Leading with Humility and a Cause
Leading with humility and a cause is not only important in the government, corporate, and church world but in marriage and family as well. Ezra, a priest and teacher, helped oversee the building of the temple as Israelite exiles returned to Judah and Jerusalem. Gross sin among the people as well as their leaders was soon brought to his attention. The people were unfaithful to God by intermarrying among the pagan nations around them. Was Ezra so busy that he did not notice the sin around him?
“When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled” (9:3).
Ezra grieved deeply for the sin of his nation even though he was not personally guilty of that sin. He was a great leader with a big heart who identified with his people and led the way in confession and repentance (9:6-15). He didn’t point fingers but chose to lead with humility and a solid cause, i.e. to build a lasting home for the people he loved. The people’s sin was not so much an issue of intermingling the race as it was the spiritual issue of unfaithfulness to God (10:6) and the foreshadowing of being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14).
Ezra’s story is actually the continuing discussion in Scripture concerning our eternal destiny. “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Cor. 7:16). We don’t. In reality, the unbelieving spouse may exert greater influence on the believer. It happens every day and results in pain and confusion. God desires to spare us those painful consequences of our poor choices. How much better it is for the single believer to have and adhere to definite boundaries and require true godly qualities when looking and praying for a spouse (Ezra 7:10 and 1 Cor. 7:35).
Many of those returning Jews refused to listen to God and did not learn from history. Did they forget what happened to King Solomon when he married wives from foreign nations who worshiped false gods? What is it with human nature when we think we’re immune from the consequences of our actions as we disregard God’s clear guidelines as set forth in the Bible? History keeps repeating itself when we make ungodly choices. Don’t be a casualty. We can’t force others to make right choices, but we can choose to trust and obey God in all things to the best of our ability.
Even those in ministry leadership with Ezra such as priests, Levites, musicians, and gatekeepers (9:2; 10:18, 23-24) failed God and were held accountable. You’d think they would have known better. Did the people look at their leaders and think it must be okay to compromise and mix with and marry unbelievers since the “church leaders” were doing it? Do we do the same thing today? Each person is responsible for their own sin and blaming another will accomplish nothing when we stand before the judge of the universe one day. Nevertheless, leaders in government, the business world, church, and home have a tremendous duty to represent God well.
We may have failed God, but He always gives us hope. “So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer” (8:23). “We have been unfaithful to our God…But in spite of this, there is still hope” (10:2). God directed the Israelites to put away their foreign wives.
Uh oh. If you find yourself married to an unbeliever today, don’t seek a way out but draw near to God who gives grace and strength. You made a commitment before God and your spouse that He expects you to keep. Study God’s marriage manual, the Bible, and it’s instructions in the context of the New Testament. God still forgives, and He still answers prayers.
Leading with humility and a cause can be the banner that precedes your marriage and family.
Ezra’s greatness is seen in his resolve to study, obey, and teach God’s law to God’s people (7:10). Mom and Dad, how are you doing in these areas with your children?
How does Ezra’s story and your story relate to Matthew 18:6 and Luke 6:39?
Does humility flow easily and plentifully in your marriage?
Complete this sentence: We desire to build a strong and enduring marriage and home because… What is your cause in the because?