It was Sunday morning and we were having a little family worship gathering since our regular church service had been cancelled due to ice. I was already thoroughly agitated, feeling like it was wholly unnecessary to have cancelled corporate worship. The temps were rising, snow was melting, and I couldn’t help thinking of faithful believers all over the world who travel through far more treacherous and dangerous conditions in order to gather together. Why were we such wimps?

Please understand: I wasn’t pointing fingers. What bothered me was me. What bothered me was that I was willing to risk my neck in order to go wherever wanted, but I was all-too-willing to cancel plans that didn’t directly serve me. I was eager to spend money on self-serving purchases, but felt livid when our power bill doubled or when an unexpected medical expense caught me off guard. Wasn’t I grateful for HEAT? For MEDICAL CARE?

I couldn’t quite articulate why I was so sad, but the whole morning just felt off. Then Heidi, sitting on my lap, opened her Bible at “random” and started reading aloud, completely unprompted. She just happened to read Ezra 9:5-15 and I could barely believe my ears.

This is the passage where Ezra discovers that the returned Jewish exiles “have not separated themselves from the people of the lands with their abominations.” That is, they were inter-marrying with the ungodly inhabitants of the land, even though God had clearly forbidden them.

Ezra’s response reflected how I felt.

“As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloack and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled … and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God.”

Ezra then goes on to pray, to repent on behalf of all the people who have mixed-in with the world, and asks God for wisdom on how to proceed, how to make it right.

The answer is one of the hardest, I believe, in all of Scripture.

The people of Israel had to go through, person by person, and make right the wrong they had done. The men who had intermarried had to separate from their foreign wives. Now this might seem harsh to us, or even bizarre, but this serves as a picture to us that God does not take worldliness lightlyHe doesn’t just shrug His shoulders and say,

“Oh sure, why not. You can just do your own thing.” No. He says, “I have a better way for you. I want you for myself. If you have intermingled with the world, if you have “married” the customs and ways of this world, you need to go back and painstakingly separate again.”

Honestly, this story makes me uncomfortable. It took three months for the entire process of re-separating, and I cannot imagine the sound of weeping, the hurt and pain and disappointment and anguish that took place. Innocent children were probably devastated. Women were probably left destitute. And we are so quick to blame God and say, “How could you make their consequences so harsh? Don’t you care?”

Yes, He does. That’s why He gave them the prohibition in the first place. That’s why He said,

“Don’t go the way of the world. Don’t marry it. Don’t fall in love with it. It will only lead to unimaginable heartache in the end. Your family will suffer. Your loved ones will suffer. Please, my beloved child. Obey me.”

I knew, as we read those words, that God was highlighting areas of my own heart. Where I had let myself love the world. That’s why I was agitated. Something needed to be made right.

Something inside needed to be fixed. 

Just then our housemate, Michael, stuck his head in the door,

“Jeff! You’ve got a broken pipe in the garage!”

Oh no. We raced downstairs, and there it was spraying like a hose through the drywall and into our (converted) garage, soaking the couch and carpet. (Yes, we had kept the faucets running, but apparently the freeze from earlier in the week had weakened the pipe, and then it finally broke.)

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Thankfully, the guys got the water off, the drywall torn out, and quickly found that the broken spot was small and easily repairable. (Grace!) But still, it would take time, money, work.

Fixing broken things always does. 

Jeff took off for Home Depot, and I came back upstairs, curled up under the quilt, and knew exactly what my next RESOLVE would be: Spirit-guided introspection to see where brokenness had caused an inter-marriage with the world. Then, painstaking re-separation from whatever wasn’t God’s way.

{I understand this isn’t the most exhilarating resolution out there. But our Father loves us so much He can’t let us go a way that will lead to heartache in the end. Let’s resolve to let Him show us what’s broken, and commit to making it right, by His strength, no matter what time, money, or work it may take. It will be worth it. Thanks for reading.}

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