Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Posts tagged ‘humility’

Sackcloth and Ashes

Sackcloth & ashes

Sackcloth and Ashes on the Ponte San Angelo photo by GOC53 on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

What does the word “repentance” mean to you? How does it feel? Can you remember the last time you were truly penitent for something you had done? Have you ever asked for forgiveness for the sins of your parents, grandparents or ancestors? What did this remorse look like; could anybody else tell you were feeling sorrow for your sins?

In the Bible, one outward sign of abject humility and repentance was referred to as wearing sackcloth and pouring ashes or dust over one’s head. In his book, Nehemiah starts out hiding his grief over the dilapidated state of the wall around Jerusalem from King Artaxerxes. Sometime later, the king recognized Nehemiah’s sorrow and allowed him to go to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding project.

By chapter 9, Nehemiah and the Jews came together fasting, wearing sack cloth with ashes on their heads after the prophet Ezra read the Law for what was perhaps the first time to many of the people. To drive the point home, the Levite priests then recounted the history of Israel from Abraham until that day in which the repatriated exiles gathered together to dedicate their lives and their country to God.

The people wore sackcloth and ashes as a sign of their understanding of the grievous sins that they and their ancestors committed against God. They understood that the sins of the entire nation of Israel resulted in God carrying out His threat to scatter the people across the earth if they did not follow His commandments. They set about making things right in their land in order to regain God’s favor on them.

I often wonder how bad things will get in this country and in this world before the voice of God echoes’ “ENOUGH!” throughout His creation. I was recently asked if I thought this country is under God’s judgment and I have to believe it is. We have not realized the extent of what judgment looks like, but if you want an idea, read the books of Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel. It is not pretty and it definitely is not something I would wish even for my worst enemies. Perhaps it is time for Christians to put on gunny sack tunics and humble ourselves before our God.

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to three boys, a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside. Lisa is a member of the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon. 

Sorrowful Homecoming

Israeli celebration

Israel 60 Years photo by FaceMePLS on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

The book of Ezra chronicles the beginning of the return of the Jewish exiles from captivity in Babylon back to Israel and Judah. King Cyrus of Persia was moved by God to not just allow over 42,000 Jewish captives to return to their homeland, but to finance the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. He even returned much of the gold and silver articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple during the original conquest of Jerusalem.

As the Temple was being rebuilt, Ezra 3:11-13 describes the scene of younger people praising God and rejoicing while the older folks who remembered the previous Temple crying out loud in sorrow for what had been lost over the years. The noise was heard from far away, but the voices mingled into a loud roar indiscernible whether it was joyous or sorrowful.

The construction of the Temple was met with resistance from those who were enemies of Israel and they were successful in stopping the progress until several years later. The succession of Persian kings from Cyrus to Ahasuerus (Xerxes, who married Esther), Artaxerxes and then Darius (mentioned in Daniel) is discussed in chapters 4-7, with a gap of over 50 years between chapters 6 and 7. King Darius got the ball rolling again and the Temple was finally completed in the sixth year of Darius’ reign. (Ezra 6:15) In the chapters that follow,

Ezra the prophet leads the people back to Israel/Judah with hearts of repentance and humility before God.

Chapter 9 explains that when the genealogies were reviewed, it was found that many of the Jews had married Babylonians against God’s separation commandment in Deuteronomy 7:3-4:

“Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so that the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.” (NKJV)

Despite the claims of some, this prohibition was never a call for racism (they were all Semites) and the reason is explained in verse 4. At the time, the Jews were the only people to whom God had personally revealed Himself. As it turned out, when the Jews intermarried with their pagan neighbors, they did indeed turn away from their faith in God. Ezra and the exiles understood very clearly the reason for the 70 year captivity and begged God’s forgiveness for them and their ancestors.

The events that followed in chapter 10 are indeed sorrowful. Many of the Jews who had married Babylonians sent their spouses and children away (presumably back to Persia) in an extreme act of devotion to God. I really have trouble reading this chapter, knowing how much God hates divorce. In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus laid it out that we need to love God above all else, including family, should it come down to that. This is the reason we taught our children to date only Christians; there is no call in the Bible for “Missionary Dating.” For those who are already married to non-believers, I Corinthians 7:12-16 persuades believers to remain in the marriage if the non-believing spouse is willing to stay in the marriage.

Proverbs 4:23 simplifies the whole matter by encouraging us:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to three boys, a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside. Lisa is a member of the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon. 

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: