Wrong alliances or companionships have been the ruin of many a minister and saint. God’s word has much to say about the need to be among people of “like precious faith” when it comes to strong fellowship. We are not, however, to practice isolationism, which is what the Jews did. God never intended for them to “keep” the faith to themselves, but to share it. They became exclusive instead, and caused themselves much unnecessary trouble. God wants us to be the “influencers” instead of the “influenced,” and it is true that we will fall into one category or the other.
In 458 B.C. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem with another group of Babylonian exiles. Ezra was very effective in teaching the law, initiating reforms, and guiding the people in rebuilding the Hebrew theocracy upon the spiritual and physical foundations of Israel’s experience as God’s chosen nation, (chosen to take God to the rest of the world). Here in the chapter 9, Ezra has been given gold and silver to rebuild the Lord’s house, but upon his return he finds some bad news. God’s people had blatantly disobeyed His commandments.
1. For our WILFULNESS we have been delivered into captivity (vs 7)
2. The land you are to possess is an UNCLEAN land with many pollutions (vs 11)
3. Never seek THEIR prosperity, so YOU can be strong and eat the good of the land (vs 12)
4. None can stand before you because of this (vs 15)
In verse two of chapter 9, Ezra shares that “the officials and chief men have been foremost in this wicked act and direct violation of God’s will.” How very, very important it is that we obey Paul’s admonition to 1Timothy 1,2, that we pray and lift up kings and all who are in authority! It’s an obvious truth that those in higher positions carry a higher degree of influence. People follow leaders! It broke Ezra’s heart that those entrusted with position, had been the chief violators of the Father’s instructions.
As Ezra prayed the elders of Israel came forth and agreed to give up their wrong alliances. They reverenced the word of the Lord. Those who delayed lost their property, and were banned from the congregation, (10:8). God’s desire is for us to be quick to obey Him. All knew in their heart they had done wrong. Excuses were no good. Recovery came from 4 actions, all from Ezra 10:11:
1. Confess your sin
2. Give thanks to the Lord (for not being consumed in your sin)
3. Do the word. Be obedient
4. Separate yourselves from your wrong alliances
Ezra’s method may seem severe, but it is justified when you consider the tragic experiences that befell Israel because of these wrong alliances, which in this case were marriages with heathen women (Ezra 10:10,11.
All this time the people bewailed and cried because they were in captivity, but it was self-imposed! Ezra grieved for the country, the peace, and the prosperity, that God’s people once enjoyed to be restored. Of those guilty there were 17 priests, 10 Levites, and 86 laymen, 113 in all. Only four spoke against it, (10:15), and there is no further mention of them in scripture.
1 Corinthians 15:33 is very clear where Paul says, “Do not be misled! Bad company corrupts good character.” (NIV) Who you consistently associate with can either set you before kings or put you into prison. It matters who you’re buddies with! Good advice comes from Proverbs 2:20 where it tells us that if we listen to God’s wisdom, we will find ourselves “walking in the way of good men.” That, is where we need to find ourselves walking!
Another prime example of what happens through wrong alliances, maybe the saddest of them all, is also seen with King Solomon, who in the beginning was maybe the wisest man to ever walk the earth. Yet his wrong associations began the cycle of destructive decisions that brought an entire nation to desolation. (See 1 Kings 11)
Through many defiant marriages to many foreign women, scripture says, “his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect, complete and whole, with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:4) King Solomon fell into idolatry and the entire nation followed him. I mean think of it, the man known as the wisest of the wise, the guy who had kings from around the known world at that time come to him for wisdom, because of his wrong alliances starts building altars for his wives’s gods like Chemosh and Molech (1 Kings 11:7).
Do you realize how these two “gods” were worshipped? The built idol for Molech for example was a hollowed out brass structure that in many cases stood about 15 feet tall, with outstretched arms whose hands came together to form a large bowl of sorts. A large hole was in the belly of this God, wherein was built a raging fire that caused the entire idol to be red hot from the heat flowing through it’s hollow arms and hands. Sorry to share this bit with you, but then babies, were laid in those glowing red hot idol’s hands, and burned alive, screaming as they died. Child sacrifice. Yes I know, what an incredibly horrid picture. My apologies once again, but we need to realize, this was made possible through a man named Solomon, who again was purported to be the epitome of wisdom, and had God appear to him twice! (I Kings 11:9) Simply unthinkable, but it did happen, all because he allowed himself to be drawn away from God and His truth, by wrong associations.
Ultimately Solomon lost his kingship, Israel was turned over to their enemies, and the promised land was left desolate.
In the New Testament we read the following verses as well:
2 Corinthians 6:14
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (NKJ)
1 Cor 5:9-11
9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. (NIV)
I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. (NIV)
These warnings if not heeded will steal your peace, your joy, and your prosperity. However any time we turn unto God, and repent of our wrong alliances, He will show mercy unto us and deliver us. God’s people dwelt in peace and prosperity as long as they walked in the covenant, but when they stepped out from under the covenant, they were no longer in position to receive. They were in Satan’s territory. Let’s stay in the arena of faith and obedience. That is where the blessing flows.
Have a close look at whom you call close friends. Do they bring you nearer to God, or do they draw you away from God? Only you can answer that. Of course be aware of what Paul said above in 1 Corinthians 5:10, that you are IN a world that is apart from God basically, so you’re of course going to be among them who are not believers. But, you surely know who carries the greater influence; you, or them.
Yes Jesus ate and drank with sinners, which is an incredibly beautiful depiction of His grace in action. However I think you’ll agree, that He was in control of His spirit and flesh, and held by far the greater degree of influence. As a young Christian it’s definitely important to stay away from the old places that once held such a strong sway on your life. You’re foolish if you keep going back to such places. Once you have many years of faith under your belt, walking with Jesus and learning to listen to the Holy Ghost inside of you, He then might have you go back and be a witness to Him.
So, walk in the way of Godly people. Stay in the path where His light shines bright. There are legions of “seducing spirits” out in the world, who are very good at their assignments, which are to do as the bible defines them, “seduce” you away from the wisdom of God. These spirits work often through unassuming people, to draw you away from your promised land. Don’t let it happen! Guard your heart, renew your mind, and walk in the way of faith.
(Here are some further scriptures for study)
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore associate not with him who talks too freely.
24 Make no friendships with a man given to anger, and with a wrathful man do not associate,
25 Lest you learn his ways and get yourself into a snare.
20 Do not associate with winebibbers; be not among them nor among gluttonous eaters of meat.
21 My son, [reverently] fear the Lord and the king, and do not associate with those who are given to change [of allegiance, and are revolutionary],
22 For their calamity shall rise suddenly, and who knows the punishment and ruin which both [the Lord and the king] will bring upon [the rebellious]?
5 For be sure of this: that no person practicing sexual vice or impurity in thought or in life, or one who is covetous [who has lustful desire for the property of others and is greedy for gain] — for he [in effect] is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no one delude and deceive you with empty excuses and groundless arguments [for these sins], for through these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of rebellion and disobedience.
7 So do not associate or be sharers with them.