“He ate his figs and barley cake
In silence. ‘Mara, can you take
A walk with me? This morning’s word
Has been the hardest that I’ve heard.’
They walked in silence for an hour,
And then he gathered all his power
And said, ‘The God of Abraham,
The God who calls himself I AM,
Demands that you must die tonight…
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.” So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded. And the people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting thus?”Then I said to them, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword.And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.Your turbans shall be on your heads and your shoes on your feet; you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another. Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord God. | Ezekiel 24:15-24
I cannot imagine what Ezekiel is going through as he hears these words. It seems incredibly cruel and unfair. He has served God and Israel well, but God is going to take away his wife to make a point to Israel. And it’s safe to say Ezekiel loved his wife greatly, since God refers to her as the “delight of your eyes” (v. 16).
And Israel losing the temple is no small matter either. God refers to it as the “delight of your eyes,” “the pride of your power,” and “the yearning of your soul” (v. 21). The temple was not just simply a place of worship. It meant so much more to Israel. The temple signified who they were as a people, and it signified the power of God. In war, nations would set up tents in their camp for their deity. A temple being destroyed would demoralize the people because it would say their God was weak or absent.
So why does God allow
these events to happen?
And why does he not allow
mourning to take place?
I think it would be easy to say it is punishment, since Israel was warned of this happening by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:1-4, Jeremiah 5:15-17) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 8). But I think that fails to take in the bigger picture. God ultimately wants the world to know that he is the Lord (Ezekiel 24:14, 24, 27), and that your ultimate hope and source of joy should be found in him.
“Know that I am the Lord”
This phrase was used over 50 times in the book of Ezekiel. But Israel did not truly know this. They departed from God and worshiped other gods (Ezekiel 8)—even after repeated warnings.
It is very easy to put our ultimate hope
and joy into our desires, like Israel.
They slowly, subtly take over our hearts.
Even good things like marriage, jobs, kids, etc. And sometimes God allows us to seek those idols in order for us to see how futile it is to put our ultimate hope and joy into anything other than God. He will allow those desires to steal our joy when we don’t get it, when we don’t realize those things don’t satisfy us.
“You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.” | Corie Ten Boom
So why would God not let them mourn? It is an odd thing. In that time period, to mourn, people would usually wear sackcloths, sprinkle ash on their heads, and shave their hair. They would easily stand out.
God knew the people would find it odd that Ezekiel did not mourn.
Sure enough, they asked him:
Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting thus? | Ezekiel 24:19
God wanted them to mourn in such a way that they and the world would know their hope and joy is not found in any idol or temple. They would show the world that their hope was in God.
This does not mean we do not grieve or act like we are strong and fine. It means we will experience difficult pain in this life, but we can say with tears and heartache:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. | Psalm 73:26
We can mourn in a way where our hope is in God, because through the great pain He allows, He is doing something needed to root out the subtle idols in our hearts that truly ruin us.
And you will know
that He is the Lord God.
“But Mara’s eyes remained as bright
As ever in her life. ‘I know,’
She said, ‘Last night he came to show
Me in a dream.’ And then she took
Ezekiel’s hands and said, ‘The Book,
Remember where we used to read
How God would someday come and lead
Us in the path of endless joy,
And how at last he would destroy
Our blinding sin and let us see
His face in all its majesty?
O dearest Zeke, last night I saw
Another world without a flaw
Beyond what we could ever know,
And I could scarcely wait to go…
O not that I could ever love
You less, but I have seen above
That everything you’ve preached is true.
Weep not, great seer, for me nor you;
I am the proof of all you’ve said;
Tomorrow I will not be dead,
Nor you, and it will not be long
Till you have joined the endless song.
Press on, Ezekiel, rejoice
With heart and soul and mighty voice.
Make music to the coming King,
Come walk with me and we will sing.” | John Piper, “Ezekiel’s Wife”