Typically, when we great each other, we ask “How are you?” The answers are fairly common (though sincere): “I am doing well” or “Pretty good.” Years ago, I asked a brother in Christ that question in greeting him; he said, “Better than I deserve.” I have to admit that his reply caught me off guard. After I thought about it a moment, I quite readily agreed. We are all doing better than we deserve. Ezra the priest thought the same way.
Several decades before Ezra, King Cyrus allowed thousands from the Southern Kingdom of Judah to return to Jerusalem after their seventy-year captivity. But within a few generations, the people and the priests and Levites took the daughters of the surrounding pagan countries as wives. It was a grievous revelation for Ezra. He immediately confessed the sins of the people before God. In his prayer he prayed, “…seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve…” (Ezra 9:13). There it is—we are doing better than we deserve, because we deserve more punishment than we receive.
When we think about our struggles and our disobedience, God acts so graciously toward us! The way the Lord spares us of the full consequences we deserve, the way He blesses us despite our inconsistency—it all speaks of God’s love and mercy. Let us not presume upon God’s grace and continue on an errant path. “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” Let us put off the old ways, and put on the new man out of love for our God.