March 24, 2019 – Ezra 9 – 10

Lesson Date: March 24, 2019

Focal Scripture Passage: Ezra 9:1-15; 10:1-5, 10-12

AIM: To lead students to discover how the Jews responded when they were confronted with their worldly compromise and sin, and to plan how to respond properly when they are confronted with sin in the future.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Ezra 9 – 10 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Prepare the index cards described in the “Conclusion” step.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): If you have ever received a traffic ticket, tell the class how you felt and reacted when the officer came to your car window. Other possibilities would be to tell how you felt and reacted when your boss corrected you for something you had done at work or when you were a child and your parents corrected you for some wrongdoing.

Ask: “Think for a moment: how do you react when someone points out something you have done wrong?” Allow a moment for students to think about that.

Say: “Imagine for a moment that I came to you with a humble and broken heart and rebuked you for sin and compromise I saw in your life. Imagine I put my finger on some areas of worldliness and disobedience to God.” Ask: “What possible responses might you have?” (you could lash out in anger at me for confronting you; you could make excuses for your actions; you could blame others for your sin; you could compare yourself to others who are doing the same or worse things; you could claim you didn’t know any better; or you could humbly accept the rebuke and then repent of your sins). Ask: “What is the right way to respond to such rebuke and correction?” (humbly accept the rebuke and repent of your sins).

Tell the class in today’s lesson we will discover how the Jews reacted when Ezra caught them doing something very wrong.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Tell the students this is our last lesson from the Old Testament book of Ezra.
    • Using the timeline, map, and previous lesson titles, briefly review the first three lessons from the book of Ezra.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Lord and he trusted the Lord for protection).
    • Ask if any volunteer would be willing to recite last week’s memory verse (Ezra 7:10).
  2. Sin was Reported.
    • Read Ezra 9:1-2.
    • Tell the class that shortly after Ezra arrived from Babylon (chapter 8), the leaders of the Jews came to him to report a problem.
    • Ask: “What was that problem?” (the people, priests, and leaders had not separated themselves from the people of the land, but had actually intermarried with them).
    • Ask: “Why do you think that was a problem?” (because God had told them not to do it).
    • Ask: “Why would God forbid them from marrying whoever they wanted? Is God a racist or a bigot?” (no, He knew if they intermarried with pagan people they would adopt their false religions).
    • Tell the class God’s command is found in Exodus 34.
    • Read Exodus 34:12-17.
    • Tell the class God warned the Israelites that making a covenant with the pagan Canaanites would prove to be a snare to them.
    • Ask: “What did God tell them to do with all the false altars and idols?” (destroy them).
    • Reread Exodus 34:16.
    • Ask: “What did God say would happen if they intermarried with unbelievers?” (they would “go a whoring after their gods”).
    • Tell the students the same is still true today. Christians should only marry other Christians who are seeking to live for the Lord and grow closer to Him.
    • Summarize: Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra learned that many of the Jews had not separated themselves from the people of the land, but had actually intermarried with them.
  3. Sin was Repented.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 9:3-4.
    • Ask: “How did Ezra react to this news?” (he was deeply grieved).
    • Explain that in ancient times tearing one’s garment, plucking one’s hair and beard, and sitting on the ground were outward signs of great remorse and mourning.
    • Ask: “What happened next?” (the godly Jews – those who “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” – gathered around Ezra and waited the rest of the day).
    • Ask volunteer to read Ezra 9:5-6.
    • Tell the class that at the time of the evening sacrifice Ezra went before the Lord in brokenness and humility.
    • Ask: “Did Ezra make excuses for the sins of the people?” (no).
    • Ask: “Did he try to justify their behavior?” (no).
    • Ask: “Did he claim they didn’t know any better?” (no).
    • Ask: “Did he blame their sin on someone else?” (no).
    • Tell the students Ezra humbly acknowledged the sins of his people. In fact, the rest of this chapter contains Ezra’s confession on behalf of the people.
    • Read Ezra 9:7-15.
    • Explain what Ezra said in his prayer, using the following outline:
      • Verse 7 – The Jews had a continual problem with sin, literally going back centuries.
      • Verses 8-9 – God had been merciful to them in bringing them out of captivity.
      • Verses 10-12 – They forsook God’s commandment (quoted in verses 11-12). God warned that intermarriage with idolaters would lead the Jews away from Him.
      • Verses 13-14 – Even after all their previous troubles, the Jews still disobeyed God. God did not punish them as much as they deserved.
      • Verse 15 – Ezra humbly admitted their sinfulness, without trying to deny it, justify it, or blame it on others.
    • Summarize: Ezra humbly and sincerely confessed the sins of the Israelites, without trying to cover it up or make excuses for it.
  4. Separation was Restored.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 10:1.
    • Ask: “Who came before Ezra?” (a great congregation of men, women, and children).
    • Ask: “What was their attitude?” (they were brokenhearted and weeping over their sin).
    • Ask the class to listen for whether they admitted or denied their sins, as you read Ezra 10:2 (they admitted them).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 10:3-5.
    • Ask: “What did this man propose?” (that they put away their foreign wives and the children born to them).
    • Ask: “What did Ezra require them to do?” (swear that they would follow through with this commitment).
    • Ask: “Did they?” (yes).
    • Tell the class that Ezra required all the Jews to assemble in Jerusalem three days later. They gathered in the street outside the Temple. It was early December 458 BC. and Jerusalem is 2400 feet above sea level, so it was cold. The people sat outside in the pouring rain.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 10:10-12.
    • Note that the sins of those who married foreign wives affected the whole nation (“to increase the trespass of Israel” – verse 10).
    • Ask: “What did Ezra tell them to do?” (confess their sins and separate from their foreign wives).
    • Ask: “How did the Jews respond to this (verse 12)?” (they agreed to do what Ezra said).
    • Tell the class the rest of the chapter names those Jewish men who put away their non-Jewish wives.
    • What happened to these wives and children? We don’t really know. Perhaps they were sent back to their families. Many commentators believe the Jewish men put them out of their houses, but continued to provide for them. If that was the case they still lived among the Jews, but were not allowed to worship God at the Temple or inherit property from the Jews. We do not know for sure.
    • Tell the students this sad story reminds us of the harmful effects of sin: these women and children suffered terribly for the sins of their husbands and fathers. Our sins always affect our families.
    • Summarize: The Jews were willing to stop and correct their wrongdoing, restoring the separation God told them to maintain between themselves and the idolaters of the land.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Tell the students the Jews readily admitted their sin and were willing to do something about it. Ask: “Do you think is was easy, convenient, or fun to put away their wives and children?” (no). Cleaning up the mess from our sins is always unpleasant.

Stress that this incident does not give Christians the right to divorce their unsaved spouses. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 and 1 Peter 3:1-2 make this abundantly clear. This event was a special circumstance concerning Jews who were living under the Law of Moses.

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Romans 12:2; and 1 John 2:15-17.

Ask: “Are there areas of your life in which you’ve not remained separate from the world? In what areas have you disobeyed God and ‘married’ into worldliness? Are you willing to confess, repent, and recommit?” Tell the class we must plan ahead as to how we will respond the next time a friend, our pastor, or the Holy Spirit confronts us about our sin. Urge everyone to make a personal commitment to respond with humility and repentance. Lead a closing prayer.

 

CONCLUSION: Encourage the students to confess their sins daily. Give them an index card or small piece of paper on which you have written or printed the text of 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Ask them to memorize that verse.

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