Explain Ezekiel’s emotional state knowing that God took his wife--his joy and delight--in order to make a point to the people.
“Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure (the delight of your eyes). Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears. 17 Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave…” (Ezekiel 24:16-17a, NLT).
- Ezekiel 1-24 in 11 sermons: Ezekiel 1-24. Last two weeks: Face the Facts, Listen to the Truth (Ezekiel 15-19). Face the Facts about Your (His)Story (Ezekiel 20-23).
- Ezekiel 23 (The Whore): Why you are bad.
- Ezekiel 24a (The Pit): What God will do.
- Ezekiel 24b (The Wife): How God makes his point.
Judgment (ch. 1-32): Oracles of doom
- Jerusalem must fall (1-24)
- Judah’s enemies must fall (25-32)
Salvation (ch. 33-48): Oracles of good news
- Jerusalem must be comforted. The gospel according to Ezekiel. The Messiah will come and save a remnant.
Face the Facts, Listen to the Truth (Ezekiel 15-19).
- [Ezekiel 15 - A useless vine] You are useless.
- [Ezekiel 16 - A nymphomaniac bride] You forgot God's grace and used your beauty for yourself/satisfaction (Eze 16:15).
- [Ezekiel 17 - The eagle and the vine] You broke your oaths.
- [Ezekiel 18 - Only the sinner needs to die] You blame others and do not take responsibility.
- [Ezekiel 19 - A lament] Your leadership sucks.
Face the Facts about Your (His)Story (Ezekiel 20-23).
- Ezeliel 20: What you do. You embellish your story contrary to the facts, to make yourself look good.
- Ezeliel 21: What God does. He sends Babylon as his sword of judgment.
- Ezeliel 22: Why God does it. They are corrupt beyond redemption.
- Ezeliel 23: Why it’s fair. Their adulterous idolatrous hearts are insatiable and incurable.
Both Ezekiel 16 and 23 are oracles dominated by the language of prostitution and lewdness, with ch. 23 intensifying the sex-related imagery of ch. 16. But the theme of both chapters highlight the passion of God in the face of Israel's unfaithfulness to his covenant, expressed in their insatiable lust after other lovers. Ezekiel simply reinforces in the mind of his audience that when God's judgment falls in 586 BC on Jerusalem, their beloved city, that judgment is as deserved as was the demise of her sister Samaria in 721 BC.
- The community of faith stands in constant danger of forgetting God's grace and expending its energies in the satisfaction of its own cravings. When this occurs the people of God, vulnerable to the seductive appeal of other allegiances, often sell their soulds in their misguided pursuits. But God considers devotion to any other person or object adultery, the violation of the church's marriage covenant with him.
- In God's eyes adultery is an abhorrent evil, not only because it perverts the sex act but especially because it violates the covenant bond of marriage. Apart from the marital covenantal commitment, all sexual activity is prostitution, and rather than offering lasting satisfaction, illicit intimacy yields contempt and disgust. The fate of Jerusalem serves as a warning for the corporate faith community as well as for individual members that marital infidelity is self-destructive, and brings upon one the wrath of God.
- Only by the grace of God is one able to shake the patterns of sinful behavior established in one's youth. Sin is deeply ingrained in the human race, and unless the community of faith and individuals within that community retain a vital relationship with their covenant Lord, the temptation to see one's soul to satisfy the lusts of the flesh poses an ever present danger. In the hour of crisis, those who abandon their Savior for other allegiances may find no security in their claims to covenant partnership with him. God's passion burns for his people, but if they trample underfoot his grace, the cup of his fury will be poured out on them. Accordingly, hope is to be found only in abandoning one's sinful ways and casting oneself on God's mercy.
The Boiling Cauldron (Ezekiel 24:1-14)[Jerusalem as a cooking pot]
- Preamble (1-3a).
- The popular saying (3b-5).
- The dispute (6-8).
- The counterthesis (9-13).
- Conclusion (14).
The implications of this oracle for the people of God of any age are sobering. There is no security in tradition or position in the kingdom of God if the claims of privilege are not matched by love for God and one's fellow human beings. Singing songs about the promises of God is no substitute for obedience to him. Indeed, the true kingdom is often found among those whom the spiritual elite have written off. The message of Ezekiel is that there is hope for the rejected, but for those who make empty claims of status before God the prospects of an encounter with him are frightening.
The End of an Era (Ezekiel 24:15-27) [Ezekiel's wife dies]
This is the last of the judgment oracles in the first part of Ezekiel (ch. 1-24).
- The disturbing human propensity to transform legitimate religious symbols into idolatrous images. Ideally the city and its temple symbolized God's presence among his people. But instead of providing a place where they could come humbly for an encounter with him, it had become a source of cultural pride. Instead of the people finding their security in relationship with God, his residence had become the focus of their affections and the (false) basis of their hopes. The tragic events of 586 BC serve as a warning for all who are tempted to make the same mistake.
- Nothing, not even the temple, is more sacred to God than a sanctified people. For > 300 years Solomon's temple had stood as a magnificent symbol of God's glory and holiness. This was his earthly residence, the place he had chosen for his name to dwell. Through its service and ritual his sanctifying grace was dispensed to all who sought him in spirit and in truth. But formality had replaced authentic faith. The symbol had displaced the reality as the center of people's affections. Although the temple was as dear to God as Ezekiel's wife was to the prophet, not even the sanctuary was immune to his wrath. Not until the people had been sactified through the work of God's Spirit (36:16-38) could they expect him to resume his residence in their midst.
- The message of God is proclaimed most powerfully when it is incarnate in the life of the messenger. While few will be asked to go to the lengths of this remarkable prophet, the implications of this oracle for those who are called to be agents of God are staggering. The cost of bearing in their bodies the message they proclaim is often high. In an earlier age God had tested Abraham by demanding of his his son Isaac, but that story had a happy ending (Gen. 22). It will not always be that way. The call to divine service cost Ezekiel his wife, the delight of his eyes. Although the text is silent on the struggle that must have raged in the prophet's soul over God's absurd demand, this was no less a test of faith for him than the sacrifice of Isaac had been for the patriarch. He could have rebelled against this intrusion into his personal affairs, but he did not waver. In his reaction to his wife's death, he was a sign for his people. But in his response to the hand of God, he is a model for all who follow in his professional train.
The bitter experiences of life are not always signs of God's indignation toward the individual. Upon encountering a blind man, Jesus' disciples asked, "Who sinned..." to which Jesus replied, "Neither..." (Jn 9:1-4). Although it did not lessen Ezekiel's personal pain in walking through the valley of deepest darkness, the knowledge that God was not angry with him could offer some comfort. The prophet cold also take hope in knowing that his role as suffering servant would ultimately lead to the renewed knowledge of God among his people.
- Block, Daniel I. The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24, NICOT (New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997.
- Wright, Christopher J.H. The Message of Ezekiel, BST (Bible Speaks Today). IVP, Downers Grove, IL, 2001.