Ezra 9-10 contains a profound prayer and confession of sin by Ezra for the people of Israel who have returned to Jerusalem from exile. The problem was this, the Israelites were intermarrying with the peoples around them. This was not a racial matter but a religious one. Verses 4-5 record Ezra's response to learning of the people's sin:
Ezra 9:4–5 (ESV)4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God,
Verse 6 and following record Ezra's profound prayer of confession. I recommend this prayer (really all of chapters 9-10) to you for prompting your own practice of confession. I have used these passages for this purpose many times. They help to reveal the sort of humility we need. Such humility cannot be worked up by mere human effort, but we can pray that God would create this sort of brokenness in us which can lead to a greater appreciation of the grace of God with thanksgiving.
Chapter 10 explores further the interaction between Ezra and the people over this matter. Eventually a huge gathering is announced to take place in Jerusalem within three days.
I've read and prayed through these chapters many times, but today I've noticed something new. Ezra was a tough rascal. 10:9 describes the setting once all the people had gathered. "The people were trembling before God because of the matter and the heavy rain!" So they are all standing outside, Ezra included, in the rain but he thunders on as if oblivious to the storm. "You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives!" it's like he is saying, "what rain!" He is so grieved and passionate about the sin of the people that he is unfazed by the brutal weather.
This is a very serious passage of scripture but for some reason, I'm seeing some humor in this today. I’m imaging the people saying here next, (I’m paraphrasing here) “Yes, yes, you crazy old man, you are right, it is so; we must do as you have said. But the people are many, and and it is raining buckets; we cannot keep on standing out here in the open. Nor can we fix this all at one time. It’s taken a long time to get ourselves into this mess, it's not going to get fixed in a day." But looking at verse 15, it seems that Ezra had some folks just as “ crazy" as he was. That verse speaks of three men who opposed this proposal by the majority of the people to get out of the rain and deal with this in an orderly manner over a period of time (see verse 14.) I don’t think that we can say this with certainty, but it seems possible that what these three were saying in opposing the proposal was this, "I don't care that its raining, we are going to stand here in the rain and confess our sins for as long as it takes to make this right!"