Is This a Yoke?
We finish our reading from the Moravian Texts today in the book of Ezra with a great sin exposed, a priest’s fervent prayer, and a wrenching act of repentance. The problem? The “remnant” that God has re-established in Israel has not “kept themselves separate” from the neighboring people with their “detestable practices” of idolatry. The men have taken daughters as wives for themselves and mingled the holy race with the people around them. The solution? The women and children are to be sent away.
The first time I read this story in Ezra (Chapters 9 and 10) I nearly wept. The consequences for Israel’s sin seemed so harsh, not only for the men who had been disobedient, but especially for the women and children who would be cast out. How could this action be sanctioned by the God I know and love?
Then, as now, I console myself with the knowledge that this event is in the Bible partly to record Israel’s history but more importantly as a challenge and a warning for us today. Israel had forgotten who they were and Whose they were. Sound familiar?
The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and Balial (Satan)? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”
Jesus’ brother James is even more firm: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” (James 4:4). Ouch!
As our own culture slides farther and farther away from the principles and commands God has given us, our greatest witness is in the choices we make. Will we learn from the Israelites and remember Who we belong to? Or will we intermingle with the world? Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” (Matt. 11:29). It’s a harness that’s guaranteed to guide us in the right direction.