A proclamation was then issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property, in accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, and would himself be expelled from the assembly of the exiles. Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. Now honor the Lord , the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.” The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say. But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.” – Ezra 10:7-14
This scene is a bit surreal. Ezra has called all the exiles to a meeting in front of the newly built temple. He has called the meeting to call the exiles to account for disobeying God. In yesterday’s post there was much bitter weeping and in this passage the Israelites are standing in the rain getting a rebuke from Ezra. This sounds like a hard time to be a follower of God, both for Ezra and the people he was called to lead.
The people are still supportive of Ezra’s call to repentance, but they are tired and wet and they reason with Ezra that the sort of changes he is calling for will take some time. In the mean time they want to get out of the rain…It strikes me that this word rain could be replaced with the word reign and the meaning would not change much for this passage.
The people were “greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain [reign]”. The reign of God in their lives was running headlong into their life choices, such as who they would marry. It is an uncomfortable place to be at odds with the God you follow. The very thing that is to give you comfort makes you uncomfortable because of the choices you have made. Just like the rain in this passage, which is meant to provide water to a dry and dusty land, is making the the Israelites wet and irritable.
The second reference to rain is when they say “But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside”. The exiles were not ready to accept an Elemental God that might overwhelm their lives with reign. They realized that unwinding their previous choices would be hard and take time.
Prayer: God you reign over us if we let you, but it is not always easy to unwind our previous choices.