It's Pastor's Appreciation Month. So here is a post for the pastors.
I once taught a study on God’s Tough Calls. Decisions that God made which, in my mind and with my understanding would be a hard decision to make. One of these tough calls was the decision to allow the Jewish leaders/men divorce their pagan spouses in Ezra chapter 9. I believe from other verses of scripture that God does not like divorce. At one time the Jews of the Old Testament were marrying women hand over fist and divorcing them quickly after having sex with them; legally whoring themselves out. One particular verse on the topic reveals that God hates divorce and doesn't want anyone to deal treacherously with their spouses or anyone else.
In Ezra 9 God sent the Israelites into the land that they were to possess but gave them strict guidelines not to intermarry and remain isolated from the pagan and sinful practices of the culture of those who occupied the land; the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, and Jebusites. The Israelites disobeyed, and now Ezra was telling them to divorce their pagan spouses and live separately.
"God Love All People. Period."
I won’t spend time going into any apologetical defense of why or how this might have conflicted with what we know of God. I’ll just summarize it and say the Israelite made a mistake and had to fix it. Fixing it meant divorcing their wives and returning to God's law around intermarriage. To dig into that topic more an excellent research paper written by JoeSprinkle, Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads College is “Old Testament Perspectives on Divorce and Remarriage” available at this web address: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/40/40-4/40-4-pp529-550_JETS.pdf
The real point of this article is to discuss what God’s goal/intention was in trying to keep the Jews separate in practices, religion, and relationships. That goal was all about keeping a frame of reference to Jesus. The Old Testament portion of the Bible is a Jewish book which from a Christian perspective points toward the Messiah (Jesus). If the Jewish people completely integrated into all the societies they were introduced to, the context for the story of Messiah would be lost and the biological promise God made to Abraham broken.
Let’s define racism- “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's race is superior.”
Now let’s define separatism- “the advocacy or practice of separation of a certain group of people from a larger body by ethnicity, religion, or gender.”
Ezra’s interpretation of God's law in Ezra 9 was a separatist action, not a racist one. God loves all people. The separation was in preparation for a fulfilled promise, not because the Jews were better or worse than the current occupants of the land. The disease, pestilence and the effects of the inhabitant's many sins were going to wipe out those people, and if the Jews remained separate in practice, relationship, and religion, they would survive and by default come to possess the full territory God promised Abraham. If the non-Jewish people had converted to Judaism; eaten their diet, made their sacrifices, and obeyed Jewish laws, they most likely would have lived too. So no one was being excluded.
Husband, Dad, Writer, Ex-Pastor, Product Manager, & Nerd