Obedience Even In the Face of Difficulty.
“So I proclaimed this to the people the next morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did everything I had been told to do.” – Ezekiel 24:18 NLT
This is by far the most difficult command God had given Ezekiel – at least from my perspective. God informs Ezekiel that his wife, his “dearest treasure,” is going to die suddenly, and Ezekiel is not to mourn or weep for her publicly. He is not to eat any of the food brought to him by well-meaning friends, and meant to encourage him. In other words, Ezekiel is not to do any of the normal things you would do when you lose a loved one to death. It was all to be an illustration to the people of Judah living in captivity, because God was about to allow the Temple and the city of Jerusalem to be destroyed. The people loved the Temple. It was the source of their security and pride. “The place your hearts delight in” (Ezekiel 24:21b NLT). As long as they had the Temple, they had hope. But God was going to allow His house to be destroyed by the Babylonians, and the exiles living in Babylon, who had been taken captive years earlier, would mourn in silence. Ezekiel had every right to mourn his personal loss, but was not allowed to. The people of Judah had NO right to mourn their loss, because of their sin, so God refused to allow them to mourn as if their loss was undeserved or unfair.
But what do we do with the death of Ezekiel’s wife? Did God cause her death? Did He kill this man’s wife just to make a point? For me, I have to consider the complete character of God in order to understand what is going on here. There is no doubt that God was in control of this situation. He was sovereign over every event that happened, including the death of Ezekiel’s wife. But whether God caused her death or allowed it is hard to know for sure. Based on what we know about God from the Scriptures, it seems to make the most sense that we interpret this event as God allowing Ezekiel’s wife to die at this particular time – utilizing what He knew was already going to happen. Had she been sick? We don’t know. Was her condition the result of disease or plague? The passage does not tell us. But we must interpret this event based on other revelations of God’s character found in the Word. It is not whether or not God could have caused her death, but whether God would have killed an innocent woman just to illustrate a point. Would that be consistent with His character? In his Notes on Ezekiel, Dr. Thomas Constable says, “The text does not say that God put her to death as an object lesson. She could have been ill for some time before she died. Another similar situation involved God allowing the death of His innocent Son to occur at precisely the time God intended as another expression of His love and judgment.”
In reading the Old Testamant, we have to be careful that we interpret what it seems to reveal about God’s character by comparing what we read with other passages and revelations about God. Otherwise we can easily build a case that God is callous, hard, vindictive and heartless. But even in this very difficult book, we see that God is ultimately loving, kind, patient, and forgiving. While He punishes, He also restores. While He brings well-deserved judgment, He also brings undeserved mercy and grace. He is not one-dimensional, but multi-faceted and complex. And He is always righteous and just in all His actions.
Father, sometimes You are hard to understand. I can’t take one passage or one story and build a case about You. You entire Word is a revelation of who You are and how You work. Help me to look at You holistically as You are revealed through the Scriptures. Give me a growing understanding of who You really are. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men