In the Words of Ezra: Matthew Henry on Sin, Confession & Repentance

“Speaking of sin, (1.) He speaks as one much ashamed. With this he begins (vs. 6), O my God! I am ashamed and blush, O my God! (so the words are placed) to lift up my face unto thee. Note,
[1.] Sin is a shameful thing as soon as ever our first parents had eaten forbidden fruit they were ashamed of themselves.
[2.] Holy shame is as necessary an ingredient in true and ingenuous repentance as holy sorrow.
[3.] The sins of others should be our shame, and we should blush for those who do not blush for themselves. We may well be ashamed that we are any thing akin to those who are so ungrateful to God and unwise for themselves. This is clearing ourselves, 2 Corinthians vii.11.
[4.] Penitent sinners never see so much reason to blush and be ashamed as when they come to lift up their faces before God. A natural sense of our own honour which we have injured will make us ashamed, when we have done a wrong thing, to look men in the face but a gracious concern for God’s honour will make us much more ashamed to look him in the face. The publican, when he went to the temple to pray, hung down his head more than ever, as one ashamed, Luke xviii.13.
[5.] An eye to God as our God will be of great use to us in the exercise of repentance. Ezra begins, O my God! and again in the same breath, My God. The consideration of our covenant-relation to God as ours will help to humble us, and break our hearts for sin, that we should violate both his precepts to us and our promises to him it will also encourage us to hope for pardon upon repentance. “He is my God, notwithstanding this;” and every transgression in the covenant does not throw us out of covenant.

(2.) He speaks as one much amazed (
Ezra ix.10) “What shall we say after this? For my part I know not what to say: if God do not help us, we are undone.” The discoveries of guilt excite amazement: the more we think of sin the worse it looks. The difficulty of the case excites amazement. How shall we recover ourselves? Which way shall we make our peace with God?
[1.] True penitents are at a loss what to say. Shall we say, We have not sinned, or, God will not require it? If we do, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Shall we say, Have patience with us and we will pay thee all, with thousands of rams, or our first-born for our transgression? God will not thus be mocked: he knows we are insolvent. Shall we say, There is no hope, and let come on us what will? That is but to make bad worse.
[2.] True penitents will consider what to say, and should, as Ezra, beg of God to teach them. What shall we say? Say, “I have sinned I have done foolishly God be merciful to me a sinner ” and the like. See Hosea xiv.2.

(3.) He speaks as one much afraid, Ezra ix.13,14. “After all the judgments that have come upon us to reclaim us from sin, and all the deliverances that have been wrought for us to engage us to God and duty, if we should again break God’s commandments, by joining in affinity with the children of disobedience and learning their ways, what else could we expect but that God should be angry with us till he had consumed us, and there should not be so much as a remnant left, nor any to escape the destruction?” There is not a surer nor sadder presage of ruin to any people than revolting to sin, to the same sins again, after great judgments and great deliverances. Those that will be wrought upon neither by the one nor by the other are fit to be rejected, as reprobate silver, for the founder melteth in vain.

(4.) He speaks as one much assured of the righteousness of God, and resolved to acquiesce in that and to leave the matter with him whose judgment is according to truth (Ezra ix.15): “Thou art righteous, wise, just, and good thou wilt neither do us wrong nor be hard upon us and therefore behold we are before thee, we lie at thy feet, waiting our doom we cannot stand before thee, insisting upon any righteousness of our own, having no plea to support us or bring us off, and therefore we fall down before thee, in our trespass, and cast ourselves on thy mercy. Do unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee, Judges x.15. We have nothing to say, nothing to do, but to make supplication to our Judge,” Job ix.15. Thus does this good man lay his grief before God and then leave it with him.”[1]

1. Henry, Matthew. “Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible,” Volume 2: Joshua to Esther. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, page 1062.

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