Day 46: Ezra 9:5-9
5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God 6 and prayed:
“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.7 From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.
8 “But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.
At the beginning of this beautiful prayer, we see Ezra engage in a practice which has largely been lost in today’s church but would benefit us if we would return to it, and that is the practice of communal repentance.
In a fascinating use of pronouns, Ezra says “I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God,” because “our iniquities...and our guilt have mounted up to the heavens.”
Ezra was a holy, God-fearing scribe and leader who had been innocent of wrongdoing before God. But he is also part of a community—a community which had not been innocent—and he bears their guilt with them.
Just as Ezra shares the burden of his people, and just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we ought to remember that we live in community, and that the sins of those around us ought to break our hearts like they break God’s. Many would choose condemning, judgmental language to describe the lost world around us. What if, instead, we fell on our knees, garments torn before God, and begged forgiveness and deliverance for the sins of our community? It is one thing to acknowledge when we personally have sinned and allowed an idol to take God’s place, but another thing entirely when we make such a confession on behalf of our community.
God cares deeply for the community around us. Let us help bear their burden today.
Brad Taylor | Executive Pastor, Lima Community Church