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We have been studying Ezekiel and we come to Ezekiel 24. This is an important chapter in the book. It has some powerful applications for us today. Ezekiel is cured of his condition of muteness in this chapter. He has been mute for over twenty chapters. He could only talk when He received a revelation from God. God speaks to Ezekiel twice in this chapter.
It is also a sad chapter. Two things happen in this chapter. There are two tragedies in this chapter. There is a personal tragedy and a national tragedy. There is death of a marriage and death of a nation.
What happened in Ezekiel’s family was a picture of what was happening to the nation. Israel’s national calamity was prophetically pictured by Ezekiel’s personal calamity. Ezekiel’s wife dies.
That death was both literal and symbolic. She experienced physical death and the nation experienced a political death. Let’s review what has happened up to this point in the book.
Ezekiel was sent into exile in Babylon as a young man. While he was there, God appeared to him in a spectacular vision and called him to be a prophet. He gave him an unpopular message to preach. In fact, he became mute. He could only speak what God told him to speak.
For twenty chapters, he had one message that he preached over and over again. I am surprised everyone has stuck with me each week to hear that same message.
What was the message? The Babylonian Captivity is coming. Jerusalem will be judged. God was going to judge, not the pagans. He was going to judge His own people. When we come to Ezekiel 24, When we come to Ezekiel 24, Ezekiel’s message changes.
Judgment is no longer a future prospect. It is a present reality. No longer is Ezekiel saying that judgment WILL COME one day. Now he says that it HAS COME. Ezekiel 24 is Judgment Day for the Jews.
Anytime you preach that God will judge the world, you get reactions of skepticism and ridicule. No one believes you. They think you are crazy. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God and you do not want to stand before Him in your sins. One day, everyone will stand before God, the politician and the plumber, the preacher and the prostitute.
Two books will be opened (Revelation 20:12). By the way, there will be books in heaven. That is good news for those of us who like to read. At the Great White Throne Judgment, the book of works will be opened. It will be a book of sins. That would be a scary book to read, a book which reveals every sin you ever committed, every sinful thought, every sinful word, every sinful action.
Another book will be opened at the Great White Throne Judgment. It is the Book of Life. It is not a LIST OF SINS but a LIST OF SAINTS. The only people who got to heaven are people whose names are in that book. Is your name in that book? That is the only question that really matters.
Ezekiel has been preaching a negative message for six years. He has been preaching against sin. He has been preaching judgment. He was what we would call today a hell-fire-and-brimstone preacher. He did not have a positive uplifting message.
He didn’t sound like Joel Osteen or Noman Vincent Peale. In this chapter, he gets a revelation. What is the revelation? He gets the exact date of the Babylonian Captivity. A lot of people today claim to be prophets. They claim to predict the future but very few give dates.
In the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, write down the name of this day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. (24:1-2 ESV).
Ezekiel was in Babylon. He was hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem but he knew things that were happening. He did not learn about it from watching the news or going online. God revealed it to him supernaturally. Amos 3:7 says, “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (ESV).
God has secrets and He reveals some of those secrets to prophets. We may wish God revealed some secrets to us. We have a whole book of secrets. Ezekiel had a word from God but we have a whole book of words from God. What new thing does God tell Ezekiel? He reveals the date the Babylonian Captivity began.
He says that it happened on the tenth day of the tenth month in the ninth year (24:1). Twice in one verse, God told Ezekiel to write THIS VERY DAY down. That tells us something interesting. The Bible is not only a spiritual book like every preacher will tell you. It it is also a book of history. The siege lasted eighteen months. God tells Ezekiel the very day that the Babylonian Captivity began (January 15, 588 BC.). It is a date mentioned in other passages in the OT.
So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. (II Kings 25:1-3 NIV).
This date was divinely revealed. It was precise (day, month, year). It was verifiable. When the rest of the exiles left Jerusalem and came to Babylon, they could confirm when this all took place. It proved that Ezekiel was a true prophet.
Jerusalem as a Cooking Pot
And utter a parable to the rebellious house and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: “Set on the pot, set it on; pour in water also; 4 put in it the pieces of meat, all the good pieces, the thigh and the shoulder; fill it with choice bones. 5 Take the choicest one of the flock; pile the logs under it; boil it well; seethe also its bones in it. (24:3-5 ESV)
God uses a metaphor of judgment. Almost all of these metaphors involve fire. The last picture of judgment involved a furnace. God said that He was going to put people in a furnace and blow on the fire until it got hotter (22:17-22).
Now we see a different metaphor but it also involves fire. It begins like a cooking show. You get a pot. You fill it with water. Put logs under it and start a fire and then throw some meat in it. You boil the meat.
This was not an ordinary cooking pot. This one was old and rusty. It was dirty and corroded. It is so dirty that God says that it cannot be cleaned. Its thick rust will not come off (24:12). God says that their uncleanliness cannot be washed away (24:13). Since the city cannot be cleaned, it has to be judged by God. God called Jerusalem “a city of murderers” (24:6 NLT).
This pot has the choicest meat in it, the best part of the meat. The best sheep from the flock are thrown into the pot. It represents the Jews still in Jerusalem. The bad Jews were sent off to Babylon but the good Jews were still in the city. That is where the important people were (the VIPS, the royal family).
God says WOE to this city (24:9). The whole city is doomed and it cannot even be stopped. Judgment is coming. God is not going to show mercy and compassion. He is not going to show pity. He is going to judge the nation and He is not going to change His mind.
This is a terrible picture of what happens in Hell. Hell is also described as a place of fire and brimstone. It is also described as a furnace. It is also a place where God’s anger and fury is unleashed in a righteous way. The wicked will be judged according to their works. They will get exactly what they deserve. That is exactly what God did to the Jews. He judged them based on their works (24:14).
Lesson from a Cooking Parable
What does this say to us today? What stands out to me here is not that God gets angry and judges sin. It is not even that He judges His own people when they sin. This chapter shows the depth of human depravity. We can sin so much that judgment is inevitable and irreversible. It cannot be stopped. God says, “I am not going to change my mind.”
The Jews got to a point of no return. They disobeyed God time after time, fell into idolatry (even in the Temple), even to the point of sacrificing their own children. God sent them prophet after prophet and they were still unrepentant.
People today can get to the same point. They live in open sin, reject God, and reject the gospel every time it is presented to them. They reject the light so many times that eventually they become incapable of accepting it. They can’t be saved. Hebrews talks about some people who CANNOT repent.
Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (ESV)
That is interesting. This passage says that repentance is not just difficult but IMPOSSIBLE for some people. People can always be saved if they repent. Jesus said, ‘Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them” (John 6:37 NLT).
Jesus takes in everyone who comes to Him, no matter how wicked or sinful they are, no matter what they have done. Some get to a point where repentance is impossible. Judgment is inevitable. It is a scary thought and is probably much more common than we think.
The Death of Ezekiel’s Wife
15 This message came to me from the Lord: 16 “Son of Man, pay attention! I’m about to take away your most precious treasure with a single, fatal stroke, but you are not to mourn, weep, nor even let tears well up in your eyes. 17 You are to weep in silence, but you are not to participate in mourning rituals. You are to keep your turban on your head and your sandals on your feet. You are not to cover your mouth or eat what your comforters bring to you.” 18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and my wife died that evening. The next morning, I did as I had been commanded. (ISV)
This brings us to a difficult section of the book. Mrs. Ezekiel dies. It gives us a rare glimpse into the personal life of Ezekiel. Up to this point, we did not even know that Ezekiel had a wife. We didn’t know he was married. Ezekiel doesn’t talk a whole lot about his personal life. That is not why he wrote this book. It is not a book about himself. Ezekiel is not writing an autobiography. It is a book about what God revealed to him supernaturally and the incredible visions he saw.
The fact is that many of the OT prophets had wives. Jeremiah did not have one. He is called the weeping prophet. He was probably weeping because he was single. Isaiah did have a wife. We know that from Isaiah 8. She is called “a prophetess” (Isaiah 8:3). She had two kids. They were both boys. Ezekiel also had a wife. Ezekiel loved her a lot. She was his delight. God called her “the desire of his eyes” (24:16). She was his dearest treasure. She was the person he loved the most in this world.
We do not know anything about her. We do not even know her name. We can deduce that she was probably a young woman and was presumably a good wife. We have no evidence to the contrary. We can assume that she stood by him in his ministry (when no one else did). She supported him and comforted him. She cooked for him and entertained for him when visitors came over to see him.
Then something happened. Ezekiel experienced personal tragedy. God said to Ezekiel, “I’m about to take away your most precious treasure with a single, fatal stroke, but you are not to mourn, weep, nor even let tears well up in your eyes” (24:16 ISV). Let’s sit back and think about what is going on here. This leads to a moral problem. It brings us with some questions which are hard to answer.
A Moral Problem
1) Ezekiel is a godly man.
Ezekiel has done everything God told him to do. He was perfectly obedient to the will of God. He was not living in sin. He was ministering for God, preaching against sin.
2) His wife dies suddenly
“Son of Man, pay attention! I’m about to take away your most precious treasure with a single, fatal stroke” (ISV). What we know for sure is that she did not die in divine judgment of her sin or Ezekiel’s sin. God was not disciplining Ezekiel but she did die and died unexpectedly.
She was a young woman the words “one single blow” imply that her death was sudden. It happened quickly. It shows the frailty of life. Our life is a vapor. God says that our life is in our nostrils. It does not take much for any of us to go.
This death was sudden, unexpected, tragic and supernatural. God killed her. “Son of man, behold, I AM ABOUT TO TAKE the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke” (24:16 ESV). God takes responsibility for what happens. It is not just a tragic accident. This was the will of God. People do not like to hear this. Some say God doesn’t do stuff like this. Only the devil does. Read Ezekiel 24. The chapter doesn’t mention the devil at all.
3) Ezekiel was not to mourn for her
Not only does Ezekiel’s wife die but God tells him not to mourn for her, adding insult to injury. That seems cruel on God’s part. You feel sorry for poor Ezekiel. It seems inhumane. You are going to lose your wife but you can’t be sad.”
He was in a lot of pain but could not shed a tear. That sounds like the old Greek philosophy of stoicism. Are feelings wrong? Does God want us to suppress the feelings we have inside of us? That seems unnatural. How do we answer some of these questions?
Answers to a Perplexing Question
Ezekiel is a young man. He is married. He is a godly man. He is obedient to God and his wife dies. That is a strange way for God to reward his servant Ezekiel. Ezekiel serves God faithfully and God takes his wife. Here is a man preaching in the morning, and the message of God to him is not, “Because thou hast faithfully delivered My Word, sorrow and death shall not come near you” but “Behold, I take away from thee the desire of your eyes.”
God did not just take anyone. He took the desire of Ezekiel’s eyes. It would be like having one child, a child that you absolutely adored, and having to lose that child to death. This raises a huge problem for the skeptics. Is it fair for God to do this? When you look at this from a biblical perspective, this is not a problem at all.
God has the right to take our life at any time. He is the Creator. He made all of us. He gave us all life and He can take our life at any time. Neither our life nor our spouse’s life nor our children’s lives belong to us. All life is a gift that God has given to us to steward for a time. The one who gives life has every right to take it away (Job 1:21). Ezekiel’s wife only went to a better place at death. She went into the presence of God.
God NEVER told Ezekiel that he could not groan for his wife. He said that he could not groan for her publicly. He could groan for her privately and he did that to be sure in private when no one else was around to himself and to God. God said that he could groan and weep for her privately (24:17).
This was not cruel. It was compassionate. God gave Ezekiel one day to prepare for his wife’s death and told him why she was dying. Most of us do not have either one of these things. We do not know when our loved ones will die and we do not know why.
Application for Today
What does this say to us today? Is there anything that happened to Ezekiel here that applies to us today? This story raises two important questions for us to think about.
1) How would we respond if God took from us the desire of our eyes?
God has not told us not to mourn publicly. We are not given this command. If we lose a loved one, we can mourn in public and in private. Ezekiel had a prophetic sign ministry. He was a sign to the nation (24:24, 27) in a way we are not today but this raises an important question.
If God took from us the desire of our eyes, would we respond with anger and bitterness? Would we respond with resentment? Are we open to whatever God wants to do in our life? Do we surrender or do we try to resist what He is doing?
God sometimes calls us to do hard things. He wants us to love Him more than we love our spouse. God is to come first in our life. Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37 ESV)
2) Do we remain faithful to God when hard times come into our life?
Hard things will come to us. God’s people are not shielded from problems. Some prosperity preachers teach that. It is a lie. Christianity is not an insurance policy against problems, sickness or death. We have some of the same problems that other people have but we have God with us.
Jesus will leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He is with us always (Matthew 28:20). Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (ESV)
God asked Ezekiel to do all kinds of hard things and he did them. When God told Ezekiel that his wife was going to die, Ezekiel does not question or argue with God, talking about how unfair life is.
He doesn’t protest. He doesn’t spend days in depression, brooding over the loss of his wife. He does not withdraw from the Lord’s work and retire from the ministry when things got tough, like many do. When many get hurt, they stop coming to church or stop serving the Lord.
That is the way that many of us would have responded. Life would never be the same for Ezekiel but he said, “So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded” (24:18 ESV).