Today we look into the third issue in the hearts of the returned exiles:
Issue #3 Israel, a polluted people, ask: “Why does He not (accept our offerings)?”
In this next section we see God addressing two specific issues in their marriages. We will address the first only in this blog (hence the title, #3a)
The first issue in their marriages is that they were again marrying foreign women who are leading them into idolatry! Ezra 9:13-14 and Nehemiah 13:3 also speak words against the returned Jews marrying foreigners. Why was it wrong to marry foreigners? Should we only marry within our nationality, race, or culture?
We know that there were allowances for foreigners to enter into the congregation of God. For example, Exodus 12:37-38 makes reference to a mixed multitude that went out of Egypt and Exodus 12:48 allows for foreigners to be circumcised and then keep the Passover with the people of God. We also know that Ruth and Rahab were both foreign women who married into God’s people and were held in honour.
But then we also come across passages such as Numbers 25, or Exodus 34:13-16: “You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.”
It was not the marriage per se that was wrong, but the resulting idolatry as they took on of the gods of their spouse! The sin of idolatry was one of the primary sins the people of Israel were called out for before they went into exile. The original readers could not bring offerings to God and expect His favour if they were transgressing the covenant in other areas of their lives.
We see this same principle commanded in the New Testament in Matthew 5 when Jesus tells them to tear out their eyes or lose a member if it is the cause of sin:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
We know that God is not saying to literally cut of their hands; rather, Jesus wanted to show them the seriousness of their sins in His eyes. For the original readers, the Lord was calling them to stop the cycle of idolatry.
This leads us into application for our lives.
Healthy Heart Habit #3a = Pure hearts; pure lives
Believers are called to cast off things of the world and serve God alone. We are to be cut off from the ways of the world, living as the light in the spheres of society. Ask yourself:
Are you living according to your culture, or assimilating the Word of God into your heart and living out a Kingdom culture?
Think about the following verses through the day:
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
. . . you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. (Romans 2:21-23)