1. Did you begin any new spiritual practices or start developing any Christian virtues over the last week? If so, what did you start (or restart)?
Ask two people to read aloud Ezra 9:1-15; 10:10-12 one after the other, preferably from different Bible versions. Then ask a third person to paraphrase these passages in two minutes or less.
2. What was the fundamental issue with which some of the leaders (in 9:1) and Ezra were dealing?
3. How would you characterize Ezra’s response to this? (Look at both his actions and the adjectives used in 9:3-6.)
4. Some of the people joined him in his lament. How does the way they are described—as “everyone who trembled at the words of God”—say about them?
5. Where do you see mercy and grace in these passages?
- Where do you see ownership and responsibility for the sinfulness of the people?
6. What do you learn about God from these passages?
- What do you learn about people?
7. The New Testament calls the follower of Jesus to be distinct as a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are not to live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4-12; Galatians 5:13-17), and we are not to conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). What values and priorities should be different between us and the non-Christians around us?
8. What are some specific things we can do to be distinct in our practices and priorities and yet answer God’s call to be light, witnesses for Christ, and ambassadors of Christ to the non-Christians in our spheres of influence?
9. Based on our study and discussion, complete the sentence: “I will . . .”
10. In what ways do you need God’s help as you seek to honor him and do his will this week?
For Next Week: Read and reflect on Nehemiah 1:11–2:8 as we begin a new unit on Nehemiah titled, “It’s About Courage.” You can also read next week’s supplemental texts as well as the Study and Application sections as part of your personal study.