Updated: Jul 9
I've been thinking about marriage a lot lately, for good reasons. In a little more than two months from now, our son Paul and his fiancée, Kaitlin, will be wed. In addition, this week Alaine and I are celebrating our thirtieth anniversary.
As I think about Paul and Kaitlin's upcoming wedding, and my thirtieth anniversary with Alaine, I've been reflecting on a shocking and horrific tragedy that the prophet Ezekiel had to endure.
HOW COULD GOD DO SUCH A THING?
In chapter 24 of the book that bears his name, Ezekiel records: The Word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners."
Ezekiel then adds: So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.
I can't help but wonder how long Ezekiel and his wife had been married. Maybe they were just newlyweds. Then again, maybe they had been married for several decades. We can only speculate. Ezekiel doesn't tell us.
What he does tell us is why the Lord made him suffer such a horrific tragedy. The sudden death of his wife, and his inability to mourn, would be an object lesson for God's hard-hearted exiles in Babylon.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Ezekiel records: Then the people asked me, "Won't you tell us what these things have to do with us?"
Ezekiel responded: The Word of the Lord came to me: Say to the house of Israel, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary, the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection."
What is going on here? What kind of a sermon is this?
What happened to Ezekiel is about to happen to the hard-hearted people of God.
Now living in exile far from the promised land, Ezekiel's compatriots still refused to repent and to fear, love, and trust God above all else. No doubt they dreamed about home. Maybe they even held out hope that someday they would be restored to the promised land. But this dream was shattered by Ezekiel's sermon. Because the chosen people of the Lord persisted in vile idolatry and gross immorality, they would continue to suffer the wrath of Almighty God. As bad as things were, they were about to get even worse. The Lord was going to allow the Babylonians to capture Jerusalem and destroy the holy city. Not even the magnificent temple would be spared.
And when this calamity struck, the Word of the Lord would ring in their ears.
Ezekiel proclaimed: You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Lord."
EXTREME SINFULNESS REQUIRES EXTREME MEASURES
Due to the rock-hard hearts of His chosen people, the Lord went to extreme measures to try and break through to them so that they would fear, love, and trust Him above all else. It was because of this that the Lord gave His prophet a devastating assignment. Ezekiel was not to mourn in the wake of his wife's death.
God had tried everything He could think of to get through to his stubborn and rebellious people. But, so far, nothing He had tried worked. And so the Lord did the unthinkable, He suddenly and dramatically snatched Ezekiel's wife away.
I can't sugarcoat what happened to Ezekiel. Sometimes God gives soul crushing assignments to His servants; Jesus is the prime example.
All of this leads to another truly stunning chapter in the Bible.
When you have time this week, read Ezekiel chapter 16. Here God uses an allegory to describe how His bride, the people of Israel, treated Him, their faithful husband.
You see, not only was Ezekiel's heart broken in exile, so was God's. Just like it would be again centuries later, on Mount Calvary.