And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?
“…thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve…”
What mercy is shown in just this one line, for isn’t that true of all of us? We deserve hell, and He gives us heaven. We deserve death, and He gives us life. We deserve eternal torment, and He gives us eternal joy. We deserve condemnation, and He gives us redemption. We deserve chains, and He gives us freedom. We deserve the wrath of God, and He gives us love and grace and mercy. We deserve punishment, and He gives us forgiveness. We deserve the cross, the pain, the shame, the agony, and He took it all for us.
Ezra stood amazed at the mercy of God toward the nation of Israel. Even their present condition of captivity was less than they deserved for all their sins against God. He understood how far they’d fallen and how patient God had been, how good God still was, and how right He would have been to destroy them. Do we recognize our position before God as simply forgiven sinners? Do we realize the true expanse of His mercy and His patience?
But then there is a kind of warning expressed by Ezra, for there is always the danger of falling back into sin. After experiencing such mercy, he didn’t want the people to return to their old ways of sin and defilement, lest they face a harsher punishment. We have to guard against the same thing in our own lives. After receiving such grace, how do we so often fall back into old sins? How ungrateful we must seem when we take God’s forgiveness for granted and turn back to the things we know are wrong. But His grace is still there every time we fail Him.
Let’s allow the truth of God’s grace to sink deep into our hearts. Let’s praise Him for His abundant mercy toward us and thank Him for not destroying us when He would have had every right to. Let’s meditate on what Christ did for us on the cross and allow the reality of His substitutionary crucifixion to stay fresh in our minds. All of this came from a heart of such love that God has for His people. Let’s commit ourselves to seeking God’s way and strive to avoid falling back into our old sinful ways. Let’s allow the fact that God has punished us less than we deserve to spur us on to obedience, service and the pursuit of the life of holiness He has called us to.