MIXED COMPANY

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ON THE JOB SITE

Judah is returning to their homeland, but they find old enemies still living in the area too.  The Samarians had separated with the northern kingdom of Israel, and entertained other gods.  You may recall that they are resented by the Jews even though Jesus made a point about a good Samaritan.  These were not good Samaritans.

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.  And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?  Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.  Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:  And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.  Nehemiah 4:1-5

Sanballat is a historical figure who claimed to be loyal to the Persian king, but later turned to their Greek enemies.  Then he turned against the Greeks too.  For now he just provokes his old enemies of Judah.  He mocks Judah and they petition God against the Samarians.  http://www.livius.org/saa-san/samaria/samarians.htm 

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.  But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth,  And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.  Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.  And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.  Nehemiah 4:6-10

After all the punishment that Samaria suffered from the prophets and enemy armies, they are still a thorn to Jerusalem.  When people turn away from God they can really turn against him.  One can see this in the world today and also in modern Israel.  The land is intermingled with Moslems, Jews, and Christians as it was of many beliefs then.  It was hard then as now to know where the threat would come from.

And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.  And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.  Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.  And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. Nehemiah 4:11-14

The Jews who live near their enemies are working against them with words of discouragement!  Confidence in God comes from a relationship that works both ways.  Some people of Samaria recognize God but they are not entirely faithful to him.  The people of Judah were prepared to give themselves wholly to God and they knew his assurances for confidence.  His sheep know his voice.  They are bold to work while armed for battle.

And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.  And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah.  They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.  For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.  And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. Nehemiah 4:15-19

Nehemiah notices the distances between the defenders, a weakness when under attack.  They made plans to be ready in that event.  Today the believers are few in number but strong in faith for our battles.

In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.  So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.  Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day.  So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing. Nehemiah 4:20-23

The shofar calls the defenders and the Lord to battle.  They work to rebuild Jerusalem with one hand on their weapons.  They live within the walls at night for security.  Even when they slept at night they remained dressed for battle. 

The reconstruction of Jerusalem today proceeds in mixed company with unrest being the norm.  Everyone may be called to serve in the military.  But like then, faith is mixed and often incomplete.  Few in Israel recognize that their Messiah is available to answer the trumpet now.  Many are secular Jews, as disconnected as their enemies.  Others are bound by religious traditions that David would not recognize.  But God has a remnant who know their master’s voice.  The temple will be restored.

RECONSTRUCTION

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ON THE JOB SITE

Moving beyond doubt, the priest sets an earthly example.  He steps out in faith to do the physical work of reconstruction.  They are joined, and there is an uninterrupted line of repair across Jerusalem.  The rubble will be moved.

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.  And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.  But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.  And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana.  And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their LORD.  Nehemiah 3:1-5

Well, not everyone understands the point of leadership by examples.  Some nobles are like the politicians of today, their necks are too stiff to be of service!  The rubble is gone, and hardware is being installed.  Beams, doors, locks, and bars are the reality of renewal.

 Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.  And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, unto the throne of the governor on this side the river.  Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall.  And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah 3:6-9

Now Hananiah could have focused on his father’s business as a pharmacist.  And Repaniah was a prince of Jerusalem.  They got their hands dirty about the common work of reconstruction.  Other princes of Jerusalem are also found among the workers now.

And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah.  Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahathmoab, repaired the other piece, and the tower of the furnaces.  And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.  The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate.  But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.  But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king’s garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David.  Nehemiah 3:10-15

Princes and princesses too are working now.  I just finished moving to a new home, and contracted some repairs.  The big contracting firm was too busy for my work, and others came but did not work.  I found those who finished the job, but it required a little patience.  Israel was hindered, but the work is getting done now.  More leaders are giving good examples, and the people are following that well.

After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Bethzur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty.  After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the half part of Keilah, in his part.  After him repaired their brethren, Bavai the son of Henadad, the ruler of the half part of Keilah.  And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece over against the going up to the armoury at the turning of the wall.  After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.  Nehemiah 3:16-20

During all of this the city was a mess.  At first they were unable to pass through the streets for the rubble.  The mess was probably pushed to the side temporarily.  Some was still usable for construction, and other materials could only be used for a land fill.  No one could find comfort until there was room to live and work.

After him repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah the son of Koz another piece, from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib.  And after him repaired the priests, the men of the plain.  After him repaired Benjamin and Hashub over against their house. After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah by his house.  After him repaired Binnui the son of Henadad another piece, from the house of Azariah unto the turning of the wall, even unto the corner.  Palal the son of Uzai, over against the turning of the wall, and the tower which lieth out from the king’s high house, that was by the court of the prison. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh.  Nehemiah 3:21-25

If you have lived through a remodeling project, you know that there is chaos and dirt involved.  But the sign of progress is when the mess is in motion.  If it is stagnant, it is a mess, but a moving mess is construction progress. 

Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out.  After them the Tekoites repaired another piece, over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel.  From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house.  After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate.  After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another piece. After him repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber. Nehemiah 3:26-30

Now everyone is bending their backs into a great labor of love.  The temple and the whole city of Jerusalem is being restored.  There are heavy labors, and now finally, fine arts appearing. 

After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith’s son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner.  And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants. Nehemiah 3:31-32

I find it wonderful to see the names of all the workers on this project.  It testifies that God is faithful to remember the least of his workers for all eternity.  Here they are forever enshrined in the scriptures for the Kingdom of God to admire.  Even more rewarding it is to know that our names too may be recorded in the Book of Life.  No one is too insignificant to be remembered by God.

These builders of Jerusalem are your exemplary leaders for you, the rebuilders of New Jerusalem.  As they labored on the physical reconstruction, so we should labor for the spiritual revival of Jerusalem.  We are Jerusalem, and Israel will be reunited with us in the restoration work soon.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; his name is Yeshua Ha Meschia.  When they look on him who they pierced, they will know him as he knows them.

JERUSALEM REBORN

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THE RESISTANCE OF DARKNESS

After prayer for Jerusalem and Israel, Nehemiah is still a bit down.  He is assured that God is faithful, but Israel has not been.  He is not feeling his usual joy in life.

And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.  Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,  And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?  Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.  Nehemiah 2:1-4

When the king of Persia notices that his servant is sad, it is unusual.  When he questions him, Nehemiah is fearful because of the size of his problem, and how the king may react.  Will the king view this as an imposition on his generosity?  Still, he lets honesty be his guide in revealing the plight of Israel.  When the king asks what he needs, he has the wisdom to seek God first.  Perhaps this request to pray first impresses the king, as our actions confirm our faith.  Now Nehemiah reveals the need of his people.

And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.  And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.  Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;  And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.  Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.  Nehemiah 2:5-9

Nehemiah asks to rebuild Jerusalem, and the king was willing to allow him to go, and to get materials as well.  He was escorted on his trip by military guards and met with the governors of the land.  There were a few who hated Israel, and they were unhappy to hear this news.

When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.  So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.  And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.  And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.  Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.  Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.  Nehemiah 2:10-15

Knowing that there was opposition, Nehemiah decided to inspect Jerusalem quietly after dark.  In the shadows of night he found the city destroyed and blackened by fire.  The rubble was so strewn that his mount could not climb through the streets.  Building stones fallen haphazardly could break a horse’s leg.  Everyone in his party could see the size of the work ahead of them on that dark night.

And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.  Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.  Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.  Nehemiah 2:16-18

In that dismal sight he encouraged the leaders of Israel with the testimony of how God had already helped him.  They were encouraged to be brave and to get started on the work.  They will need courage for more than just the reconstruction work ahead of them.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?  Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah 2:19-20

So now we again see the enemies that Ezra resisted.  At first they try mockery and scorn, but then suggest that Nehemiah is leading a rebellion against the king.  We read in Ezra that they had offered to help, intending only to hinder.  Their intentions were known and rejected.  They were being exiled from Jerusalem as they should have been when Israel first came to the Holy Land.

You know these spirits today.  They may join your church, but they are working for division and strife.  I have neighbors who greet me with smiles, and wear a Christian bumper sticker.  They also seem to be the source of anonymous complaints and have reported me to the building inspector.  I have not broken any laws, but false accusations have still come.  These are working for the accuser of the brethren, who is Satan.  Fear not; these have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in New Jerusalem.

ELECTION NIGHT RED ALERT

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BATTLE STATIONS

The world of Israel was at the bottom of their experience as captives first of the Babylonians, then the Persians.  Today the Persians are modern Iran and we are again threatened by their fanaticism.  Do we remember what to do about bad news?

http://www.debka.com/article/22499/Israel-warns-Damascus-against-Syrian-Golan-overflights

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,  That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.  And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.  And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,  Nehemiah 1:1-4

News reports are not always a source of joy.  But they can be a source of motivation if one remembers our calling and empowerment.  Are we supposed to wring our hands and say” oh dear, there is no leader to save us from the hordes of the world”?  Or are we supposed to remember our position in the great line of defense, as the warriors of prayer?  Nehemiah needs no reminder to assume his position on the firing line.  He sends his signal to the captain of the host, and awaits his orders.

And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:  Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.  We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.  Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:  But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.  Nehemiah 1:5-9

God is still the same God who was acknowledged here by Nehemiah, dependable in all of his promises.  Do we ask him to hear of our plight today?   A report is being sent to the commander, which indicates that our troops have missed their mark and are out of position.  They have placed their battle unit behind enemy lines, and are not able to support their allies back in Jerusalem.  They are surrounded by enemies and cannot perform their mission to defend Israel.  Israel and Judah are both departed from the ways of God and have not had a godly king to guide them away from this disaster.  Nehemiah alone remembers that God has promised to rescue them even from their own mistakes.

Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.  O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.  Nehemiah 1:10-11

A nation of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ is not at the mercy of the nations that rage.  Nehemiah asks God to acknowledge the power of prayer that God himself instituted for his people.  He claims that others too are in prayer about their sufferings, and they too are standing in intercession with him.  Nehemiah asks God to give mercy to him, and to all who are calling on his name. 

A nation of human government is lost without the support of the nation and army of God.  If the Christians are not prepared to vote by prayer, the human effort is futility.  How or if you voted is inconsequential if you are not prepared to stand in the battle in prayer.  Nehemiah knows that no mortal king can give this deliverance.  He had served in the court of the human king, and has recognized the need for the divine king. 

Today we have both the Old and New Testaments to point to the king of kings.  We are without the excuse of ignorance or the curse of living under the law.  By faith we can have our place in the kingdom of God, and go on to produce good works.  If any good work is required today, it is the work of prayer.  Nehemiah has given us the example to lead a nation back into the battle. 

Do not despair at any news that comes tonight, nor trust that news to be our deliverance.  The trials ahead will be of biblical proportions; appropriate to fulfill the promised end times adventure.  During the days of Nehemiah and Queen Esther the kings of flesh were not in charge of their own affairs.  God moved the players behind the scenes like pieces on a chess board of life.  He will respond to our prayer calls today as he did then.  And as Nehemiah claimed by faith then, you are not alone on the battle line of prayer.

THE COST OF COURAGE

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NO EASY PATH

We have learned that a marriage union is stronger with shared faith in God.  For the Old Testament Israel this was more than an advantage, it was the law.  They had been taught and warned for years not to mix with the people of foreign lands.  In their captivity the teachings and warnings may have diminished.  Perhaps they despaired of ever having their freedom to worship again.  They may even have thought that God had forsaken them.  For Ezra this revelation of failure was overwhelming.

Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.  And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.  Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.  Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.  Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.  Ezra 10:1-5

The despair of Ezra drew an audience who now began to understand their danger.  Their sorrow indicates that they retain the understanding of their sin.  They agree to divorce their foreign partners and they encourage him to be courageous to act on this.  He requires them to perform their oath.

Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.  And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;  And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.  Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.  Ezra 10:6-9

Ezra fasted from food and water both to find direction in this.  Under the threat of being shunned and impoverished, all Israel were summoned to Jerusalem.  They sat trembling with fear, and shivering in the cold rain.

And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.  Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.  Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.  But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.  Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.  Ezra 10:10-14

Ezra calls the people to perform their divorces, but the job is too much for one miserable rainy day.  To perform so many ceremonies they ask to come on a schedule over more days.

Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.  And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.  And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.  And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.  And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.  Ezra 10:15-19

Four men performed the services and even the priests were found with strange wives.  They were not alone, as this list of others demonstrates.

And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah.  And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah.  And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah.  Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.  Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.  Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.  And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah.  And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza.  Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.  And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth.  And of the sons of Pahathmoab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh.  And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,  Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.  Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.  Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel,  Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh,  Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,  Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau,  And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei,  And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah,  Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,  Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah,  Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.  Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah.  All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.  Ezra 10:20-44

This service of Ezra prepares the people for their future of restoration.  It leaves me puzzled about another story we read earlier though.  Naomi left Israel and her sons took wives in that strange land.  Her daughter in-law Ruth was accepted by Boaz her kinsman, and became an ancestor of Messiah Yeshua.  There is room for grace in some situations, and a gentile can find grace.  Will we learn what opens these doors in future lessons?