What does a man say to God when God comes to him to tell him that with one blow, he is about to take away his wife? What makes this even more thought provoking is that the man of whom we speak, was probably only in his mid thirties. He had also been carried away from his homeland by a conquering army, and was now living in among strangers. The single joy he found, outside of his God, and the city and temple of his God, was in his wife. She was his treasure, his precious companion. God knew that. We can see that by the way the Lord refers to her as the delight of his eyes (Ezekiel 24:15)--even if Ezekiel refers to her simply as my wife.
The Lord warns him that his beloved wife would be taken away with one blow. The narrative doesn't record any details about her falling at the hands of a violent attacker, which seems to be the most common meaning of such a phrase. So we could safely conclude that she fell suddenly to some dread disease—the other main usage of this term. Clearly, it was a disease of with neither of them were aware; similar to the “disease” of the Jews, of whom he speaks in this same chapter. Ezekiel seems to have spent a final afternoon with the delight of his eyes in anticipation of her death. (verse 18) Giving her a full last day, the Lord takes her life only in the evening.
The Jews in Jerusalem were going to suffer the loss of their city and their precious temple; the delight of their eyes. They had sadly found, in these two temporary gifts, more joy than they found in the God who had gifted these blessings to them. They were about to experience the bereavement of Ezekiel. Just as Ezekiel's wife had died, so also, they would not escape the grief that was coming their way.
Strikingly, Ezekiel was not even living in Jerusalem, he was already in exile in Babylon, far away from Jerusalem. The Jews in Jerusalem would not even hear this warning before the calamity struck. In the same way that Ezekiel's wife's death was sudden, so would be the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Babylonians. Then, as the Babylonians returned to Babylon from defeating Jerusalem, with Jewish prisoners, all of the already captured Jews with Ezekiel would revere God because they had heard the prophecy from his lips before it had happened. The whole point was to turn these exiled Jews' hearts to their God.
How I have thought about Ezekiel since losing the woman who for twenty years has been the delight of my eyes. This was the first text that popped into my head within moments of her death. How would I respond to the Lord in my attitude if I knew that he was going to take my beautiful in order to provide godless rebels with an object lesson of what he was about to do? Would I consider it an unkind or uncaring act? Would I find the courage to embrace such a devastating blow? How would you respond?
I don't think the text permits us to concretely conclude that God deliberately took Ezekiel's wife as an object lesson. It may be that her pre-existing condition would inevitably lead to her death at that time, and God intended to use her death with maximum impact. Yet regardless of God's intentions, Ezekiel has to deal with God's using his calamity as an opportunity to preach to the Jews.
I find it beautiful beyond words that Ezekiel submitted himself meekly to God's intentions through such piercing, personal, and focused agony. He meekly accepts the cost inflicted upon him in order to honour God's merciful actions toward his people—turning their hearts back toward himself.
Yet God himself is not riding entirely aloof from Ezekiel's misery; no. God himself both administered and endured the blow that struck down the Delight of his eyes—Jesus Christ, his Son. He did this in order to show mercy to his people.
How delightful I find it to see such humble submission to unspeakable pain, with an attitude of worship to God. May the Lord use us, when called upon to endure such pain, to submit to it in such a way that others come to understand the mercy of God through seeing our example.
For more information on my book Hurting in Hope, and the free, complete audio book, click on the link below:
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