Being Ezekiel

Ezekiel was God’s prophet to his people in Babylonian exile. God used him to speak his words and also used him to illustrate those words, whether by odd behavior (such as laying siege to a brick with toys) or making him mute except on those occasions when God wanted him to proclaim a message. The worst illustration that God ever asked of him came when God informed Ezekiel that the love of his life, his beloved wife, would die. Not only would she die, but he must make a point not to show sadness: no tears and no changing of clothing as would be customary. His grief must remain bottled up inside, where no one could see it. When those around him asked him about his peculiar behavior, he gave them the explanation: God’s temple was going to be destroyed. Like Ezekiel with his wife’s death, the people of Israel would have no opportunity to mourn: not for the loss of the sanctuary, or the death of the remaining Israelites in Jerusalem.

Even when we understand God’s reason for doing something, we may not like it or agree with it. Was the death of Ezekiel’s wife really the only way God had of making a particular point with his people? It is reminiscent of the man blind since birth, who suffered his whole life until he was past forty, simply so that Jesus could come, heal him and thereby show “the glory of God” (see John 9:3).

When something bad happens to us, we would like to be able to ask God, “why” believing naively that his answer would satisfy us and then we’d be okay with the tragedy. Ezekiel’s story illustates that such naivete is mistaken. Pain still sucks, whether you know the why of it or not, whether you can, in some abstract way make sense of it. Ezekiel knew exactly why his wife died. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he was satisfied by that knowledge. He still wanted to cry–and even that small relief was denied him. (Ezekiel 24:15-27)

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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