Come to the Altar
“Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope in Israel.” (Ezra 10:2, NIV)
When I was in high school, one of my highlights each year was going to Christian summer camp. I remember one camp’s theme was “S.O.A.R.,” which stood for “Sold Out and Radical.” That’s what I desperately wanted to be as a teenager. I wanted to be radical for God!
Now that I’m older, I wonder why I don’t long for God’s presence like I did back then. I’m often thinking more about what I’m going to make for lunch after church than how I can take a moment with God to confess sin or pray for others. The zeal of youth can wear off.
My passion for God’s business wanes when I get distracted by my business.
In the book of Ezra, we read about a man named Shekaniah who cared deeply about God’s business. Shekaniah was one of Ezra’s companions from Babylon. Though his father, Jehiel, had married foreign, idolatrous women, Shekaniah kept God’s law and had not made the same mistakes. (Ezra 10:2) Yet in today’s key verse, Shekaniah confesses to Ezra and the people, in a public setting, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us” (Ezra 10:2a).
Why did he say “we”? As a godly leader, Shekaniah took responsibility when his family failed to follow God’s ways. He didn’t think, “Well, that’s not my problem.”
It’s important to note here that, even though Shekaniah freely took responsibility for his father’s sin, God would not punish Shekaniah for that sin. As Ezekiel 18:20b says, “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son” (ESV). God punishes those who sin against Him but does not hold family members accountable for the sins of others.
Shekaniah’s confession was rooted purely in his commitment to God, and he was truly grieved by his family’s sin. He didn’t want to see it continue in the next generations -- instead, he wanted to see them marked by godliness.
What would happen if that same spirit of confession flooded my home? What if I was burdened by the sin of my family, my neighborhood, my city? What if that same passion I had as a teenager returned?
I know it might not be sustainable or realistic to cry out at the church altar every day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need seasons of revival.
Shekaniah didn’t just put on an emotional display during a revival; he acted. Out of this time of public sorrow, Shekaniah presented a seemingly harsh but effective plan for full repentance: His people would send away their foreign wives and children who followed other gods.
Despite how difficult it would be, dealing with their snare would become their saving grace. The same is true for us.
Today’s key verse ends, “But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel” (Ezra 10:2b). How wonderful that there is always hope in Christ!
I don’t want to allow sin to creep into my life and my family unchecked. The woman I am today needs to remember the on-fire teenager I was yesterday. It turns out I have something to learn from my younger self. Maybe it’s time to spend a few extra moments at the altar next time I get the chance.
Lord Jesus, I humble myself before You. Show me any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and make me zealous for Your work. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
We can lead our children to God’s heart through our example of loving them. If you need some help finding joy in motherhood in this particular season, Arlene’s book 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom is available in the bookstore.
Today’s devotion author, Arlene Pellicane, co-authored the book Screen Kids, but how does she really handle screen time in her own home? Hear from her three children in a new documentary, Screen Kids: In Their Own Words.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
2 Timothy 2:19, “… ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’” (NIV)
When do you remember being the most passionate about God?
Find a quiet place to kneel before God today. Ask God to revive your heart. Recommit to following God with your whole life. Take a few moments to confess any sin and accept God’s lavish grace in your life.
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2021 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.