Reading 1 - Ezr 9:5-7
"Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed: 'O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today' " (Ezr 9:5-7).
Where the prophets of Israel witnessed against the spiritual abuses among their contemporaries they did so while still continuing full fellowship with those whom they denounced. More than this, the examples of Moses (Exo 32:30-33), Daniel (Dan 9:5-14), Nehemiah (Neh 1:6,7), Jeremiah (Jer 3:25; 9:1), and Ezra (Ezr 9:6,7,13) show these men intimately associated with the people whom they reprimanded, even so far as confessing the sins of the nation as though they were their own. Here is the spirit of true fellowship, or sharing, by which those most exercised against error bear the burdens of their brethren, and strive with them as partners -- not outsiders -- to defeat the enervating effects of sin.
"It is amazing that even though Ezra had clearly no idea until God revealed it to him of the extent of the sin of the people, straightaway he takes responsibility for it. It seems quite common for worthy men of God to behave this way (as Moses did). Perhaps we should look at this and see what it means for us and our attitudes. Maybe we should feel some responsibility to God -- or at least shame before Him -- for our brother's sins?" (Peter Cresswell).
Reading 2 - Hos 10:12
"Break up your unplowed ground" (Hos 10:12).
"Our nature at its largest is but a small farm, and we had need to get a harvest out of every acre of it, for our needs are great. Have we left any part of our small allotment uncultivated? If so, it is time to look into the matter and see if we cannot improve this wasteful state of things. What part of our small allotment have we left fallow? We should think very poorly of a farmer who for many years allowed the best and the richest part of his farm to lie altogether neglected and untilled. An occasional fallow has its benefits in the world of nature; but if the proprietor of rich and fruitful land allowed the soil to continue fallow year after year we should judge him to be out of his wits. The wasted acres ought to be taken from him and given to another husbandman who would worthily cherish the generous fields and encourage them to yield their harvests.
"Bad is the man who neglects to cultivate his farm, but what shall be said of the sluggard who fails to cultivate himself? If it be wrong to leave untended a part of our estate, how much worse must it be to disregard a portion of ourselves! Now, there is a part of our nature which many allow to lie fallow. It is not often that they neglect the clay soil of their outward frame. They dress that field which is called the body with sufficient care; and truly I would not that they should be careless about it, for it is worthy to be kept in due order and culture. Albeit that it is a very secondary part of our nature, yet it is so interwoven with the higher that it is most important that the body should not be neglected. See ye well to that field, and by temperance, cleanliness, and obedience to the rules of health let it be as a garden... Few need to be exhorted to pay attention to their bodies... The fault is not that they care for the body, but that it takes an undue share of consideration, and usurps a higher place than it can claim.
"There is another field in man's self-farm... The soil where true religion should flourish in the furrows is left by many to produce the deadly nightshade of superstition, the hemlock of error, or the thistle of doubt... Your hearts, your innermost natures, have been neglected, and from the finest part of your being the Lord has derived neither rent nor revenue. Your best acres lie fallow -- fallow when you have good need to cultivate every inch of the ground.
"Do you know what happens to a fallow field? how it becomes caked and baked hard as though it were a brick? All the fragile qualities seem to depart, and it hardens as it lies caked and unbroken; I mean, of course, if year succeed year, and the fallow remains untouched. And then the weeds! If a man will not sow wheat, he shall have a crop for all that, for the weeds will spring up, and they will, seed themselves, and in due time the multiplication table will be worked out to a very wonderful extent; for these seeds, multiplying a hundred-fold, as evil usually does, will increase, and increase, and increase again till the fallow field shall become a wilderness of thorns and briars, and a thicket of nettle and thistle" (CH Spurgeon).
Reading 3 - Col 1:13,14
"...The Son he loves, in whom we have redemption [some mss add: 'through his blood'], the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13,14).
The simple truth of the transaction of "redemption", as described in the New Testament, is contained in the key passages that equate redemption with the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). What has been forgiven cannot also be paid for. The sacrifice of Christ, the culmination of a life of perfect obedience and dedication, was the price paid for our salvation. That is to say, it was necessary that Christ give himself as a suitable basis for the declaring of God's righteousness in offering mercy to sinners. But God's offer requires a corresponding "payment" on the part of those who would accept it. Since they are to be redeemed out of death they must repudiate that which brought death, which is the world and sin (Rom 6:1-7, for example). They must live sober and godly lives, repudiating all iniquity, as a special people belonging exclusively to God (Tit 2:14).