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When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.

~Ezra 9:3

Lesson49-image001Materials Needed: Whiteboard or easel.

Notes to the Leader: To many people, repentance is always what the other person should do. It is often one of the most misunderstood Christian concepts. Repentance is the cornerstone of our faith. This study looks at what it means when we profess our faith in Christ and are “called to repent.” You will be able to make good use of a whiteboard or easel since many of the questions lend themselves to a discussion and opinions. Take time to build lists of what your group comes up with. It is an excellent way to practices sharing with each other.

Introduction

How would you define the word Repentance?

  • Webster: Repent – To turn from sin and dedicate one’s self to the amendment of one’s life; to feel regret or contrition, to change one’s mind.
  • After reviewing Webster’s version, where do you think that people today go wrong and misunderstand its real meaning?
  • Many people feel regretful of the things that they do. Feeling bad, however, is not repentance. The robber who is caught is caught is usually regretful of being caught. But unless he turns from his lifestyle, the robber is not repenting.
  • To repent is, yes, to regret but also, to seek a new way with dedication and conviction.

Section One: Sinful Activity

Have someone in your group read Ezra 9:1-2

Note: The people had left captivity and entered Jerusalem full of commitment with high expectations. Upon Ezra’s return, he found them living as if they had forgotten their covenant with God.

Why do you think the people who arrived in Jerusalem with such a strong commitment to follow God’s commands ended up with such a low regard for His commandments?

  • The people arrived in Jerusalem with a sense of mission. This was to restore and rebuild the temple. When the work was stopped on the temple, they lost this strong “mission” and drifted back to their sinful ways.

How is this lesson relevant to today’s Christian church?

  • People need a strong sense of mission. Without one, the results are typically the same as those Ezra found.

Do you know the stated mission of the church you attend?

  • Most mission statements are centered around a desire to be a sharing body of Christians serving both a congregation and the outside community.

What caused the leaders of Israel to come to Ezra with their confession?

  • Ezra and his group arrived full of a sincere faithfulness to God and His Law. For approximately four months, Ezra’s new group mixed with the old group (early arrivals). The old group became convicted of their own condition when they saw how the new group behaved.

How do you think this relates to each of us today and to your church?

  • The life of a few committed Christians can have a powerful impact on the world around them. Each day, the actions of our lives impact our community. As with Ezra’s small group, a small group of committed Christians can have a positive impact on their world around them.

Why do you think that the leaders of Israel had waited almost 50 years to come to grips with their sins and finally make their confession to Ezra?

  • Tolerance of sin is a slow and creeping disease. Accept once, one little sin and each time later, it becomes easier and easier to accept another.

How do we accept sin in today’s world?

List some examples one the whiteboard or easel.

  • We invest in companies that do not adhere to moral or ethical values just because they make money
  • We subscribe to magazines, news papers, watch TV shows, go to movies that border or cross the line of indecency
  • We associate with people who we should not associate with just to be sociable, fit in or get ahead
  • We compromise our families, our duty to community and mission in the name of career advancement
  • We separate the morality of our political leaders from their elected role

Do you think the response of the leaders (one of their confession) was sufficient?

  • By Ezra’s response we must assume it was not sufficient. Missing was any sign of the second key part of repentance, a commitment to change, make restitution and to obey the Law.

Section Two: An Unexpected Response

Have someone in your group read Ezra 9:3-4

Note: It must have been a shocking sight to see Ezra, tearing his clothes, pulling his hair, his head splotched with bleeding bald patches. This shock treatment worked. The Israelites were suddenly drawn to see the consequences of their actions.

Do you think that God uses this same “shock treatment” method in our lives today?

  • Yes and members of your group may have examples that they wish to share.

When we are exposed to the sinful acts of others, How do you think God would like us to respond?

  • Many people require the “shock treatment” to come to grips with their sin. God expects us to be equally shocked at the sins of others. Sin is eternal death and, therefore, requires a serious response.

Read Ezra’s Prayer (Ezra 9:5-15) prayer to your group and “Ask them to look for three things that Ezra expressed to God:”

  • Our fathers sinned and were punished.
  • God gave his generation a break.
  • They followed in their ancestor’s footsteps and now deserve God’s wrath.

What is missing from Ezra’s prayer?

  • Ezra did not ask for mercy. He acknowledged their guilt and God’s righteousness; and accepted whatever God chose to do about it.

Is this type of behavior indicative of our society today?

  • We are not an accepting society. Rarely does anyone accept responsibility for their actions. Whether it is the actions of corporations or the actions of individuals, our world teaches and rewards us to win at all costs. It is the world that tells us we can just do it ourselves; and the only thing that counts is the individual.

List some examples of how society does not accept responsibility:

  • The criminal justice system and how we justify the behavior of people by the way they were raised or where they were raised.
  • The political system and how it is accepted that you misrepresent the truth until caught.
  • The educational system and how teaching to the “test” has become the norm instead of teaching to the child.
  • The family and how parents are more apt to defend a child’s behavior for the sake of freedom rather than for the long term interests of society.

Section Three: Repentance

Have someone in your group read Ezra 10:1-4

Note: The Israelites were coming to grip with their sin. At first, they were fearful of God’s wrath. However, as Ezra’s lament and behavior continued, a change of attitude began to take place.

How would you explain the difference between a “bitter fear of the Lord” and “godly sorrow?”

Read 2 Corinthians 7:9 to your group – To be sorry or to be fearful is not repentance. To change direction, away from sin, to seek restitution, to correct the problem, that is repentance. A godly sorrow is the response of the heart when true repentance exists.

Have someone in your group read Ezra 10:5-6

The Israelites may have expected Ezra to somehow take the lead in correcting the problem. How did Ezra handle things?

  • Ezra provided support. Many times, the repentant not only need godly counsel but also godly guidance. However, the responsibility to correct the problem was given to the leaders. While we may hurt along with those who have fallen victim to their sins, this is an example of how letting someone work out their own problems can be part of the cure.

Have someone in your group read Ezra 10:7-8

Here is outlined the punishment for not following through with compliance to the Law. Do you think this was too harsh or unfair? What about those (non-believers) who had married the Israelites? Was it fair for them to be cast out?

  • Consequence is always painful. However, it was the Israelites who had sinned. God had been overly generous to them. Without this type of consequence, is doubtful if repentance could have occurred. Always keep in mind that it was not God who did wrong.

Note: The ending of the Book of Ezra ends with a simple list of those men who had married outside their faith. This is not a typical end where a summary of things to do or rules to follow were given.

What is your response to this simple ending?

  • The rules were already published for all generations to read:
    • Read Exodus 34:11-16
    • Read Deuteronomy 7:1-5

Ezra wrote his story for the people who had lived through this period with a direct connection to the events. Prosperity was in existence at the time. They did not need an ending that summarized a moral to a story.

Bible Truth Being Taught

As humans, we sin and fall short of God’s glory. Repentance and obedience must follow for God’s people to enjoy His blessing.

Our Response

To deepen our awareness of the importance of repentance and obedience when we sin.

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