"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." I Peter 1:23
In the book of Ezra, God begins to gather His people who had been captured and taken away into bondage in Babylon. The story of God's deliverance of His people here is amazing. It starts with the Lord moving upon the heart of the Persian King Cyrus to declare God as Lord and calling for God's people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. All that had been stolen from the temple of God and given unto idols, Cyrus collected so that they could be returned to the house of the Lord.
Israel had grown to substantial numbers in captivity. Not all Israelites chose to return to Jerusalem because their spirits would not be stirred by God (Ezra 1:5; Luke 13:34). However, of those who were stirred, they came forth as priests, singers, porters, servants...their lineage was made clear so that they could show evidence of a rightful inheritance to possess the land. Yet, there were some who could not produce this evidence.
"And these were they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel: the children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two. And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: these sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood." Ezra 2:59-62
polluted: Hebrew word ga'al; to be to defiled, polluted, desecratedWhy had these people lost their identity? They were children of those who married into the family of Barzillai and had chosen to be called by their name. This is critical because your identity comes from your father. It is why the wife takes on the name of her husband, and the children as well. It reflects the fact that you belong to him and are under his authority, sharing in his inheritance. This is true even in the world. In order for a person to claim a right to the inheritance from another, they must prove their relationship with that person. So it is with God; just consider how much time God spends in the Scriptures detailing genealogies. Yet, these men took upon themselves the name of their wives and therefore, they nor their children had such evidence.
II Samuel 17:27-29, 19:31-40; I Kings 2:7). He was a great nobleman who served as a benefactor to King David. Yet these Israelites esteemed it better to bear affiliation with this great household than with the household of God. They disregarded their lineage - and the burdens of being a part of a captive people - preferring to be identified with the world along with its comforts & riches. They may have gained the acclaim of the world in doing so, but in return they had forfeited their standing before the Lord (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36).
This is no small thing to God (Genesis 25:31-34; Philippians 3:18-19; Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13).
"Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." Hebrews 2:16-17
The issue was not that these families had never been part of God's people at one time. The issue was that - when called upon to do so - they could not authenticate their relationship with Israel. There was no longer evidence of their father's seed amongst them, and as a result, they were considered polluted and denied their inheritance.
As I read Ezra yesterday morning, I could not help but think of the current state of the Church. For year's God's people have been lost and displaced, enslaved in Babylon through idolatry. In these last days, God is calling His people to return to Him and to come out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4). Separate from Babylon and sanctify yourselves unto the Lord so that He may rebuild within you the temple of His Holy Spirit, allowing you to be a witness for Him (Romans 8:14; I Corinthians 3:16).
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." I John 3:9
Even amongst those who have been born again, some will not heed the call to come out of Babylon, just as in Ezra's day. They will not allow their hearts to be stirred by God because they have become too enamored with the world (Proverbs 26:11; Matthew 24:12-13; II Peter 2:20-22). Yet, of those who do respond to God's call, how many will no longer be able to show that they belong to the Father? How many consider themselves to be one of God's people, but have since left their first love (Revelation 2:4)? How many say all of the right things, but their hearts have strayed far from Him?
"That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:12-14
The evidence that we belong to God is that we have the seal of the Holy Spirit; yet, God's Spirit can be grieved and offended. We cannot simply live how we choose and do what we choose, believing that God still receives us. We must not be like the foolish virgins who heard the call to come wait upon the Bridegroom, but whose oil ran dry (Matthew 25:1-13). Just as He did back then, God is maintaining a record of those who belong to Him (Revelation 20:12-15). The Lord knows those who are His.
The Bride of Christ is preparing herself even now for Jesus' return (Revelation 19:7). Be sure to make yourself ready so that you do not hear the words, "I know you not".