I’ve begun to read the book of Ezekiel. The last time I read it was nearly four years ago. It was summer then, but now it is spring — the Mississippi spring which alternates glory with terror, alternates days of delicate blossom and growth with massive storms which leave tracks of desolation sprawling across the new spring mud. And Ezekiel ate the scroll which the Lord fed him, and it was sweet as honey on his tongue, but the words it contained were bitter words.
Returning to Ezekiel reminded me of a post I wrote last time I read Ezekiel, and I decided to share it again here, because the story it contains is to me a powerful reminder both of the costliness of obedience and of the grace which I so often take for granted in my life.
An apocalyptic picture, though not from Ezekiel
And the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn; and you shall not weep; and your tears shall not come.’. . . So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning I did as I was commanded. –Ezekiel 24:15, 16, 18
What say you now, Ezekiel, prophet of the Most High God? Were you now allowed to go back to the river Chebar, to that day when you first heard the voice of the LORD, what would you do? Since that day, you have uttered woe, destruction, and lamentations for all of Israel, but did you not think the LORD would withhold from you this private woe? Did you not expect, in exchange for your devotion, you might keep your wife?
What sort of woman was she, this wife of the man who heard God’s voice? Wife of the man who lay on his side for days on end, who ate bread baked over dung, who was caught up to heaven by his hair, who packed his bags and dug through walls.
No doubt many had advised she leave him: “No one would take it amiss. This is no sort of life for you, my dear. He is almost mad. He may be dangerous. Who can say what he may do next?” But she remained, and remained, not as a weight and a grief, but as “the delight of [his] eyes.” He spent his days proclaiming woe; he knew the destruction of much that he held dear; but she was his comfort, his rest from wrathful revelations.
“Behold, I am about to take from you the delight of your eyes with a blow.”
And Ezekiel knew, too well, that the LORD does not utter lies. Did he plead for mercy? Did he ask also to be taken? Did he say, “LORD, it is too hard a thing. Will you punish my obedience?” [He] spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening [his] wife died. And in the morning, [he] did as he was commanded.
Did he warn her of the blow that was to come? Was she angry, frightened, resigned? Did they try to comfort one another?
“God did not take Isaac; He provided a sacrifice. But first He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Perhaps, if I am willing to lose you, if I obey the LORD today, He will spare you to me.”
“But, Ezekiel, He took from Job all he had.”
“But not his wife.”
“But not his wife . . . and did not the LORD soften His commandment to you when you plead with Him about the defiled bread? Perhaps, if you plead with Him now, He will again relent.”
“But I fear, for He has declared His wrath. He has said that [He] shall not relent, and [He] shall not pity, and [He] shall not be sorry. And how, when He speaks thus to a whole nation, shall He relent toward one man?”
“Why, Ezekiel, why must you be His spokesman? Tell Him you are finished. If you are not His prophet, He will get no benefit from my death. We can go away, live quietly, be at rest.”
“You know what sort of a God He is. You cannot think that, when He will not spare you for my obedience, He would spare you if I disobey. If quitting were an option, you know I could not have remained His prophet this long. But He is the LORD. I must obey.”
“He is the LORD. You must obey.”
… and in the evening [his] wife died. And in the morning [he] did as [he] was commanded. And the people said to [him], “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?”
“… you will know that I am the Lord GOD.” -Ezekiel 24:18, 19, 24
©2013 by Stacy Nott