When Ezra is told about the sin of the Israelite exiles who have returned to Jerusalem, he is overcome with grief. His troubled down to his very soul. He takes a moment to manage his own heart, and then he calls together the people.
What happens next is one of the most poignant, and somewhat laughable, examples of the human condition that we have ever seen.
All of Israel gathers together in the courtyard of the Temple, they come into the most holy of places in their midst, and they stand there as they listen to the charges against them, as they listen to Ezra talk to them about this great sin that they have committed, as they hear the word of God regarding what they have done, and as they talk about what must come next, what they must do to atone for their sin and set their tiny community right before God again. And they do this, standing in this courtyard for hours, in the pouring rain.
When all of this is done, they affirm everything that they've heard, confess their sin, and promise to take care of the problem as quickly as they can. They commit to doing the thing that will glorify God and restore the heart of Jerusalem - they will get rid of all of their foreign wives, every single one of them. Every man in Israel says he will do it; from the least to the greatest and everyone in between.
But not right now.
Because it's raining.
You can read this story in the late chapters of Ezra, and if you do, pay attention to this.
These men have stood in this courtyard and listened to themselves accused for most of an entire day in the pouring rain. They have promised to do the very hard thing required to atone for their sin and to take care of the problem that has permeated their community. They have even said this is "very good." Everyone is on board with this plan and knows it is the best thing for all of them.
But as they stand there sopping wet, dripping with rain that is still falling on their heads, rain that has not deterred them one breath from standing in the assembly, they decide that they cannot possibly do this "very good" thing right now because it is raining and they are wet. They can't just stop sinning right now; the weather conditions are not favorable.
I laugh at this story because it is so very thoroughly a human story. It's the same story that so many of us are living even today in our own lives. Yes, yes, we say; it would be very good of us to stop sinning, and we should definitely do this. But not right now. The weather conditions are not favorable. Not today; it's raining.
Never mind that we're already sopping wet.
Honestly, what would a few more minutes in the rain have done to those men of Israel, if those were the few minutes that they took to correct the sin in their lives? What would a few more minutes in the rain do to us?