Here's the background: Ezra has just arrived at Jerusalem and is learning of the plight of the Jews that were rebuilding the wall. But he finds that the people (and the leaders especially) have sinned against the Lord. He is devastated that the Israelites have done this, and rents his clothes in the tradition of his fathers (I'm glad we no longer have that tradition).
Listen to his words, recorded for us in Ezra 9:6-15,
"O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments, Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this."
A few random thoughts:
1. "Oh my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee." Ezra felt so guilty about sin that he didn't commit that he couldn't quite bear to bring himself into the presence of God to ask forgiveness on behalf of the children of Israel.
2. Furthermore, Ezra has completely taken upon himself the sin of the children of Israel at Jerusalem, even though he was a 5 months journey away from the city when it happened!
3. "And now for a little space grace." Ezra realizes that the Jews have been punished for their sins. Instead of focusing upon that, he decided to spend his time focusing on the fact that God has allowed the Israelites a slight reprieve from that suffering to build His temple.
4. "Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve." Ezra acknowledges that even the punishment that the Lord has given to them (namely, the captivity) was far less than what they deserved. The Israelites had time and time again neglected the commandment of their Lord, so to be peaceably taken captive and even given high positions in the conquering kingdom wasn't too bad at all. Or at least that's what Ezra's attitude is. Not sure I would say the same in his position.
5. Finally, Ezra acknowledges that the Israelites can't stare at a God who has given them so much unwarranted grace and continue to sin and displease Him. "Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" One is reminded of Romans 6:1-2,
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
On a somewhat related note, "Astonied" is a much snazzier way of saying astonished.