Dealing With Bad Decisions

Dealing With Bad Decisions

Scripture: Ezra 9:6, Nehemiah 13:23-25, Deuteronomy 7:3-4
Date: 12/21/2019  Lesson: 12
'The Bible gives us formulas for practices that will keep us grounded in God and are designed to maximize our happiness. What can we do to seek to keep faith alive in our homes and families, even if we have made wrong decisions in the past?'

Keys for a Happy Marriage - Paper or Digital Download

Keys for a Happy Marriage - Paper or Digital Download
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Shawn Brummund: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Sabbath School Study Hour. We're so glad that you have decided to join us here today as we come together to be able to study God's word. Right here in the Granite Bay Seventh Day Adventist Church in the greater Sacramento area of California, USA. We're glad to have all the viewers that are joining us from across the nation, of course, we have many people that join us both live, as well as online, and the various television networks across the world and we're always glad to be able to have you. So please stay tuned with us as we continue to study. We have a choir that you can see that is with me here today that is going to be blessing us in music as well.

We are coming into our second last lesson study for a very interesting and very uplifting and informative study in two key books in the Old Testament entitled Ezra and Nehemiah, Ezra and Nehemiah. And so if you have your Quarterlies make sure you grab them. If you don't have them in hand already we're going to be looking at lesson number 12, that's lesson number 12, which is entitled "Dealing with Bad Decisions." Now if you don't have the quarterly, you'd like to follow along and be able to study either during the lesson study or afterwards make sure you go to Amazingfacts.org and you can find a digital copy there for you.

Now before we invite our choir to sing for us we always have a special offer that we like to be able to give to each and every person that is interested and this is one of my favorite studies. It's lesson study guide number five which is entitled "Keys for a Happy Marriage." "Keys for a Happy Marriage." If you haven't studied this and you are married or you're thinking about getting married make sure you get a copy of this. You can dial into 1-866-788-3966 and you can receive a free copy at the end of that phone call. Number 164 is the offer number. So please ask for free offer number 164 and again that's number 1-866-788-3966. Now that's for everybody that's in North America or any of the US territories.

We're happy to be able to send that out to you. If you're not in those particular areas of the world or you'd like a digital copy, we also have that available for you. And that is through text and you can see that pertinent information that's on the screen and you simply text number SH046. So that's the code, SH046, and you want to text that to the number 40544. So please take advantage of that even here today. So we are going to invite our choir to be able to us join us in song as they inspire us and help us to be able to worship the Lord here this morning. God bless you.

♪ Your humble birth, ♪

♪ Your matchless worth; ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us. ♪

♪ No earthly crown, ♪

♪ no great renown; ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us. ♪

♪ Redeemer King, ♪

♪ of whom angels sing; ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪

♪ Splendor displayed in manger laid ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪

♪ Shepherds adore and kneel before ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪

♪ Seen of old the wonder foretold ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪

♪ Glorious one incarnate Son ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪

♪ Humbly we bring our offering ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪

♪ Redeeming light in meekness and might ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪

♪ Jesus, God with us ♪♪

Shawn: Thank you so much for blessing us with that wonderful song. And before we invite our teaching pastor up today, want to invite you to join me as we pray.

Father in heaven, we want to thank You for this opportunity to be able to come together to be able to study. We thank You so much for Your word in the way that You have revealed so much to us and Lord we trust that You will reveal even more to us today as we look at this very relevant topic that is brought to light in this lesson. I want to pray God that You will help us to have receptive minds and hearts and Lord that You will help us to take Your guidance and wisdom to heart and apply it to our lives. And so Father, we pray for Your Holy Spirit to teach us, be with our teacher today and bless him as well in Jesus' name, amen. Our teaching pastors today will be Pastor Luccas Rodor, and we thank him for being here today.

Luccas Rodor: In the spirit of full disclosure I like to tell you all that today's lesson is a very--it's a very profound lesson and to a few people, to some people it might be considered a bit controversial. So bear with me. I'm sure that if you study the lesson you know what I'm talking about. You know that this week's lesson can be a little bit, a little bit complicated if understood the wrong way, but I'm sure that the Lord will guide us in today's study.

The title of today's lesson is "Dealing with Bad Decisions." Now you know, we all, all of us make decisions hundreds maybe thousands of times every day. All the way from the most menial small decisions all the way up to the biggest life changing decisions. I mean, some of these decisions they're very tiny. They don't really matter much in the scope of of reality. So you know as much as we'd like to flatter ourselves, sometimes it doesn't matter that much if the shirt that you come with to church is blue or yellow or red. It doesn't really matter that much if for breakfast you drink orange juice or apple juice. These are the small decisions of life that they impact only you and only in the moment.

But on the other hand, there are some decisions that are much more complex and much more intricate and these decisions they impact you and those that you love in very consequential ways, serious ways. There are some decisions that involve eternal matters, for example. Some decisions that will impact you and your loved ones and your family, not only during your life and throughout your life, but also eternally. And one of her personal letters, the author Ellen White, she wrote that in the blink of an eye we can make decisions that will scar us forever and as a result, thorns will grow upon the path, making the way back just that much harder. So to better understand this week's lesson, we have to understand it in the scope of this whole lesson.

This is our second to last lesson for this quarter. The second to last lesson and we've seen something that I find truly interesting, truly beautiful in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah is that you don't see anyone sugar coating what's happening to the children of Israel. You don't find that there. In these two letters you find some of the darkest moments, some of the most dangerous moments, some of the ugliest moments that these people they go through.

So for us to understand this week's lesson and the bad decisions that God had to help the children of Israel to correct, we have to understand that in the scope of the entire context of who these people were, all the way from their calling, the calling of Abraham, the calling of Isaac, and of Jacob, the calling of their children, their sons, and the peregrinations that they had, all the way from the context of the Exodus from Egypt from which the Lord with a mighty hand delivered them and redeemed them from bondage.

We have to remember the enormous challenges of their journey through the desert, the Sinai desert and the rebellions that they went through, the establishment of the kingdom of the nation in the Promised Land. We have to remember the ups and downs that they faced almost constantly. These were people that were on a, you know, a proverbial roller coaster almost always. There always either totally up or totally down.

We have to remember that Israel. They go through this cycle of A, B, and C and this happens again and again throughout the Old Testament. They go through a cycle of apostasy, A. Bumps on the road, B. And return to God, confession, confession. And then only onto go to apostasy again, and then more bumps on the road, and then more confession and this seems to be their cycle. They live through these A, B, and Cs of life. Comes to a point where Israel then becomes continuously rebellious. Always rebellious. It seems as though there isn't one moment of peace and truly you find few few moments of peace throughout their history of true peace. There are a few, but they're kind of rare and spaced out.

And then because of their constant rebellions, that leads to a new captivity, and then to a new calling, and that's what we've been studying throughout this quarter, a new calling, where there their exodus isn't from Egypt, it's from where? Babylon. And here they're on an exodus coming from Babylon. They recuperate their land, the recuperation of their land, then they have the reconstruction of the temple and the walls and then they fall into a new cycle of A, Bs, and Cs. Of apostasies, of bumps or beatings, and then confession. And you know, friends, that is the true tragedy of our human race, of our fallen nature.

It seems as though our blindness is an incapacity of, in most occasions, not seeing correctly, not thinking correctly, not acting correctly, and not deciding correctly. And so in the context of this whole story of this people that go through the cycle of bad decisions, of beatings, and then callings from God again and again, and God forgiving them again and again, in the context of all of this, we find a few occasions and that's what we're going to study throughout this lesson that we have studied and now we are we're talking about. We find these two occasions where these two great spiritual leaders they have to deal with the bad decisions that the people made. And so the first one that we read about we find in Nehemiah 13: 23 through 25 and this is the context of the first thing that we're going to talk about today.

Look at this Nehemiah 13, 23 through 25 says, "In those days, I also saw Jews, who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, And Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair and made them swear by God, saying you shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves." So this was Nehemiah's reaction to one specific decision that the people were making regarding what? Marriage. Their decisions regarding marriage. Here the people were intermarrying.

Last week, lesson 11, we dealt with the apostasy of backslidden people. Now this time, we find that age old problem that intermarrying resurges here in the children of Israel, and since we are so far off from those people, since this happened thousands of years ago, it's a little bit difficult for us to understand exactly what's going on. That's why it's so important that we understand the details of this story, for us understand the impact, why was this so serious for them.

You know, we live in a world today where, well, our cultures they're so mixed. I mean, I come from Brazil. In Brazil, you have all kinds of people. You know, my family for example, I have my grandfather on my father's side, he's Syrian. And he ran away from World War I and he ended up in Brazil, and he married my grandmother that was German. And on my mother's side, my grandfather, he was Italian and he married a Brazilian lady and Brazilians, they're all mixed up, so she had everything in her, you know, and my parents are Brazilian. I was born in the United States and so my family's just a big mixture. And that can be said for most of us. So in that context, it's difficult for us to sometimes understand why this was such a big issue for them. And we're going to get into that.

So, I'm in Nehemiah 13, again 23 through 25. He says, "In those days, I also saw Jews, who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab." The implication, the implication that comes from their decision of marriage are not simple as those as the color of our shirts coming to church or the juice that we drink in the morning. These are not small decisions that they were making. These were big decisions. In the end of--at the end of the day, the heritage and the tradition of God's chosen nation were under threat. That's why this was ultimately such a serious offense.

The heritage of God's chosen people, their identity was under threat. The new generations that were coming, that were growing up, they had lost the identity of the language. Verse 25 says that. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod and could not speak the language of one or the other people. The whole of God's plan was under threat. Now that might seem a bit drastic to say that. How, how can you say that God's plan was under threat just because they couldn't speak the language? Well, the loss of their language, the assimilation of another language, imply that the Canaanite culture had invaded, had absorbed new generations, the new generations. Their future was at risk. And you know this was actually something very common that happened back then.

When a conqueror, he wanted to truly conquer a people and be sure that they would never rise again, what would he do? He would come, he would conquer them. He would take the people from that land, exile them or take them to a completely different place, and then he would supplant or he would he would take people from somewhere else and bring them to this place he had just conquered. And in that way, that land lost its identity. It was a form of genocide. And that is exactly what we find here. These people, they are losing their identity, their language, their culture is changing and that's why this was such a serious offense.

Nehemiah, he now observed that many of the Jews had again falling into the same sin that Ezra had to deal with as soon as he arrived in Jerusalem in 457 BC. So Ezra chapter 9 and chapter 10, they deal with that and that's the second part of our lesson. We're gonna talk about that after, after we talk about Nehemiah, after what happens to him. So this all happens in the context of the covenant. God had made a covenant with his people and when Ezra comes back, he again, well, makes them enter the covenant, a covenant with God. And this covenant included that they would not intermarry, that they would not marry or get involved with the nations around them. And so here Nehemiah, he's seeing that this covenant that they had come into just shortly a few years before was already being broken. You see this happens the second time that Nehemiah is his governing Judea.

Nehemiah, he goes through two periods, through moments of government and so in the first moment and the first period, while he's there with them, it's very likely that none of this happened. There wasn't much intermarrying. They were keeping the covenant, but as soon as Nehemiah leaves, as soon as the watchdog leaves, what happens? In Portuguese we have a saying that as soon as the shepherd or as soon as the watchdog leaves the chickens, they make a party. And that's what happens here. As soon as the watchdog left, they fell back into their ways of intermarrying and they were taking foreign wives once more into their families.

Now I want it to be very clear that we're not talking here about sexism. The Bible is not being sexist when it talks about these foreign wives that are coming and unfortunately in those days in the patriarchal society that they lived in, what would happen is that the husbands, they would bring wives to live with them. It was very rare that the man would move to then live with the wife. What happened was that the men, they would take the wife, they would prepare a home for her, and then they would take them to live with, you know, the wives to live with them. So then when we see here that these men they are taking foreign wives, that it's not being sexist. It doesn't mean that there weren't men also marrying Jewish women, but what would happen is that the Jewish women would then move to the foreign nations. Does that make sense? The women were moved to the foreign nations and the foreign wives they would then moved to Israel.

So we're not trying to vilify the women here. Far be it from that. That's not what's going on but when they say that they're taking the foreign wives, it's because if the men-- if the women, the Jewish women were marrying foreign men, it means that they would then move to where these foreign men lived. Does that make sense? All right. So I need you to observe where these wives came from. They came from Ashdod, which really was the area Philistia. So these are Philistinian wives. The race that had always been an enemy of the children of Israel. Do you remember that? The Philistines had always been fighting with the children of Israel. Always, always hostile and the natives of a city that had recently allied with their enemies.

So Ashdod, if you read from chapter 4 through 7 of Nehemiah, you find that Nehemiah is constantly being harassed by many people on every side. They plot to kill him. They want to get in the way of them rebuilding the walls and rebuilding the temple and Ashdod had been one of the cities, one of the allied cities against Nehemiah's reign and his to rebuild Jerusalem.

So here what we're talking about is that there was a much subtler and more dangerous enemy now, because before the enemy was on the outside, but now the enemy--who's the enemy? They're coming in. They're invading. The enemy is inside your home. It was inside their home. So it was a much subtler and more dangerous enemy. More than the sin of rebellion to the divine orders, here we have the sin of high treason against God. What does high treason? Allying with the enemy. Going over to the enemy side and that's what these people were doing, these external enemies were now within the gates of home.

In the past, do you remember how Balaam had had counseled the king to destroy the children of Israel? What was his strategy, his warfare strategy? It was exactly this. Go in. Offer them your daughters. Let them marry them and subtly the danger will come from within. Destruction will come from within. When we compare Ezra chapter 9 verse 1, to Nehemiah chapter 13, verse 1, we find that these people had indeed broken covenant with God. Ezra 9:1, says when these things were done, the leaders came to me saying, the people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Parasites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. That's Ezra 9:1.

Now look at Nehemiah 13:1, on the day they read from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people and in it was found that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever come into the assembly of God. These marriages, they happened. And these people had come into the assembly of God. These marriages had happened after Nehemiah's departure as we already mentioned. And the children coming from these marriages, from these unions, they were incapable of speaking the language of Judea. Now some scholars they say, they have thought that these children, they spoke a jargon of half Hebrew and half another language, have foreign language. However, it's much more likely that that these children, that half of them, since they came from these wives that were foreign, they didn't speak the language at all. They could not speak the language at all.

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible commentary describes that, and this is regarding the book of Micah and we don't have time to go into this but just so you understand many of these Jewish men, they were divorcing their Jewish wives, to marry the foreign wives. And so the children that came from the union of the Jews and the Jews, they would speak Aramaic and Hebrew, but then the children that came from the union of the Jewish men and the foreign wives, they could not speak Hebrew or Aramaic. So you had half of these children speaking the language of the land and you had half of the children not speaking the language of the land and that was the problem that we're going through.

So what's the importance of this? What's the big issue here? The loss of the language implied in the loss of their identity. That was the problem. The loss of the language implied the loss of their identity. And Nehemiah became outraged when he discovered that many of the youth in Judea were incapable of speaking Hebrew and Aramaic. The Moabite and the Ammonite languages, they were dialects that were very similar to Hebrew and to Aramaic. They were very similar, but yet they were different and a lot was lost in translation. So he was distressed to find out that these foreign dialects were gaining a foothold in Judea. And his strong reaction, the severity of the situation, and the dangerous tendency that all of this represented heavily weighed on his heart.

So what I'm trying to do is stress to all of us the big problem, because if we don't understand how huge, how severe this problem was, we don't understand their reaction to it. Does that make sense? If you don't understand how bad the situation was and if in your mind, it's you know it's not that bad. They were--they exaggerated in the reaction and their solution. We can't have that. We have to understand how severe this problem was. So all of this weighed heavily on Nehemiah's heart and so his reaction to all of this is described in verse 25 of chapter 13. It says that he contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair.

Now that might seem kind of over the top, right? He beat them, he cursed them, he beat them, he cursed them, he struck them and he contended with them. He pulled--can you imagine that? He plucked out their hair. Now that might seem an over the top reaction, but his intention was to teach them. According to the Bible, you see this was what was expected in a reproach. This was expected. This happened according to the covenant.

These condemnations, when he curses them, he's not cussing them out. That's not what's happening. He's not calling them bad names. That's not we find here. When he curses them, he is cursing them according to the covenant. And you find this in Deuteronomy chapter 28. You find what happens, or what would happen when the children of Israel, they did not follow the covenant. So when Nehemiah here, he's cursing them and calling them out and plucking their hair, truly he's acting in the context of a broken covenant.

In all of this we find a very strong pedagogical process of teaching, in which Nehemiah he strives hardly to teach and to educate these people. Some of the leaders were beaten. They were. That happened. He pulled out their hair. Or apparently they didn't like hair that much, which was a problem. Because later on we're going to find that Ezra he plucked out his own hair. So they had something with hair, where they plucked it out. Guess these people wanted to be bald.

Some of the leaders, they were beaten and all of these things, they were asked per the requirements of national humiliation and re-education. So Nehemiah is reproof, we find it in verse 26, and 27, where we find did not Solomon King of Israel sin by these very things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him who was beloved of his God and God made him king over all of Israel. Nevertheless, pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing, all this great evil transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women.

Again, God is not vilifying women. Please understand this. God here, is not vilifying women. If Solomon had been a queen, if he had been Solomona, alright, and had married many men, if that had been the custom, then the text would be saying that the foreign, the pagan men, the pagan husbands, but that's not the case here because the culture was different. So we're not vilifying women. This was just what happened. So we're just stating what had happened. So when it comes to God's orders always throughout the whole Bible, when it got comes to God's orders, to all of us, we find that God's orders have two basic characteristics. First of all, they are always very clear. Always.

When it comes to God's most important instructions to us, they're never mysterious. They're never difficult to understand. Unfortunately, there are many people that make them harder than they should be, but God's orders are always crystal clear, always simple to be understood. No one needs a PHD, or no one needs to be a philosopher, an academic, a physicist, to understand what God is telling them.

I've heard many times people come and ask, you know, they say, "Pastor, I don't know where to start with my Christian life. I don't know where to start you know coming back to God. I didn't know how to fix my relationship with God." Have you ever heard someone say that? I don't know where to start. You know what the best answer is? Start with what you know. Start with what you know. That's simple. Love God. Love your neighbor. And from then on, you start finding out that God decrees His orders for our life. They are crystal clear.

The second basic characteristic of God's orders is that they are always, always protective. Always. They are clear and they are protective. Their purpose is never to keep us from happiness or from being accomplished. God doesn't want that. God wants you to be happy. God wants you to be accomplished. Their purpose is to protect us from that which destroys, that which annihilates our life. God's decrees are always protective.

A classic example of disobedience in the Bible is King Solomon and that's what we found here that Nehemiah was talking about. One of the most famous kings in all of history. He was given great intellect, great riches, and yet he was incapable of understanding, of perceiving the consequences of his deviations. He couldn't see it. Not only did he deviate, but became a bad example, and because of his bad example, you know in the Bible, we find that if the king was good, how would the people be? What would the people be living like? They'd living a good life and if the king was bad, a bad king, what would happen because of his example? The people would also go down a bad path.

You don't find any different from that in the Bible. The king was good, the people they would go in in the right path. If the king was bad, the people are going the wrong path. And because of Solomon's example, we find that the nation had started deviating also. These foreign women whom Solomon married, who brought in the foreign gods, and foreign religions, they ended up breaking up Solomon's relationship with God, unfortunately.

So Nehemiah, he was right in reproving the destructive heirs of his compatriots. The order not to take foreign wives, the order not to take foreign wives had nothing to do with nationalism and had nothing to do with sexism. It had nothing to do with racism. It had everything to do with you know what? Idolatry. The order not to take foreign wives had nothing to do with nationalism, nothing to do with racism, and nothing to do with sexism. It had everything to do with idolatry. That's what we find here. These pagan wives did not renounce their idolatry. They didn't renounce their religion and since sin is always in harmony with fallen human nature, am I wrong there?

Sin is always in harmony with our fallen nature. It's very easy to be dragged down by the wrong influence. The effects of these mixed marriages are seen on all sides to justify it by referring to one exception and we find a few exceptions, where a righteous Christian, a spouse marries an unbelieving spouse and that unbelieving spouse come then to the Lord. We might have examples of that right here today, but to justify this with this example is to forget that there are hundreds of thousands of examples where marrying unequally yoked, leads to spiritual casualty.

Unfortunately, you see friends, when we perform marriages here at church, when we have marriages here in the church, it's not a fad, it's not a social tradition. Its significance is profound, it's deep, it's important. It's an emblem of that couple's decision to invite God to be the great guest of their home, the inhabitant of honor in their home. In the case of mixed marriages here of intermarrying, people always end up having different norms, different standards, different ways of solving problems. They will be divided when it comes to the big decisions of life because their standards are different.

Does that does that make sense? I don't want to lose any friends here, but when it comes to the standards of our life, when we have different standards, that's going to influence the way that children are raised. That's going to influence financial decisions. That's going to influence life decisions. And that's what we find here in these people. That's what was happening to them and when then children come, the chasm only gets bigger, the chasm only gets wider.

Think about those mixed marriages between the Jews and their neighboring nations. Think about the influence of their pagan parents. Consider this text written in the book called "Patriarchs and Prophets," and it's found in page 244. It says there is no other work that can equal this, to a very great extent, the mother holds in her own hands the destiny of her children. She's dealing with developing minds and characters, working not alone for time, but for eternity. She is sowing seeds that will spring up and bear fruit, either for good or for evil. She has not to paint a form of beauty upon a canvas or to chisel it from marble, but to impress upon a human soul the image of divine, especially during their early years, their responsibility rests upon her forming the character of her children. The impressions now made upon their developing minds will remain with them all through their life. Parents should direct the instruction and train their children, while they're young to the end that they may be Christians.

In this context, my friends, a question arises. How can this goal be reached in divided homes? You need the effort of both parents. That is God's ideal. Now, we understand that in this world we have what is not ideal. And one of the beautiful parts of the gospel is that God can and He does transform the worst tragedies, the worst situations into the best of cases. God is that powerful. But God here, He is working per what is ideal.

As we progress with the lesson we find the reaction of another great spiritual leader in Israel. The same lesson also emphasizes the reaction that Ezra had to this same problem and we find that in Ezra chapter 9, verse 1 and 2. Look at look at what we're talking about here. The leaders came to me, saying the people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Parasites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites, for they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons. So that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and the rulers has been foremost in this trespass.

So the story of Ezra here, the story starts with Ezra finding out that not all in Jerusalem was daisies and roses, not everything was going well in Jerusalem when he gets there. Actually it's the contrary. More than 100 civil and spiritual leaders of the people were guilty of deliberately disobeying the law that he had come to teach. A group of layman. They came to Ezra. And they were telling them that some of the leaders, the spiritual leaders, the civil leaders, priests, Levites, had married foreign women and had allowed them to marry their sons and that some of these men and this is what we find in Micah that I already mentioned. Some of these men they divorce their Jewish wives to then marry the foreign wives. Can you imagine that?

The reason, the reason Ezra is sought out, the reason they come to him, is because they didn't know what to do, because let me ask you something. If the leaders are doing something wrong, well, who will you turn to who? Who could they turn to? If the priests, the Levites, the spiritual leaders, the civil leaders, if they were breaking covenant, well, who do I go to then? So that's why they sought out Israel, and sorry, Ezra. And that's why Ezra here he observes that he recognized that the exile to Babylon had happen to a great extent due to these very same sins.

So Ezra he starts seeing the cycle. This happened because we went to Babylon because of all of these things and now they're starting to happen again. Israel had to remain separate from the pagans and their practices. Both entities needed to remain separate, distinct, otherwise, my friends there could be no plan of salvation, there could be no plan of reaching the lost, if the messengers themselves were no way different from those who they were trying to reach. Does that resonate with you? The message cannot be preached, we cannot reach them, if we ourselves are in no way different to them. And that's what Ezra sees here.

How are we going to have this mission that God gave us if we are not different from these four nations around us? The distinction had to be seen in all areas of life, including marriage. Ezra and the people who sought him they understood that the problem was severe. It was a severe problem. No one could marry a spouse whose religious differences would have been--would have had an impact upon their marriage or their way of raising their children. That's what they understood. They couldn't marry people who are going to change the dynamics of the culture of their household. So understanding and perceiving a problem is the beginning of fixing it, right? And that's what they were doing.

God gave Israel a law regarding marriage to protect them from spiritual contamination. Because of intermarrying, the Israelite lineage had become contaminated by the pagan nations surrounding them. Israel had not been chosen, my friends, and this is very important for us to understand. Israel had not been chosen as a special nation, or a holy nation, because they were better than anyone else. That's not why they were chosen. They were chosen because God had a specific role in His grand plan of salvation.

So through Israel, all the other nations would be what? Blessed. Blessed. So Israel, what blessing are we talking about? Israel was responsible for three main blessings. They were responsible for three main blessings. The first is the knowledge of the living God. The second was the written word, Scripture. And the third was the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And this placed Israel in debt with all the other nations. What was their debt? The knowledge of the Gospel.

You remember when Paul himself later on in Romans 1:14, he says I am a debtor. What did he owe? What did Paul owe? The knowledge of divine grace, that's what Paul owed and in the same sense, my friends, we today are debtors also. We sometimes consider ourself better, superior, privileged. Privileged we are because we have knowledge of some specific things, but what does that make us? That makes us debtors. We are in debt to the world around us. Endangering this debt was Israel's greatest temptation. The danger of what? Of their mission, endangering their mission. Whatsoever came between them and their great mission needed to be seen as a threat. In this case what was the threat? Intermarrying. That was a threat in this case and so if it was a sin for a single Jew to marry foreign pagan wives, it was even worse for married Jews to divorce their Jewish wives to then marry the pagan wives. If the leaders of Israel continued to give this bad example, and contaminate families with these pagan beliefs and religion, they would end up contaminating the mission, the nation, and it wouldn't be long until Israel once again lost its path and purpose. Just like King Solomon in 1 Kings chapter 1, they would begin to adopt the false gods of their wives and soon the true faith of Israel would be destroyed and God's plan frustrated.

So when we find Ezra's reaction again, it's kind of difficult for us today, thousands of years later to read this and be like well, this was such an over the top reaction. So exaggerated. These people had--they were kind of dramatic. That's what it kind of feels like when we don't understand the severity of the problem, but Ezra's reaction, we find this in chapter 9, verse 3 through 6. It says, "So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe. I plucked out--" Here's the hair again. "I plucked out some of the hair on my head and my beard." I really believe that some of these prophets were completely bald because so many things, so many bad things happen with the children of Israel that if the prophets always reacted like that, plucking their hair, they would have no hair left. "Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me because of transgression of those who had been carried away captive and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice."

So he stayed the whole day. "At the evening sacrifice, I arose from my fasting and having torn my garment and my robe I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord, My God and I said, Oh, my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated." In the Bible, my friends, we learned that prayer is the solution to every problem. And chapter 10 begins with a prayer. Look at what it says.

Now while Ezra was praying and while he was confessing and weeping and bowing down before the before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel for the people wept bitterly. So the first thing, my friends, please understand this. The first thing that we observe is that the decision that was taken as a solution to their problem--What was their problem? Intermarrying.

The solution that was taken, that was given, the decision was not based on racism again. It was not based on sexism. It was not based on nationalism. This decision was an answer to prayer. This decision that they made was made, it was given to them as an answer to prayer. Therefore, there is no space here, my friends, for mere superficial humanistic sympathy based on human rights. We're not talking about that right now. That's not the issue. This decision came directly from God and if He is God we have to believe that He at least knows what He's doing, don't we? These foreign wives had to be sent away.

Surprisingly, even those who found themselves in the situation, they agreed with that decision. Even the people that would have to suffer this decision they agreed with it. In the end 113 Jewish men sent their wives away. Some of these even had children. At first glance this might seem irrational or drastic, but please remember that nowhere in the Bible do we find God offering shortcuts to amend human wrongs. If God didn't find a shortcut for Himself to save His own son from having to die on the cross the eternal death, He's not going to find a shortcut for us when we make the mistake. We also have to go through the hardships of the resolution.

Ezra was right when he said, "You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel." You see, in this sense, the laws of agriculture are also applicable. For we reap what we sow. Sometimes we reap immediately. Most of the times, we reap after awhile. And sometimes we reap in greater quantity. The same thing can be applied here to this.

Secondly, Ezra was also spot on when he observed in chapter 10 verse 11, he said, "Now therefore make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the pagan wives." Do you see what he's saying here? Ezra is saying that this was God's decision. This has to be seen as God's decision. The solution to this great problem came from the living God.

Very frequently we want to act as though we know better than God. Have you ever done this? You know God says, but I think. God says, but I think. In a theocracy, and that's what these people were living through right now. They had a governor but ultimately they were living through a theocracy. God clearly indicated the best solution and accepting it meant accepting his decisions.

You know, churches very frequently become divided and their witnesses then weaken, because in some circumstances people, and I don't want to lose any friends here, but sometimes people they side with family members, relatives, friends, disobedient to the matters of church discipline or church belief based on the Bible. Many want to place their own wisdom, their ways, their discernment, their opinions above the clear “Thus says the Lord”. God says, but I think.

My friends, God is way above and beyond our ideas. We have to remember that the experience here in this situation with the children of Israel was punctual. It was a punctual decision. It was a specific decision made as a solution for a specific problem in a specific circumstance. So that means that if one day you just wake up not loving your husband or your wife anymore, and you can't justify it by using this, okay? That doesn't work like that. Here in this situation, it was a specific situation, a decision made directly by God.

Sometimes God doesn't make--God makes unpopular decisions. Sometimes God makes unpopular decisions. But, God is not in the business of cheap popularity, that's not our God. His decisions are always wise, merciful, full of sympathy. We're not called to judge God with our limited vision, with our limited knowledge, with our--So at the end of all of this, at the end of all of this, we don't know all the details of these stories. We don't. We have--there are many questions left unanswered. For example, were these women sent back to the houses of their fathers or of their relatives? Did they go somewhere else? Was there a special land given to them, or what happened to them? We also don't know what happened to the children. Did the Jewish fathers continue supporting those children as was custom? In the cases of divorce, if the men had children and they divorced from the wives, it was their custom to be financially responsible for those children. Did this happen?

We don't have all the details, so where does that leave us? That leaves us, my friends, with a question. What lesson can I learn from this? You know what lesson I learned from this whole story is that marriage is something very, very serious to God. Marriage is something important. It's one of the two blessings that we received still in the Garden of Eden, including Sabbath and marriage. Marriage is very important to God.

Now we know that we don't live in an ideal world. And we know that accidents happen, we know that sometimes extreme measures have to be taken in the context of marriage. You know when I was a kid and when I was a child, I used to turn on the radio with my father in the car and there was this one program, I was like six or seven years old. But there was this one, you know how they have these counseling speakers on radio and on the TV and sometimes and there was this one that I used to like. Her name was Dr. Laura Schlessinger and you know we don't agree with everything.

I believe she's Jewish and we don't agree with everything, that all her councils, but I found it interesting that she said that there were the three big A's when it comes to separation, which were adultery, abuse, and addiction. Adultery, abuse, and addiction. And I found it very interesting that she said that and later on in pastoring, in counseling, pastoral counseling, I found out that more likely than not when you're talking about separation or divorce with a couple usually it has to do with one of these three things. It has to do with one of these three things. Adultery, abuse, or addiction.

Now, what I want to leave you with today is that while marriage is a serious thing to God and these things might happen, while these things might happen, adultery, abuse, and addiction, I want to tell you that our God is the God that fixes problems. He's the God that cures and transforms people. I have seen the worst cases be transformed. If this is the God that could transform Manasseh, if this is the God that could reach out and heal the demon possessed of Gadara, this is the God that can transform you, that can heal your marriage, that can fix your marriage, that can fix the problems with you. And He can then bring a blessing to your family. In the Bible, marriage is serious. Marriage is serious for us today, but God can fix it.

That's the time--that we have time for today. I'd like to remind you all that if you want that special gift don't forget to send in the requests for it. It's "Keys for a Happy Marriage." Alright, and all you have to do is call in or than shoot a text to the given number that Pastor Shawn already mentioned for us in the beginning. May God bless you, may He keep you, and may He be with you and your household always present in your heart and your home.

Announcer: Don't forget to request today's life changing free resource. Not only can you receive this free gift in the mail, you can download a digital copy straight to your computer or mobile device. To get your digital copy of today's free gift, simply text the keyword on your screen to 40544 or visit the web address shown on your screen and be sure to select the digital download option on the request page. It's now easier than ever for you to study God's word with Amazing Facts wherever and whenever you want and most important to share it with others.

Doug Batchelor: Hello friends. We all know a marathon is one of the longest and hardest races a person can run. But did you hear about the ultra marathon they used to have in Australia? It was 544 miles from Melbourne to Sydney. It attracted as many as 150 world-class athletes, but then something happened that no one would ever forget. In 1983, a 61 year old potato farmer named Cliff Young decided to enter the race. People were very amused because he had on rubber galoshes over his boots and when the race began and all the runners took off, sure enough, old Cliff was left behind shuffling along very slowly, but he was shuffling very persistently.

Normally, during this seven-day race, the runners would go about 18 hours running and then they'd sleep for six hours. But nobody ever told Cliff that. When the other runners stopped to rest during the night, Cliff just kept on running. Some people were afraid. Old Cliff is going to have a heart attack, and they were asking the race organizers to show mercy and stop the crazy old man. But he would have none of it.

Each day, he was gaining on the pack because when they were sleeping he was plodding along. During the last night of the race, Cliff passed all of these world class athletes. Not only was Cliff able to run that 544 mile race without dying, he won, beating all the other racers by 9 hours, breaking the record and becoming a national hero in the process. What's really amazing is when they told him that he had won the $10,000 prize, he looked confused and said he didn't know there was a prize and he decided to share it with the other runners.

When asked how he was able to run all night long, Cliff responded that grew up on a farm where they had about 2,000 cattle and because they couldn't afford horses, he used to have to round them up on foot, sometimes running two and three days nonstop. So throughout the race he just imagined he was chasing after the cows and trying to outrun a storm. Old Cliff's secret was to keep on running while others were sleeping.

You know, the Bible tells us that the race is not necessarily to the swift. Something like Aesop's parable of the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise just kept on plodding along. That's why Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:13, he that endures unto the end, the same will be saved. Now you might slip and fall during the race. You might even get off to a bad start, but in the Christian race that we run the main thing is you want to finish well. Keep on running, friends. Don't give up.

Announcer: Amazing Facts changed lives.

Diamond Garcia: Hi, my name is Diamond Garcia and I am from the beautiful islands of Hawaii. I was raised in a very dysfunctional family, like most families. Being in that environment I would lie, cheat, steal, rob houses, cheat in school and tests and lying to teachers and getting into fights and all kinds of stuff. One day I was asked to take this little box of something and walk down the road and give it to someone and they would give me money and I'll walk back home and I later realized I was dealing drugs. Growing up in that environment I thought that you know being an adult was a life of drinking and smoking and partying and that's just what adults did. When I looked at my family and saw the road that they were going down, getting arrested, getting beaten up, coming home drunk and puking all over the floor, I just didn't want for myself.

Growing up I had a grandma who was baptized as a Christian in her 20s, but then she wasn't a real practicing Christian. And so one day I was at her house and there was a box of various books and I went to the bottom of the box and found a book called "The Great Controversy" and I picked it up and I said this is interesting and I opened to the first page of that book and it said, "If thou hadst known." I had no clue what it meant. And so I said, you know what? Forget this.

I put the book down. I just walked away, did my thing, but then something told me, you know, Diamond, go back to that book. And so, I went back to the book, picked it up, went to the last two chapters and I read it. And I said to my grandmother, I said, "What church is this from? I want to go to that church." So she brought me down to the local church and I walk in through the back door and the piano was off key, people were off key. It's like man, this is really kind of I don't want to be here. And I got to the front of the church and I sat down, I was listening to the sermon and the whole service was so boring to me.

But then someone gives me the set of DVDs and it was it was called "The Prophecy Code." It was through watching Doug Batchelor explain the truths found in the Bible that really brought me to Christ and brought me to realize that you know what there is a life better than my family's life.

My second week at church on Sabbath there was one person there. He basically told me, "Hey, Diamond, do you want to make some money?" And I said sure. I said, "What do you do?" He says, "Well I'm a colporteur. We go door to door and we sell Christian books." I said, Oh, okay, well that sounds interesting. I do want to make some money too. And so he said, "Okay, well why don't you come with me?" We drove out to the neighborhood, parked the car, and that night was just raining, it was pouring and pouring. It could not stop raining. He prayed. He said, "God, this is Diamond's first night. If it's your will stop the rain so we can go knocking on doors."

And as soon as he said amen the rain just stopped. I was just thinking in my head, is this guy a prophet or what, I mean, he just prayed and asked God and it happened. And so I was so happy, I got the books, and I went to the first door and the first door I went to, the persona gave me 50 bucks. That night was actually a big night for me because it was where I first saw God's power work in stopping the rain and people were actually giving me lots of money.

I then became a colporteur or canvasser and I saved money to pay for my way through academy and when my church began to see how God was using me they immediately recognized that it was God's spirit moving and they put me, you know, preaching, or teaching and sharing my faith. And I've been engaged in ministry for the past six to seven years now and God is taking me all over the world and multiple continents, sharing my testimony, how God has brought me out of darkness into His marvelous light, which is total contrast as to how it was before, and now, you know, it's a total contrast. My name is Diamond and Amazing Facts has helped change my life.

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