I only have one chapter left to read in the book of Ezekiel, thankfully! It's a book that is so, well, meaningless, to me. But like other portions of the Bible that are similarly hard-to-understand-or-read-through, I just plod through, hoping that one of these times something will make sense.So, apparently it takes me about two and a quarter years to read through the Bible, as I'm now back in the middle of Ezekiel again.
The book has a slightly different flavor this time around, just as I expected.
In last night's reading I came across a stunner.
Throughout the whole book YHWH has been telling Ezekiel to do this or that as a symbolic representation of the upcoming judgment on Jerusalem. Over and over again we hear warnings such as this from chapter 24:
The blood from murdersAnd then we have this, where God speaks to Ezekiel:
has stained the whole city;
Blood runs bold on the street stones,
with no one bothering to wash it off—
Blood out in the open to public view
to provoke my wrath,
to trigger my vengeance.
Therefore, this is what YHWH, the Master, says: "Doom to the city of murder!
I, too, will pile on the wood.
Stack the wood high,
light the match,...."
"Your encrusted filth is your filthy sex. I wanted to clean you up, but you wouldn't let me. I'll make no more attempts at cleaning you up until my anger quiets down. I, YHWH, have said it, and I'll do it. I'm not holding back. I've run out of compassion. I'm not changing my mind. You're getting exactly what's coming to you. Decree of YHWH, the Master."
YHWH's Message came to me: "Son of man, I'm about to take from you the delight of your life—a real blow, I know. But, please, no tears. Keep your grief to yourself. No public mourning. Get dressed as usual and go about your work—none of the usual funeral rituals."Wow.
I preached to the people in the morning. That evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I'd been told.
The people came to me, saying, "Tell us why you're acting like this. What does it mean, anyway?"
So I told them, "YHWH's Word came to me, saying, 'Tell the family of Israel, This is what YHWH, the Master, says: I will desecrate my Sanctuary, your proud impregnable fort, the delight of your life, your heart's desire. The children you left behind will be killed.
"'Then you'll do exactly as I've done. You'll perform none of the usual funeral rituals. You'll get dressed as usual and go about your work. No tears. But your sins will eat away at you from within and you'll groan among yourselves. Ezekiel will be your example. The way he did it is the way you'll do it.
"'When this happens you'll recognize that I am YHWH, the Master.'"
"And you, son of man: The day I take away the people's refuge, their great joy, the delight of their life, what they've most longed for, along with all their children—on that very day a survivor will arrive and tell you what happened to the city. You'll break your silence and start talking again, talking to the survivor. Again, you'll be an example for them. And they'll recognize that I am YHWH."
Preventing two cows from living the Great Bovine Dream, and sending them to their death in a sacrifice, in order to be an object lesson for thousands of years is one thing (I Samuel 6), but this taking of a man's loved wife as on object lesson seems incredibly harsh.
And yet it's somehow comforting also. It means that God is in control, not just "nature". And although a part of me rebels at a God that would be so "cruel", another part of me rises up in praise to a God who is Holy, and that part believes that the Potter has the right to do with the clay whatever He wishes, and that the appearance of unrighteousness or unfairness in such a situation is just an appearance based on the limited and mostly-blind viewpoint of us fallen humans.
And then I wonder about the paradise that Mrs. Ezekiel found herself in, and that believing-part of me realizes she was benefited from the transaction.
Then I wonder if Ezekiel had that same comfort of knowing she was in Paradise and that neither she nor he would miss out on any joy, that it was merely being postponed for something better, or if his sense of "Why me?!" was greater than his faith in God's goodness.
Just ... Wow.