Everyone leaves a legacy.
For most, that legacy will be left to a small number of people. Their family, their workplace, their church. For others, that legacy will be far-reaching. Not only will they be remembered by their families and co-workers, but they will be remembered by those they influenced through speaking, writing, business, or some other medium.
But no matter the size or scope of the legacy, a legacy will be left nonetheless. No matter who you are, when you die, you will be remembered for something.
If you died today, what would you be remembered for?
That’s not a question we tend to ponder often, but I was lead to ask it myself from a rather unexpected source.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of teaching through the book of Ezra in a Sunday school class. The class actually spanned the books of Ezra and Esther, focusing on the theme of God’s sovereignty and continued faithfulness to his covenant people.
Ezra, a priest and scribe, leads a return to the land of Israel to rebuild the Temple and reinstitute the sacrificial system. Through much turmoil and animosity, stemming from both the enemies of Israel and Israel’s people themselves, the Temple is finally reconstructed and dedicated. But not long after, God’s people, who had just returned from exile they brought upon themselves because of sin, slip back into their old ways.
Ezra 10:2 says that, “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land” (ESV).
The people of Israel were guilty of intermarriage, something God had explicitly forbidden. But it gets worse.
We learn in Ezra 10:18 that even some of the priests were guilty of this heinous sin.
Although the situation is bleak, the Israelites remind themselves that there is still hope to be found in the Lord’s grace. They say, “but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law” (ESV).
Thus, the people of Israel repent of their sin and make things right, putting away the foreign women they wrongfully married.
While this is no doubt a happy ending, reading through Ezra 10 leaves you in a sort of fog, especially if you know the whole story of the book of Ezra. Time and time again, God’s people forsake his Law and seek their own ways. Instead of having a reputation for believing the promises of God and following his statutes, they are known for rebellion and Law-breaking.
Which brings us to Ezra 10:18-44, the final verses of the book. It contains a list of 111 men who were guilty of the sin of intermarriage. They are listed out, one by one, until their names are forever enshrined as those who broke God’s Law.
Think about that. These men lived entire lives. They were born, raised, taught, trained in trades, and made into husbands and fathers. They woke up day after day, working, trading, teaching their children, loving their wives, hearing God’s Law taught in the assembly. They made friends, enemies, business partners, and left their mark in an abundance of places.
But at the end of the day, all history can say of them for sure is that they were among those guilty of the sin of intermarriage. All of those days, months, and years of life summed up in one verse God chose to include in Holy Scripture. And that verse forever enshrines them as covenant-breakers.
When you take that into consideration, reading through the final verses of Ezra is harrowing. And it should cause you to take stock of your own life. What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Do you want to leave one of godliness and faithfulness? Or one of sinfulness and disregard for God and his ways?
I’m sure that some of these men were God-fearing Jews who were genuinely trusting in the coming Messiah to save them from their sins. I believe that I will see some of them in heaven, because Christ’s blood is enough to cover all sin, even a sin forever etched in Scripture. But for now, all I can truly say of them is that they broke God’s Law. Even if they lived a life of faithfulness save for this one grave error, this sin still overshadows that.
That’s how sin tends to work. We can all name a famous pastor, or a Christian friend, who fell into grievous sin and is now known for that transgression. Yes, Christ can forgive and yes, these people can be restored. But their testimony - and their legacy - will remain tainted.
So take the list of names in Ezra 10:18-44 as a warning and commit today to leave a legacy that will glorify God and point others to Christ.
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