Read 2 Samuel 17 and Ezekiel 24.
This devotional is about Ezekiel 24.
Ezekiel truly lived his prophesies. Many of his actions were object lessons to Israel. Ezekiel 24 records the most difficult object lesson of Ezekiel’s life. The chapter begins with the Lord commanding Ezekiel to record the date because the siege of Jerusalem began on that day (vv. 1-2). Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat and exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah happened in stages; Ezekiel was taken as one of the exiles in an early stage of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack. Now that he has Jerusalem under siege, the final stage of the Babylonian conquest of Judah has begun.
The toll that being God’s prophet took on Ezekiel’s life is explained in verses 15-27. Because God’s people had idolized the temple, God wanted to show them what losing to Nebuchadnezzar would be like. So the Lord told Ezekiel that his wife was about to die (v. 16) and that he was not to do the customary acts of mourning for her (vv. 16-17). Instead, he was supposed to go about his life looking as he always did, though the Lord did concede in the phrase “groan quietly” that it would be painful and difficult for him (v. 17). Ezekiel gave the prophecy one morning and by that evening his wife died, just as the Lord had said (v. 18). When Ezekiel refused to mourn for her outwardly, everyone wanted to know what to make of his actions (v. 19). His answer was that they also would not mourn when the thing they loved the most—the temple—was destroyed (v. 21).
By why wouldn’t they mourn if they loved the temple so much? The answer is not stated in this chapter, but one commentator I consulted wrote that the people would not mourn because they should have expected that it was coming. Jeremiah in Jerusalem was prophesying that Jerusalem would fall and the temple would be destroyed. Ezekiel was prophesying the same thing in Babylon, so when it happened it should not have been surprising. Furthermore, Nebuchadnezzar was laying siege to Jerusalem. That meant his army was camped around the city preventing anyone or anything from coming or going. This would kill commerce in the city and, being a city, would prevent adequate food from coming in. The people of Jerusalem, then, would slowly starve until many of them died and those who lived were too weak to mount a threat to Nebuchadnezzar’s army. It took a long time for a siege to work and the people would have known that day after day they were getting weaker and more vulnerable. At some point, they would know that defending the city would be impossible so losing their freedom, their city, and their temple would be inevitable. Though they inwardly mourned the loss of these things, there was no sense in grieving because they knew it was coming for a long time.
What a hard price Ezekiel had to pay to be the Lord’s servant! But his loss illustrates something important that every person—even us believers—needs to understand. We cling to idols too much and to the Lord too little. Our idols maybe our relationships that we trust more than we trust God; they might be the job or the income that job provides that gives us a comfortable life. Our idols might be softer, too, or more spiritual. They might be a pastor or Christian author that we admire. May it is our reputation of godliness or service to the Lord. Whatever it is that we love and desire, if it replaces the Lord at the top of our affections, do not be surprised if the Lord topples it. It will be painful and it may seem like God is harsh and unloving. But the truth is that no idol is what God is, and no idol can do for you what God can do. To to cling to anything instead of the Lord will cause problems in your life. God may allow unbelievers to have their idols in this life and deal with them in the next; for his children, though, God loves us too much to let us worship something that is not him.
If you’ve faced a loss in your life that has you questioning God, you should consider whether that thing you have lost meant too much to you. It is never pleasant to lose what you love, but if what you love is keeping you from God, it is necessary for the Lord to prune it from our lives. May God give us grace to look to him in those hard moments of pruning.