Tough Teaching for Serious Disciples; Marriage Controversy from the Long Ago

Scripture Resource Passage: Ezra 10

Does God know best? Truly, we ask, “Does God know best?” Reading today’s Scripture Resource Passage will not make you happy. The passage screams with discrimination and discrimination toward women.

Highlight the following: If you’re not in a good soul-place, it might be best to read a more gentle passage, something like Psalm 23. Ezra 10 is neither simple, soul-satisfying or uncomplicated. Consider yourself warned, if you choose to read it. I choose not to walk idly by this passage, though it makes me uncomfortable. Frankly, for me, it is a very tough passage. Welcome to the challenge.

When a child does not listen or fails to pay attention it may be irresponsible behavior. Defiant behavior happens when you are looked in the face and a forbidden occurs. 

Imagine someone saying, “Some of the things God says are really tough; and God probably does not really mean it like it sounds.”  “After all,” the same someone proclaims, “Following God should be uncomplicated and really just a matter of choose-‘n-pick.” Meaning: we choose and then pick which of God’s instructions we obey.

Many individuals and nations have tried this approach—selecting the choose-n-pick strategy to God’s specific instructions. Does it surprise you to know that every group, in addition to some of God’s so-called leaders, have advocated choose-‘n-pick? 

An ominous Scripture reading occurs in Ezra 9 and 10. The episode (from the days of Nehemiah thus the emphasis at this point because of the Thoughtful Study Series) is a shaming report of times during which the people followed God’s instructions when they felt like it. Here is the context and it is a tough teaching. To God’s people, the Hebrew people of that time, marriage with anyone outside of the family of Abraham, was forbidden. 

Specifically, from the earliest days (Genesis 24) there is a strong bias for marriage to occur only within the family of faith. Many years later, during the time of the Exodus, Scripture documents a straightforward assertion of that which will happen should the people of Israel (moving into the Land of Promise), violate God’s instruction (Exodus 34). 

Other passages (Deuteronomy 7) are an insistent communication regarding marriage. Again, no ole choose-n-pick here. As you read the Bible accounts of Moses, Esau, Joseph (yes, that Joseph), David and Solomon, God’s clearly worded instructions are ignored. The instructions were not lost in complicated language—there was defiant disobedience. Deuteronomy records the instruction: “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons….” 

Possibly one hundred years after those words were given Joshua reiterated the same instruction from God (Joshua 23). Not a ‘Follow this instruction if you agree;’ or, ‘Think about this, you might find it helpful.’ Simply ‘Don’t marry outside the faith.’

The words are easy. Read them in contemporary English or stretch back into the original language of the Hebrew Bible, the words are straightforward. Choose-‘n-pick is not an option. Now you know the context of why following God in the times of Nehemiah was intensely and extensively complicated. 

Life Application

  • Disciples ought to ask themselves: Are there times I play choose-‘n-pick with God?

Published by Andrew Simkins

Dr. Andrew Simkins provides spiritual direction for individuals and small groups through the regular blog posts found on this site. He resides in northwest Indiana with his beloved, along with nearby children and grandchildren who are the adornment of his life.

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