By Jamin Roller
Grief is a sign of love. A husband grieving the loss of a wife is evidence of the love the husband has for her. The right response of love in the face of loss is grief. Why then does God command Ezekiel to respond the way he does to His wife’s death?
“Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you with a fatal blow. But you must not lament or weep or let your tears flow” (Ezekiel 24:15–16).
Up to this point in the book, God has used Ezekiel to warn God’s people of the consequences coming if they do not repent and return to the Lord. Their sins (listed in chapter 8) reveal hearts that have hardened against God and failed in egregious ways to live up to the promises they made to God. If they persisted in their sin, the city of Jerusalem, namely the temple in the city, would be destroyed, leaving the people of Judah with no home and no way to worship and commune with God. After years of warning, multiple signs, and sermons, the people refuse to listen to Ezekiel. Chapter 24 opens with God telling Ezekiel the day of Jerusalem’s fall has come. On this day of tragedy and loss, God wants the people to know clearly that His judgment was the just response to their sin and rebellion.
Ezekiel loved his wife. She was a delight to him in the way only a wife can be to a husband. If he does not mourn, it will appear as if he did not really love his wife. It will invite confusion and questions from all who see him. That is the point.
“Now Ezekiel will be a sign for you. You will do everything that he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Lord GOD” (v.24).
God asks Ezekiel to mourn in private, but conceal his grief in public as a parable to the people. While Ezekiel loved his wife, the people of God did not love Jerusalem. Had they loved, they would have repented and returned to God in order to preserve their city and their covenant. Now that the city is lost, they are not allowed to grieve because grief is a sign of love and the absence of love is the very thing that brought about the loss.
That is the message God has for the people through Ezekiel’s very personal sign. The judgment of God is a response to their failure of love.
I need passages like these. I need to be reminded of the justice of God in response to sin. I need to be reminded that all sin is ultimately a failure to love most what is most deserving of love. This Lenten season, I need passages like these that remind me of how much I need the cross of Jesus to cover my lack of love and to rightly order my loves around Him.