Read: Ezekiel 24
The last chapter in part one of Ezekiel compares Jerusalem to a cooking pot, the chosen are cooked along with the pot itself, one more parable for our ancestors to consider. The last section gives us something ponder: Ezekiel’s wife dies suddenly. The Lord tells Ezekiel and gives him direction to use this as a teaching moment. Really. The challenges of being a pastor, one called to lead at all times, good and bad. Lessons to learn hear. I pray God will speak to you in some special way this day.
Jerusalem as a Cooking Pot — Ezekiel 24:1-14
Ezekiel is given another vision on Jan. 15, 588 BC, the date precisely calculated in the NIV Study Bible notes based on multiple references. Interesting. I don’t want to get sidetracked, but the collective histories surrounding the exile is quite interesting, something to read about separately. The Lord told Ezekiel to pay particular attention to this date:
“Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. Ezekiel 24:2
It is a pivotal date for Jerusalem, for our ancestors. Ezekiel is give this parable to describe the fate of Jerusalem.
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“‘Woe to the city of bloodshed,
to the pot now encrusted,
whose deposit will not go away!
Take the meat out piece by piece
in whatever order it comes.
Then set the empty pot on the coals
till it becomes hot and its copper glows,
so that its impurities may be melted
and its deposit burned away.
It has frustrated all efforts;
its heavy deposit has not been removed,
not even by fire.
From cooking the meat and bones with spices to burning the impurities in the pot itself, the chosen have now been burned away.
“‘Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided. Ezekiel 24:13
The term lewdness is particularly poignant here (see Ezekiel 23), for the people have openly rejected the Lord, his prophets and his commands. Without shame, they entered into depravity, wading deep into the waters of sin.
Ezekiel’s Wife Dies — Ezekiel 24:15-27
One of the most challenging vocations on earth is that of a pastor, one who is charged with leading a flock. It’s often glorified as one who is above reproach and more often the subject of great controversy when one falls prey to temptations of this world. Mostly, the daily activities of an effective pastor go unnoticed. I have the utmost respect for those who have answered the call to lead the sheep, to teach and exhort, to comfort and convict; especially those who know how to do both with love and compassion at the right time. It’s a difficult calling with eternal consequences–not to be taken lightly.
Here we are presented with a most challenging command with few words of preparation for Ezekiel:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners.” Ezekiel 24:15-17
I can’t imagine what it would be like to receive this message from the Lord, it takes my breath away. Not only is Ezekiel about to lose the love of his life, but he is to use this tragedy to teach the people. Such is the cost of discipleship (re: Bonhoeffer). This is the road of those who stand in the gap, who are recognized as leaders in our faith community. Perhaps each of us are tested and tried in ways that will either strengthen or break us, I don’t know for sure, but it seems to be the case for many characters in the Bible.
Here Ezekiel is given a task to use this most mournful moment as yet another symbol for God’s chosen people.
Then the people asked me, “Won’t you tell us what these things have to do with us? Why are you acting like this?” Ezekiel 24:19
This isn’t normal! Ezekiel, you should be wailing and groaning, what’s up?
The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. And you will do as I have done. You will not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners. Ezekiel 24:21-22
The consolation prize for Ezekiel is that he will get his voice back, he will be able to speak again normally:
At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 24:27
I truly believe we fight spiritual battles all the time. On the outside things may look lovely and clean, perhaps covered up with makeup or nice clothes, but inside battles rage. My prayer is that the church will become the church it is supposed to be so we will have fellow believers to lean on when trials and temptations come our way–they will and they do–people to hold onto when it all goes to crap.
Lord, help us to learn by these extreme examples, to take it personally and to do something about it.