Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Grace and the kingdom of God

"But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant, and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.  For we are bondmen; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem."  Ezra 9: 8-9 RSV (emphasis mine) 

This passage in Ezra is  part of a prayer of repentance that recognizes the sin of the people, and the great grace of GodThe king of Persia has granted permission for the exiled Jews to return to Israel and rebuild the temple.  Although the Jews had been in exile in a foreign country for 70 years, and under the influence of other religions, there were still Jews who remained faithful to the LORD, and they had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the templeHowever, Ezra received word that the faithful officials in Jerusalem were not following God's law, and they had intermarried with women from other faiths. These officials had allowed other forms of worship to creep into their lives. 

It was an amazing miracle from God that the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem, set up a government according to their own laws, and worship according to their own faithIn verse 8 of Ezra's prayer, he recognizes the importance of what has happenedGod's grace has granted the Jews an opportunity to grab a secure hold upon their faith, in spite of their exile, in spite of their bondage, and in spite of their sin Ezra's prayer was a weighty prayer on the behalf of the Jews who had returned to JerusalemHe recognized the great sin of the people who were supposed to be strengthening the faith, and the greater grace of God, who was able to strengthen the people in spite of their sin.   

This is an important concept for Christians today God's grace extends to us collectively.  Our society has a focus on the individual, but it is important that we keep a secure hold in our faith as citizens of the Kingdom of God.