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Ezekiel 24:15-25:17

08.23.2010

The first of two Ezekiel passages today starts off on a somber note (not that the preceding 23 and a half chapters were a barrel of laughs).  But here, in the second half of chapter 24, God takes His commands for Zeke to live symbolically to a whole new level.

God takes Zeke’s wife from him and tells him not to mourn.  Wow.  Here’s Zeke, in his mid-thirties, married to (as he himself describes her), ‘the delight of [his] eyes.’  God takes her from him, and he now has to be a widower that does not mourn.  I can’t even fathom how much that sucked.

Aside from the content of the message that this conveyed to the people, how do we respond to this story?  Are these the actions of a loving God, one who finds worth in each human soul, who values life and hates death? 

The ‘cold’ response, the one I would have given with conviction and without reservation a year ago, is that this does not compromise God’s loving nature.  Here would have been my reasons:

  • For starters, we don’t know the state of her soul and her relationship with God.  She could very well have been taken from earth to the ‘better place’ we talk about when relatives die.  It would be loving for God to bring her to heaven as part of His plan.
  • Additionally, the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Zeke was not entitled to a lifetime of matrimonial bliss, nor was the late Mrs. Zeke entitled to a certain number of years on earth.  How can it be wrong for God to take away a life that was His to give in the first place?
  • His will is both sovereign and perfect.  Claiming that God was wrong to take Mrs. Zeke’s life is essentially claiming that we can better judge the trade-off involves between leaving her alive with Zeke and using her death and Zeke’s obedience in reponse to reach His people (and us) with His truth.  I am not comfortable making that claim.
  • Lastly, Mrs. Zeke had to die sometime.  When a loved one dies, one of our chief complaints to God is that these things seem so arbitrary and senseless.  Now, in this case, we know the reason, which only makes a tragic mystery seem arbitrary and mercenary.  Judging Mr.’s Zeke’s death is essentially judging all death, and we (as a community of believers) have come to a level of acceptance on that issue in general.  Why should it be any different in this particular?

Those arguments still resonate with me, and I find them still persuasive.  But, somehow, it doesn’t seem enough anymore.  Perhaps I sense that those arguments address the justice of God’s action, when the question was about His love.  I want to say that I understand that God has the right to take anyone’s life whenever without forfeiting His justice, but I question whether exercising that right in turn forfeits His loving nature.  The only reason I say, ‘want to,’ is that I ultimately recognize, as I mentioned yesterday, that God’s justice and His love are not different things.  There is no tradeoff between justice and love.  How this works out though, and what the proper emotional response to a story like this is, I don’t know. 

At this point, I have to resign myself to trusting God; that’s the only response I know to be right.

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