One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, August 9, 2013: Ezra 8:21-9:15
7 Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. 8 And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. 9 For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. Ezra 9:7-9 (NKJV)
Ezra returned to Jerusalem full of vision for the restoration of the pure worship of God. After 70 years of Babylonian captivity, God's people had not only been allowed to return to Canaan, but also to rebuild God's Temple -- God's house. Ezra led the second group of Jewish captives allowed to return. The first group, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, had rebuilt Solomon's Temple -- although in a smaller version. Now Ezra's assignment was to teach God's Word; to fill this house with truth and holiness.
He returned full of vision and zeal for his assignment. But, no sooner had he arrived that he was met with a huge obstacle. Have you ever begun a good work, a worthy project, or a noble cause only to be challenged right out of the gate? It seems that we bearly get out of the starting blocks before we stumble! Before any momentum can be mounted, we have a blow-out!
Ezra found that God's people had intermarried with pagans. This was NOT an ethnic or racial issue. It was spiritual because it meant they "had not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites..." (Ezra 9:1). God's people had made covenants with not only pagan people but pagan practices such as idol worship, child sacrifice, and worse.
Ezra's remorseful prayer of repentance in Ezra 9:6-15 is one of the most heart-rending in all of Scripture. You can almost hear him crying out, "HERE WE GO AGAIN!!!" After all the judgment and captivity and pain, God's people had not learned their lesson! The pattern of sin and death was rising up again.
I am reminded of the plaintive cry of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-25 where he describes the spiritual battle between God's righteousness and man's indwelling sinfulness. He, like Ezra, cries out for deliverance. "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:24) Who can deliver me from this pattern of sinful failure? Who can save me from my own strong tendency to displease God?
In Romans, the questions of chapter 7 are answered in the glorious panorama of Romans 8 (perhaps the greatest chapter in the Bible). "There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to those who are IN CHRIST JESUS" (Rom.8:1). For the next 39 verses, Paul points us to Jesus.
In Ezra, an unusual phrase does the exact same thing as Romans 8. As Ezra cries out for forgiveness and mercy, he lays hold of one glimmer of hope. He declares that "grace has been shown" (vs. 8). That grace appears as "a peg in His Holy Place."
What is this peg? Practically, it is just as it sounds -- a nail or hanger. In biblical times, people drove nails in their walls on which to hang their garments (they didn't have closets). Or, a peg was a stake in the ground that secured a tent. Years before Ezra, Isaiah had spoken of "a peg in a secure place" (Is. 22:23). In Isaiah, this peg is none other than the coming Messiah, Jesus. "The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open. I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, and he will become a glorious throne to his father's house" (Isaiah 22:22-23).
Ezra says that grace has been given in the form of "a peg in the holy place." We have a firmly driven nail on which to hang our hopes, our faith, and our lives. The old hymn comes to mind,"When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay... On Christ the solid rock I STAND!" He holds me like an anchor. He keeps me against the ravages of sinful temptation. He draws me ever toward the holy place. He is my peg.
The results that Ezra describes are twofold. He says that we will have ENLIGHTENED EYES and a MEASURE OF REVIVAL. This is a picture of the vitality of life in Christ. Rather than walking in darkness, we can see again! Life makes sense. Our broken defeated hearts begin to live again -- they are revived.
Ezra's work was not defeated. His assignment was not halted. God's people DID respond to his cry for repentance. God takes temporary set-backs to show us the true key to the future. It is like "a peg in a secure place." It is the faithfulness of God drawing us forward to His great plans -- to His glory. We have "a peg in His holy place."