Because we are so desensitized toward sin, we fail to have the proper response toward it, whether it is our own sin, or sin in others. We minimize it, justify it, or ignore it and go on our way unaffected by it. If we see someone reacting in a godly way toward sin, we think that he is a bit carried away or extreme. He is judgmental or intolerant. How dare he cast stones at others! Does he think that he is without sin? And so, by casting our stones at him, we justify our sins and go back to business as usual, wondering why God doesn’t bless our lives more than He does.
Our text relates Ezra’s reaction to the sin of the exiles who had returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. About four and a half months (7:9, cf. 10:9) after he led a remnant back to the land, it was reported to him that many people in Israel, including too many priests, Levites, princes, and rulers, had sinned by taking pagan wives.
Ezra did not take the news in stride, chuckling, “Well, people will be people.” Rather, he tore his clothes, pulled some hair from his head and beard, and sat down appalled and speechless until the time of the evening offering. By then a number of godly people had gathered around him. Ezra arose, then fell to his knees, lifted his hands to the Lord, and confessed the great sin of his people, identifying himself with them, although he had not sinned in this regard. His prayer, which ranks with Nehemiah 9 and Daniel 9 as one of the great prayers of confession in the Bible, shows us the godly reaction to sin:
The godly reaction to sin is to recognize it from Scripture,to mourn over it, and to confess it without excuse to the God of mercy.
How a person reacts to the news of sin tells a lot about that person. If we hear about adultery and get a subtle thrill reading the juicy details, it reveals that we do not hate that sin and are vulnerable to it ourselves. While I confess that I have never reacted as strongly against sin as Ezra did (I can’t afford to pull out my hair!),and while part of his reaction may be culturally explained, we still can learn from him that we need to abhor sin so that we do not become desensitized to it.