Recognition of God's grace, patience

When Ezra, upon arriving in Jerusalem from Babylon, learned that the people and their leaders were intermarrying with unbelieving people of the land, he felt both concern and shame.

"It worried him that the laws of Moses had so soon again been broken, for it indicated that the lessons of their history had not been learned," wrote Ellis T. Rasmussen in A Latter-day Commentary on the Old Testament. "Intermarriage with other cultures had led to changes in their religion, neglect of the divine law, and apostasy. Israel must remain dedicated as the holy seed' for the Lord's planting. (Ezra 9:2; Ex. 19:6; Lev. 19:2; Deut. 7:6.) The Lord's purpose in calling a consecrated, dedicatedseed' was, and is, to provide exemplars and messengers to all families of all nations, so that `all that will hear may hear.' (D&C 1:11; Gen. 12:3; Abr. 2:9-11.)"In his prayer, Ezra confessed his shame and concern for his people and recognized the grace and patience of God. He contrasted the Lord's grace with the infidelity, carelessness, and rebelliousness of Israel. (Ezra 9:4-15; compare the prayer of Nephi, son of Helaman, in Hel. 7:6-29.) . . .

"The people were surprisingly responsive

to Ezra's prayerT, and a spokesman for those who had transgressed the laws proposed that the people make a covenant to repent. Ezra charged them to swear that they should do according to this word,' and they did so. Accordingly, all the people were assembled, even though it was in the ninth month (November-December), the time of the heavy winter rains. When all agreed to take action, Ezra wisely observed that it was something they could not do then and there in the rain, but rulers could be appointed and violators identified. So in about four months the matter was done (thefirst month' is Nisan, or Aviv, which falls in March-April). Records were made of the names of all involved.

"Ezra was indeed a good leader; in nine months (recall Ezra 7:4), he had accomplished much reform, and more of his mission is yet to be told in the book of Nehemiah.

"The book of Ezra, which begins with events in history some 80 years before the time of Ezra's appointment by Artaxerxes, covers an exciting and challenging period of Israel's long and tortuous history.

"The Israelites were weak, returning from a period of bondage without means of adequate security or support. Those who were 70 years old or older could barely have remembered being taken away to Babylon as little children, and the younger generations would only have known of their homeland from the stories of their parents and grandparents. They must be admired for their commitment and sacrifice, their trek of some fifteen hundred miles, and their toil to provide food and shelter again in the promised land. But it took Ezra, a strong, dedicated leader, to get them organized and functioning satisfactorily."

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