Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Bewildered, by DemonicAngel698, from Deviant Art

For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
Ezra 9:2

Ezra discovers that many among them, including priests and rulers, have taken for themselves wives from the women of the lands, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites1. He is shocked and appalled, the King James version of the Bible translating his distress as astonied2 a surprising word meaning "bewildered, dazed and astounded". After much tearing of hair and rending of garments, Ezra prays to God first for forgiveness for his people for their transgressions, and then for advice. The way Ezra sees it is that if this practice continues there will be nothing left of Israel, there should be no remnant nor escaping.3

There is a fine balance between ostracising and embracing. On the one hand it shows great kindness to welcome differences, but on the other hand if anything goes then nothing is left. A people needs an identity, something to differentiate itself from other groups, a core, a centre to hold true, an ancestry of tradition from which to draw support and strength. When we lose that, we lose ourselves. This was Ezra's lament.

In the secularism of today there is a sense of rootlessness. There is no God, and few traditions to bind us. We are wrapped in the bondage of self, making up the rules as we go along, subject to the whims of those leaders we elect, or who impose themselves on us. The boundaries of society today are like shifting sands; what is known is quickly unknown, and what has never been is suddenly the new essential. Life must evolve, of course, and without new ideas we are stuck in the past, rigid and decaying. And yet without clear boundaries, without roots, we subject ourselves to all kinds of nonsense as we have no way of determining value, no baseline against which to measure.

Ezra recognised this, and it helps to explain his great sadness and distress—which leads him to action. It seems that astony is an unexpected quality of leadership, certainly not a quality we hear much about today in politics and business, but one perhaps that is due for revival.

1 Ezra 9:1b
2 Ezra 9:3 & 9:4
3 Ezra 9:14