After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.”— Ezra 9:1-2 ESV
The book of Ezra takes place after the Babylonian exile. At this point, Babylon was overtaken by Persia, and the new king allowed Israel to return to their land to begin rebuilding Jerusalem. Ezra was a teacher—proficient in the law of God—and he led a group of Israelites to teach—making sure the people were adhering to God’s commands. But they weren’t. Israel no longer served the Lord in holiness. They were no longer living distinctly as the people of God.
As Christians, we are grafted into God’s promises to Israel. And this is our call today: to be in the world, but not of it. Consider how you’ve been appropriating the world’s culture into what Christ calls us to be. As the people of God, we live distinctly from the world. If anyone were to watch our lives, what if they would say, “I don’t know what it is, there is something different about them, and I want it.” But listen, we live holy lives, not simply for the evangelism opportunity that can come from it. We live holy lives because the redeemer of our soul is God, and He calls us to a holy life. For us, our obedience is an act of worship to Him. So today, let’s live distinctly, like the people of God.