In January 1907, in what is now North Korea, more than one thousand Christians met for a worship service. During the prayer time, many became convicted of sins they had committed against one another. The subsequent outpouring of confession, which spilled over into the surrounding community, was the beginning of a season of growth and revival in the Pyongyang church.
Today’s passage recounts when God’s covenant people fell under conviction of sin. After leaving Babylon, the Israelite exiles began to rebuild their lives in Jerusalem. But almost immediately, they learned that the Israelites who had arrived ahead of them sinned against God by intermarrying with their ungodly neighbors (Ezra 9:1–2).
Ezra, as the priest of God’s people, took the lead in pouring out prayers of confession for this widespread sin in his community. So, too, church leaders have a responsibility to intercede for the members of their churches. When sins like pride, racism, and spiritual apathy invade our congregations, our leaders must publicly confess them and ask God for forgiveness.
Not only did Ezra make intercession, prayers of confession were also in the hearts of “a large crowd of Israelites— men, women and children” (v. 1). In an episode similar to the days of Josiah, when all the people humbled themselves after the long-lost book of the law was read (2 Chron. 34:8–33), Ezra’s entire community gathered to repent. When our churches are troubled by quarreling, our love for outsiders is weak, or our zeal for worship grows dim, we should gather to pray for forgiveness.
Having each voiced our confession, we join together to pray that we might all be restored to fellowship with our holy God and with one another.