Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

     In Part One we read about Ezra the Scribe, and his great anguish and shame over the sins of the Israelites who failed to separate themselves from the pagan people of the lands and their abominations. This included some in the Levitical priesthood. As you can imagine, Ezra’s reaction was one that certainly caught the attention of the people. “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied” Ezra 9:3. He records, “I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God. And said, O my God. I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens” Ezra 9:4b, 5. Notice that Ezra identified with the Israelites when he said “our iniquities.” Righteous Daniel the Prophet likewise identified with the sins and iniquities of Israel. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land” Daniel 9:4-6.

      Oh! That there would be such godly men (and women) in the sleeping churches today that would fall on their faces before God Almighty in the sight of the people and identify in such a way with the sins and iniquities of America! The mingling with paganism that the Israelites committed, as outlined in this article, is a picture of the very paganism that is swallowing up the institutionalized, organized, man-centered churches, not only in this nation but in other westernized nations as well. Wherever the Head of the Church is replaced with man and his systems, outwardly the name of Jesus may be tacked on to give the impression that it is “Christian” but inwardly it is full of carnality, unbelief, idolatry, unscriptural beliefs and practices, uncleanness, unholy agreements, perversion, ungodly attitudes and associations, which result in God-denying attitudes and lifestyles at worst, and “casual Christianity” at best.

      In Ezra 9, we read the names of the pagan peoples that the Israelite men had intermarried with. We begin with Canaan, which means “low.” You may ask, is there any such thing as a “low” Christian? Consider those who are content to never rise above the nominal Christian life. Being yet carnal, they have no desire to separate themselves from casual, mundane “Christianity, and strive to come higher in Christ to follow Him into a life of service. They simply want to get by until they die, or hopefully “go to heaven” if Jesus returns in their lifetime. “Lowland” people are content to live in the dark and misty “lowlands” of life where they are not challenged to forsake their old way of thinking, doing, and being so as to follow Christ into a self-denying life of service to Him. “Lowland” people live in fear and superstition, such as the Gadarenes who were greatly afraid when they saw the man out of whom Jesus had cast the Legion of demons sitting clothed and in his right mind. Here was an opportunity for the people of Gadera to meet the Son of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and to be set free from their dark, pigpen lives. But instead of falling at Jesus’ feet and worshipping Him, they rejected Him outright, and begged Him to depart from them. They preferred swine to the Lord of glory. (Luke 8:26-37).

      The Hittites represent fear, or terror in Hebrew etymology. “Fearful” professing Christians are like the “wicked and slothful” servant who buried his talent in the ground instead of investing in the Lord’s kingdom. (Matthew 25:14-30.) Concerning this wicked servant Herbert Lockyer writes, “What a solemn judgment fell upon the servant who buried his talent! As the faithful are rewarded according to the intrinsic value of their service, so there is condemnation for the non-use of Christ’s trust. At the Judgment Seat of Christ many will be commended, but others will be condemned. For those who have honored Him there is a crown (2 Timothy 4:8); a throne (Revelation 3:21): a kingdom (Matthew 25:34). Will ours be a full reward, or shall we be among those “saved yet so as by fire”? A saved soul, but a lost life and forfeited reward.”

      “How the true character of this third servant comes out in his reply, and in his lord’s condemnation of his failure. First of all, he had a false estimate of his master which he used as an excuse for the failure of his trust. He had lied about his lord as being a hard man, reaping what he had not sown, and now repeats this lie to his master’s face. Why was he afraid to face his master, while the other two servants were ready and jubilant over seeing him return? This in defence was an offence. To his idleness, he added injustice. His master said he had proved himself to be a wicked and slothful servant (note, he was still a servant), wicked because he thought his master was hard and unfair, and slothful because he had failed to use his talent.” (All The Parables of the Bible, pg. 246)

      The fearful are unwilling to separate themselves from the world, and pay the price to truly know God, believe Him, trust Him, and follow Him. Being fearful and faithless, they will be judged as wicked and unprofitable. After all, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” 1 John 4:18.

      Then there were the Perizzites who were known simply as the “villagers.” Christian “villagers” are happy to group with others for mutual benefit. They are content with the status quo, and fit this quote from James Montgomery Boice, “The world’s theology is easy to define. It is the view that human beings are basically good, that no one is really lost, that belief in Jesus Christ is not necessary for salvation.” It’s a “love and let live” philosophy. These “village” people aren’t willing to separate from their social standing in order to follow Christ and carry out the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples.

      Concerning “village Christians,” allow me to quote some apropos words of A. W. Tozer: “Jesus hated the devil and He hated those evil spirits that He challenged and drove out. We present-day Christians have been misled and brainwashed, at least in a general way, by a generation of soft, pussycat preachers. They would have us believe that to be good Christians we must be able to purr softly and accept everything that comes along with Christian tolerance and understanding. Such ministers never mention words like zeal and conviction and commitment. They avoid phrases like ‘standing for the truth’….We are too nice! We are too tolerant! We are too anxious to be popular! We are too quick to make excuses for sin in its many forms!” (Jesus, Our Man in Glory by A. W. Tozer, pgs. 66, 67.)

      Jebusites refers to “threshing floor.” The threshing floor stands for the separation of the wheat, or grain, from the chaff. “Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the threshing floor as a symbol of judgment. Hosea prophesied that because Israel had repeatedly turned from God to false idols, His judgment upon them would scatter them to the winds as the chaff from the threshing floor. ‘Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window’ (Hosea 9:2). Jeremiah pronounces a similar fate on the Babylonians who persecuted Israel, likening their fate to the trampled sheaves on the threshing floor (Jeremiah 51:33). John the Baptist uses the imagery of the threshing floor to describe the coming Messiah who would separate the true believers from the false. The true followers of Christ will be gathered into the kingdom of God just as grain is gathered into barns, while those who reject Christ will be burned up ‘with unquenchable fire,’ just as the worthless chaff is burned (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). The wicked are often described as chaff which the wind drives away (Psalm 1:4; Isaiah 17:13). Similar imagery of the good grain being separated from the worthless weeds appears in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:36-43).” (From

      “In the Old Testament, personal relationship with God showed itself in separation, and this is symbolized in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and from his kith and kin. Today the separation is more of a mental and moral separation from the way that those who are dearest to us look at things, that is, if they have not a personal relationship with God. Jesus Christ emphasized this (see Luke 14:26).

      “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One Who is leading. It is a life of Faith, not of intellect and reason, but a life of knowing Who makes us ‘go.’ The root of faith is the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest snares is the idea that God is sure to lead us to success.

      “The final stage in the life of faith is attainment of character. There are many passing transfigurations of character; when we pray we feel the blessing of God enwrapping us and for the time being we are changed, then we get back to the ordinary days and ways and the glory vanishes. The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting. It is not a question of sanctification; but of something infinitely further on than sanctification, of faith that has been tried and proved and has stood the test. Abraham is not a type of sanctification, but a type of the life of faith, a tried faith built on a real God. ‘Abraham believed God.’” (My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers

      The Jebusites leave us a strong example of God’s judgment on idolatry. Idolatry in the modern church today is when anything or anyone takes center stage and is the focal point of the church. People everywhere have a natural tendency to put their religious heroes on a pedestal. This can include pastors, prophets, priests, popes, church structure, denominational doctrines, certain music, and so forth. People fall into idolatry when they blindly adore and exalt false workers who lead people astray from the truth of God’s Word through their cleverly worded best-selling books, prophecies, teachings, and movements. God says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).

      Concerning idolatry in the churches, Tozer’s wisdom remains true: “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’ wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

      “Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear…The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and [the church]. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place.

      “We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.” (Taken from The Knowledge of the Holy, Aiden Wilson Tozer, (1897-1963)

      Next we come to Ammon and Moab. Ammonite means “hidden.” Moab means “Who’s your daddy?” Both Ammon and Moab were the descendants of the incestuous relationship in a cave between Lot and his two daughters. Moab came from the eldest daughter, and Ammon from the younger. “Because, these nations were descendants of Lot, God protected them initially; Moses told Joshua not to destroy them.  (Deuteronomy 2:9 & 2:19) The Ammonites started to worship Molech and the Moabites started worshiping Chemosh. These Gods were very similar and required infant sacrifice and the giving over of children to prostitution which was forbidden by God (Leviticus 20:1-5) and denounced later by the Prophets (Isaiah 15:1-16:3 Jeremiah 48:1-49:6).” (From

      Sins within the church are works of darkness that never come to the light. Such sins can be abortion, adultery, fornication, pornography, addictions, uncleanness, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, envy, and dabbling in the occult (which means hidden knowledge), to name a few. Many churches have embraced “doctrines of devils” along with the practices of Eastern religions such as contemplative prayer, meditation techniques, yoga, mind science (positive thinking, positive confession) and so forth. Ammon, as well as Moab, represent wicked works, whereas God’s sheep are called to good works. “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” Titus 3:8. Again, God calls His people to come out and be separate. God’s people must separate themselves from dead works, works of darkness, and all that is devilish. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” Ephesians 5:11, 12. While man tries to hide his works of darkness and keep them hidden, Christians are to obey God in practical works of righteousness, keeping in mind this Scripture: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Jesus said, “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” Luke 12:2.

      When that great day comes when Jesus sits in judgment, no hidden works of darkness can remain hidden. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world….Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” Matthew 25:31-34, 40, 41.

      Finally, we read of the Amorites, whose name means “highlanders.” “Amorites” among God’s people can be those in high positions who lord it over the people. This is called Nicolaitanism in Scripture and God hates it. (Revelation 2:6, 2:15). The clergy is not to be “high and mighty” and control God’s people. The greatest in the Body of Christ is the servant of all, as our Lord both taught and demonstrated time and again as He served His own. Truly, “the servant is not above his master.” If our Lord humbled Himself and became a servant, then who dares to exalt him or herself into a position of superiority and heartless command? God’s sheep must separate themselves out from under any such dictatorship in the assembly. We have one Lord and one Master, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

      The Apostle Paul warned against being “high-minded” in Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” Concerning being a respecter of persons, James warned “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” James 2:9. Andrew Murray puts it well, “Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down! Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.”

      No wonder Ezra was in great shame and despair! How could the Jewish nation be restored when there was such a mixture of the holy with the profane? The same question can be asked of the church, for Jesus is returning for a sanctified and cleansed church, “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Ephesians 5:27. A. W. Tozer said, “I hope some of you will agree with me that it is of far greater importance that we have better Christians than that we have more of them! If we have any spiritual concerns, our most pressing obligation is to do all in our power to obtain a revival that will result in a reformed, revitalized, purified church… followers of Christ must become personally and vitally involved in the death and resurrection of Christ. And this requires repentance, prayer, watchfulness, self-denial, detachment from the world, humility, obedience and cross-carrying…”

      Ezra is an example we need to follow. He fell to his knees and made strong supplication to God. (See Ezra 9:5-15.) What happened then is what every Christian who prays for revival longs to see, for “when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore” Ezra 10:1. After mourning and fasting for the transgression of the people, Ezra stood up and said to all the men who had gathered and sat trembling before him, “Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives” Ezra 10:10, 11. Try to picture this scene for a moment, and imagine that you were a part of it. How would you react to the separation that had to take place between the men and their wives, and that also included children for some of them? These was surely a hard thing to experience, but remember that repentance means turning away from sin and the old life, to follow the Lord into a new life in Him. You cannot have it both ways; you “cannot serve two masters.” There is a price to pay in obeying and following the Lord.

      How many of those who sit today in worldly churches that are ashamed of the Word, and Jesus—churches that are soft on sin, and take pride in being “tolerant”—will wake up, hear and obey the Word of the Lord concerning separation from that which is unclean (unholy) and profane, and quickly depart from it before Jesus comes?

      I don’t know about you, but I do not want to experience shame when I stand before Him, nor do I want Him to be ashamed of me. Instead, I want to hear these words, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” Matthew 25:34b. Amen.