Our Bible class was studying Ezekiel 24.
Early one morning the prophet got a devastating message. “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes.”
Later that morning he went off to work as usual: “So I spoke to the people in the morning.” Then the “one blow” fell: “In the evening my wife died.”
Many of us will have watched on television the emotional scenes at the empty site of the World Trade Center on September 11. So many loved ones lost in 2001: wives, husbands, fathers, children. One business firm lost nearly 700 of its 900 employees. We will have seen many of the families still grieving for loved ones lost in that terrible “blow”.
Did Ezekiel love his wife? We read the chapter, and decided that he must have loved her deeply and passionately. The words are simple but full of powerful emotion: “the delight of your eyes… joy and glory… heart’s desire”. Some in our Bible class have already gone through Ezekiel’s experience and know what it is like. Some of us have lost a loved one, family member or close friend, gunned down in cold blood. Yes, we could share Ezekiel’s pain.
Was God cruel to do this to Ezekiel? She was only in her thirties, with a young family, only married eleven years at the most. We discussed this seriously. Finally we all agreed that, yes, God was cruel. We could not avoid the conclusion.
But why? Here’s where we had to think very hard. Then a brother said, “You know what this story reminds me of. The crucifixion of God’s beloved Son. Wasn’t that just as cruel?” We had to agree.1
It was then that the deeper meaning of the events in Ezekiel 24 dawned on us: “Ezekiel will be a sign to you.” Ezekiel represented God Almighty, the God of love. God loved, and still loves, His covenant people even more than Ezekiel loved his wife. God was showing Ezekiel how He felt about the loss of His beloved, His covenant people.
For us, this story of marital tragedy lifted the veil just a little to reveal what our Heavenly Father felt five hundred years later when He sent His beloved. “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard” (Mark 12:6-8). So who was cruel?
We wondered if Ezekiel ever came to terms with the loss of his beloved. Has the Father ever come to terms with how they treated His beloved, and treat him still? Even after his resurrection, the nail holes were still there. Are they still pierced now, even in glory?
In Ezekiel, a man desperately struggling to cope with his grief while pressing on with God’s work, we could see a sensitive portrayal of the God of the Bible, the living and true God, “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exod. 34: 6,7).
Yes, at our Bible class we all saw a little deeper into the heart of God, and it did us a world of good.
Kingston, Jamaica, Bible Class
1 There is a problem with the word “cruel” here, at least by American English standards. “Cruel” is defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary as enjoying another’s suffering, or at least being indifferent to it, i.e., without mercy or pity. Surely, even when He brings or allows “bad things” upon His children, the LORD God is not “cruel”. “Harsh” or “severe” might be better choices, given the verses cited in the Bible class. Alternatively, and perhaps more to their point, it might be more accurate to substitute “seemed cruel” for “was cruel”.
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Observation: In at least two other instances, God seems to be telling us that the experiences of men in the Bible provide insights into His own feelings toward us, His family. In other words, certain men at certain times actually become patterns, or types, of Almighty God:
(1) After reviewing all the animals, Adam realizes (as God says) that “it is not good for [him] to be alone”, but that he needed a “suitable companion” or “help-mate” (Gen. 2:18). So God gave Eve to Adam. And all of God’s work from that day to this, especially involving His Son, has been for the same express purpose, but this time it is the purpose of God Himself: to create for Himself a “companion” (actually, a multitude of companions) to enjoy His own eternal fellowship, and – also – for God to enjoy! That is what the “new creation” is all about.
(2) Abraham’s heartrending “sacrifice” of his specially-beloved son Isaac (Gen. 22) is specifically shown by Paul to be a designed pattern of the Divine Father’s own just-as-heartrending sacrifice of His Only-Begotten Son. We know this because Genesis 22:16 (“I swear by myself, declares the LORD… you [Abraham] have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son”) is directly cited by the apostle in Romans 8:32, applying the sacrifice to God (“He [God Himself]… did not spare his own Son, but gave him up…”). Again, a man typifies God!
It looks as if Ezekiel, Adam, and Abraham at least – although mere humans – are also divinely-inspired types of the Eternal God, and that His love and His sorrow and His loss are revealed, and “humanized”, through them.
So… a question for readers: It is quite common for men to typify Jesus Christ, but not nearly so common for men to typify the Heavenly Father. What other instances of this can you find in the Bible? We’d be pleased to hear about them.