ap·pall: to fill or overcome with horror, consternation, or fear; dismay

I’m reading through Ezra and was stricken by Ezra’s response in this passage.

After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed.

Ezra 9:1-6 (NIV 2011)

It’s not hard for me to be “filled or overcome with horror, consternation, fear, or dismay” by the sin of others. In fact, it’s almost my immediate response; especially with those closest to me, since I know they know better. Ezra’s response here goes far beyond being upset with his fellow kinsmen. Moved by their sin he did not distance himself or confront them with self-righteous condemnation. Instead, he earnestly pleading their case before God!

When is the last time you have been so desperately stricken by others’ sin such that your posture significantly changed and found yourself kneeling in prayer pleading with God on their behalf?

Here the question is rhetorical. But for your (and my) spiritual health, it is not. After all, what is the proper response to the sin of others if not prayer?


  1. The context (at least textually) of national destruction and bondage in a foreign land probably helped.

  2. No doubt, Random Arrow. Sadly it takes national tragedy to get our attention it seems.

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