I woke up earlier than usual one morning this week—too early. But as I rolled over to go back to sleep, I was jolted wide-awake by a sudden barrage of thoughts. Some were pressing prayer needs for friends; most were replays of actions and attitudes I had taken recently that now, in the quiet of the early morning, convicted me to the core. Realizing that sleep would evade my now-active mind, I got on up and turned to that day’s Bible study in the book of Ezra. And I was amazed at what I read:
“Oh my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens (Ezra 9:6).”
Ezra had been given the responsibility of taking another group of exiles home to Jerusalem to ensure the proper functioning of the temple. They were all settled in and things seemed to be going well, when Ezra received the sobering news that some of the recently returned exiles were blatantly disobeying God’s law. In grief, Ezra fell to his knees in prayer for his own sin and that of his people, and this was the very passage to which I had turned. Just this first sentence of Ezra’s prayer brought me to my knees next to him for a much-needed time of confession.
As my heart joined in Ezra’s prayer, peace and joy flooded my soul. How good our God is! For, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” And, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Ps. 103:12).” And, my favorite verse of all: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lam. 3:22-23).”
Oh Lord, thank you for speaking so clearly and directly to me through your Word! Help me not to get so busy with life (busyness that even includes Bible study) that I fail to take time for self-contemplation in light of scripture. Thank you for your forgiveness and for your mercy that gives me a new beginning each day and enables me to serve you with a clear conscience.
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God (Heb. 9:14)!