But then, the Persian king Cyrus is moved by God to send some of the exiles home to rebuild the temple. When they arrive, some of the sons of the priests discover a harsh truth.
These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. - Ezra 2:62What happened to these would be priests? Why, if they were the sons of priests, did some of them find that their names were not found in the genealogies proving their heritage? We know how one family found themselves in this predicament. In verse 61 we read that one man took a wife from among the Babylonians and took her name as his family's name. In all likelihood he did this because her name provided his family with a place of greater honor in the foreign land they now lived in. Since there was no temple there was no noticeable honor in being a priest so this man took a name that would provide him honor among the people where he lived.
When the decision was made to send some to rebuild the temple, the priests were once again needed to perform their duties at the altar. Their honor was to be restored. What this man discovered was having traded the honor of serving God faithfully for the honor of the world, he had lost the right to serve as he once did.
Some of us may be thinking that this isn't fair. After all, this was a terrible, dark time for the nation of Israel. I would imagine it was especially difficult for those who had served God in the temple. The work for which they had been set aside was taken from them and they found themselves living among a people who accorded them no honor for their calling. They didn't know if they would ever be able to serve in the temple again. It seems awfully harsh, when the opportunity to once again serve has appeared, to deny it from them.
And yet what we learn here is the same lesson repeated throughout all of scripture. Our God is a jealous God and the glory of His name is of the utmost concern to Him. When this priest took the name of a pagan wife to restore honor to his family he was in essence saying a couple of unsavory things about God.
First, he was saying that the honor of worldly recognition was more desirable than the honor of being a servant of the Most High God.
Second, he was saying that he lacked faith in God's ability to rescue His people and restore them to their former positions of serving in the temple.
In the New Testament, James will tell us that friendship with the world is adultery towards God (James 4:4). This man in essence was an adulterer in his relationship with God. He defamed God's name with his choice to take the name of a Babylonian woman in pursuit of worldly honor.
We need to learn from what we see in Ezra. God is indeed a jealous God. When He redeems us He places His Spirit in us. His Spirit will lead us to learn to love God and when we love God we will not love the world. If we find that we love the things of the world and that we desire the honor of the world more than we desire the honor of being called a child of God, we need to examine ourselves.
Do not assume that just because you walked an aisle and prayed a prayer that you are saved.
Do not assume that just because you have been baptized that you are saved.
Do not assume that just because you serve and lead in your church that you are saved.
It is possible for all 3 above statements to be true about a person and that person still not be truly redeemed by God. There is a reason Paul tells us to examine ourselves in 2 Corinthians 13:5. It is possible to be deceived about our own salvation.
The people of God love the things of God, not the things of this world. Even when our circumstances seem bleak and there seems to be no point in continuing in faithfulness, remember:
There is no greater honor than being called a child of the Living God.