I. On Ezra’s arrival at Jerusalem complaint was made to him of the failure and sin of the people.—What an appalling story it was, that during these sixty years, even though there had been no return to heathen idolatry, there had been the wilful breaking of God’s law about inter-mixture with the people of the land, and the chief offenders had been the princes and the rulers. The picture of Ezra in the presence of this confession is very fine. It is that of a man tempest-tossed with righteous indignation. As the storm of his passion subsided, in which he had rent his garments and plucked off his beard, he sank into silent astonishment until the evening oblation.
II. Then he fell upon his knees before his God and poured out his soul in prayer.—It was a wonderful prayer. Beginning with confession of his personal shame, he at once gathered into his outcry the whole of the people, identifying himself with them as he spoke of “our iniquities … our guiltiness,” and so forth. He went back over all the history in imagination as he knelt before his God, and clearly saw that it had been one long story of failure and of consequent disaster. He then spoke of his consciousness of the grace of God manifest in the making possible of the return of the remnant through favour of the kings of Persia. Then the surging sorrow of the new failure found expression in free and full confession, until at last, without any petition for deliverance, he cast the people before God with a recognition of His righteousness, and of their inability to stand in its presence. It is a fine revelation of the only attitude in which any man can become a mediator. The passion of the whole movement is evidence of its reality. No man can really know the righteousness of God, and in its light see sin, and be quiet and calculating and unmoved.
(1) ‘Ezra speaks as the true priest. During the years which had passed since the first detachment of exiles had returned, though there had been no return to idolatry, there had been a large amount of intermarriage between the Jews and the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had settled on the land, as well as with neighbouring peoples. And, sad to say, “the hand of the princes and priests had been chief in this trespass.” Ezra’s behaviour when these tidings were brought to him was very remarkable. He seemed almost distraught.’
(2) ‘They are most ill-matched who have not common interests in the deepest concerns of the soul. Then it needs to be remembered in these days, when ease and comfort are unduly prized, that there are occasions on which even the peace and love of the home must be sacrificed to the supreme claims of God. Our Lord ominously warned His disciples that He would send a sword to sever the closest domestic ties—“to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother,” etc., and He added “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” ’