By Russ Ramsey
There’s an old police drama I love that has a scene where a detective is interviewing a suspect who murdered the detective’s wife. Other detectives have tried to get the murderer to confess, to no avail, and the widower asks if he can try. Everyone is afraid he will kill the guy, but he maneuvers his way into the interrogation room as his fellow officers watch through the mirrored glass.
Rather than attack the suspect, the detective begins to weep and asks the killer how long he can go on living like this—How long will he subject his heart to such coldness and posturing before he finds he can’t go on anymore? Slowly, the killer’s face softens, and he begins to weep too. It’s a powerful scene because the killer moves from a posture of trying to protect himself from the consequences of his sin to lamenting the existence of the sin itself.
Ezra 10 is about God’s people seeing their sin and lamenting its presence in their hearts. Before this, they were committed to trying to downplay the seriousness of their sin before others and even before God. They were afraid of the consequences—of what could happen to them if they were found out—more than they were concerned about the problem itself. But as Ezra called them to repentance through his tears of sorrow and lament, the Lord, in His kindness, gave the people eyes to see themselves as they truly were. They hadn’t just broken God’s rules, they had broken faith with God Himself, and they realized they weren’t just in trouble: they were lost. And that reality hurt.
But this kind of repentance was also the way to a new relationship with God: a renewed commitment to the covenant. They could not obey their way into God’s favor, nor could they pretend to be clean before Him. They had to break. They had to own their duplicity, their manipulating ways, their pride, their anger, their deceptions, and their contempt for God and their neighbor, and they had to voice it to the Lord and lay it on the altar of humble repentance.
Where in your life are you trying to protect yourself from the consequences of your sin, and what might it look like to lament the existence of the sin itself? There is no freedom in sin management, but there is in repentance. Do you want to be free, or do you just want to look free?
When we repent, we are able to start fresh. We are restored. We are reborn.