is why God is not blessing America and America's churches. Over 80% of American churches are plateaued or declining in membership.
I'm certain you could think of at least as many excuses as I can as to why fasting is old fashioned and outdated. I only leave you with the thought that perhaps if we put aside our fascination and dependence on material things, even for a little while, God might once again send the showers of blessing – who knows?
But, somehow the message of repentance got through to the people. Shechaniah urged Ezra to follow through with helping the people to know how to repent. The fact is, beloved, it is not enough for us to look at the terrible conditions in America, conditions of our own sinfulness, and shake our heads, cluck our tongues, even shed some tears.
It isn't enough.
There comes a time when we must get up. There must be a time of arising from the ashes of our spiritual nonsense and get busy doing repentance.
Years ago I served a church that used to be known as Phoenix Baptist Church because it was located on Phoenix Ave. Part of our prayers often were that we would be like the ancient mythical bird, the phoenix, that arose out of its own ashes to a new life. It is corporate repentance and corporate returning to the covenant with God that can make a person, or a church, or a nation spiritually alive again.
Together, hand in hand we must weep for our own sins, and the sins of our nation, and the blindness of this generation.
Together we ought to fill altars with knees and tears.
Together we ought to cry out to Almighty God for forgiveness.
Together we must repent and confess our sins one to another, if we expect God to do anything with this sin-sick land in which we dwell.
When is the last time you saw an altar filled with church members praying?