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Broken Before God 1 – Humility In Prayer

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Chan Gin Kai

Ezra 9:5-15

Ezra was totally appalled when he learnt of the terrible sins of his people. He did what all of us Christians must do when confronted with sin – he prayed. Ezra’s humility in prayer reflected his brokenness before God.

Admitting Responsibility

Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. (Ezra 9:5-6)

“But now, our God, what can we say after this? For we have forsaken the commands you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples.’” (Ezra 9:10-11a)

Why did Ezra say “our sins” and “we have forsaken” when he didn’t commit them? Why would he need to feel “ashamed and disgraced”? It was the others who sinned against God, not him. He was a righteous man and he was horrified by how his people have strayed away from God. So why would he need to bear responsibility?

Parents feel embarrassed when their kids misbehave. There may be a tinge of fear that others may accuse them of bad parenting, but the biggest reason they feel ashamed is because the kids are theirs. They love their kids and won’t want anyone to feel badly about their kids.

That must have been how Ezra felt too. He wasn’t directly responsible of course. The people had committed those sins long before he arrived. But he loved his people and cared deeply about their relationship with God. He wasn’t responsible for their sins, but he felt responsible for bringing them back to God.

When we care about people, we take responsibility for their welfare. When we care about the church, we take ownership for its health and growth. Are we quick to point accusatory fingers and distance ourselves when things don’t look rosy?

Do we even admit responsibility for our own sins? Or do we shift the blame to circumstances and others?

Accepting Consequences

“From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.” (Ezra 9:7)

“What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this.” (Ezra 9:13)

Ezra accepted that the difficult times his ancestors and his people experienced were consequences of their sins. They went through really tough times – they were attacked, pillaged, humiliated and carried off as slaves. Despite that, Ezra felt grateful that the punishment for their sins was lesser than they deserved.

We’ve often complained that God is unfair, and in a sense, we’re right. God has always punished us less than our sins deserved. And you know what’s even more unfair? Jesus bore the brunt of our punishment!

Oh, how often have I complained about things that go wrong without realising that they’re consequences of my sins? Instead of reflecting on my mistakes, I pity myself for my “misfortunes”, and blame everyone else except myself. I’ve even blamed God.

When we think too lightly of our sins, we’ll feel that the consequences are unjustifiably heavy. When we realise the gravity of our wrongs, we’ll gratefully accept the consequences are less than we deserve.

Appreciating God

“But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in His sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and He has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 9:8-9)

Ezra appreciated God for being gracious, giving light, providing relief, granting new life, giving protection and not forsaking his people. He felt thankful towards God in many different ways despite the consequences discussed above.

What catches our attention? What engrosses our mind? Are we more likely to wallow in pity because of the consequences of our sins, or feel grateful to God for His exceeding kindness? When we dwell on the negatives instead of the positives, we fail to see the many more ways that God has blessed us.

Let’s ponder at how ungratefully we’ve been treating God... we deserve the consequences of our sins, God punishes us lesser than we deserve, Jesus paid for our sins through his sacrifice, God still chooses to bless us... and we still harp on the consequences!

We need to open up our eyes to see the love of God, and bow down to Him in deep appreciation.

Abdicating Control

Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” (Ezra 9:14-15)

Ezra approached God with complete surrender. He admitted that they have sinned and God had every right to destroy them. He acknowledged that they weren’t even worthy to go before God, and yet they’ve come before God in guilt, to be at His mercy.

We need to be humble and come down from the pedestal we’ve proudly put ourselves on. God is God and we are not. Haven’t we realised by now that we’ve brought ourselves more harm than good? Really, how has vying for control benefited us? Have we proven ourselves wiser or better than God? How successful have we been in staying righteous? We know how miserably we’ve failed on all counts.

We need to have sober judgement of ourselves. Let’s give up control of our lives and surrender fully to God. Follow His ways and accede to His wisdom. We’ll be in much better hands.

Approach God in humble prayer and learn to be broken before Him. He will lift us up with loving hands.

Read more about ‘Broken Before God’:

Broken Before God 2 - Committed To Repentance

Chan Gin Kai

Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry of the Central Christian Church. He describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.

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