Has God ever asked you to do anything that didn’t make sense to you? How did you respond? Did you go with your natural inclination or trust God’s wisdom?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at Ezekiel’s wife. The Bible only provides one sentence about her directly, but we can learn much more about this Old Testament woman as we look at the prophet Ezekiel’s life and God’s advice to him concerning his wife.
Ezekiel Wife’s Backstory
We know nothing about her heritage, what kind of family she came from, how she and Ezekiel met, or if they had children. No mention of this unnamed Bible woman is made until Ezekiel 24:15, and that’s when God tells Ezekiel that his wife is about to die.
So who was she and why no mention of her until her death? To understand, let’s look at what we know about her husband.
Ezekiel was a prophet during one of the most difficult time periods for the Hebrew people. He was an exile, captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and placed in refuge camp in the wasteland by the Chebar River. While in captivity he began receiving visions from God. At the end of the first vision, God told him what He had in store for him to do.
“Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Ezekiel 2:3-5 (NKJV)
In other words, “I’m sending you to share difficult messages to difficult people who may or may not be receptive to what you have to say to them.”
God went on to tell him to not be afraid of the people, though he warned him that their words would be like thistles and thorns and the people themselves like scorpions.
And how did Ezekiel respond? In Ezekiel 3:2-3 we’re told that he consumed the words from the Lord and it tasted as sweet as honey.
Ezekiel was up for the challenge. From that point on, Ezekiel spoke to a people who didn’t want to hear what he was saying. While he warned of the destruction of Jerusalem, false prophets told the people they would return to the city, and it would not be destroyed. Who do you think they listened to?
It’s interesting the approach that Ezekiel took to share his message. He took the concept of “show not tell” to new levels. Rather than merely reciting story visions, he acted them out.
Ezekiel Wife’s Story
It’s one thing for Ezekiel to share God’s warnings to the people, but in Ezekiel 24:16 God gets personal and gives Ezekiel a message that had to be hard to hear.
“Son of man, behold, I take away from you the desire of your eyes with one stroke; yet you shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down.”
Depending on the version, Ezekiel’s wife is described as the desire of his eyes, dearest treasure, what is precious, or the person he loved the most.
What a beautiful way to say wife.
Theirs is a love story that withstood life’s trials. Regardless of whether they were together before they were taken captive or if they get together during captivity, their honeymoon years would have been fraught with difficulties. Imagine their fear as they were taken from their homeland and deported to a foreign wasteland, their struggles to survive, their concerns for the future.
No mention is made of any children, so we can assume the couple was childless. Which meant, years of trying and feeling forsaken by God when she couldn’t conceive.
Then, at 30-years-old Ezekiel received his prophetic call. Anyone who’s had a family member in the ministry knows the difficulties that come with ministry life. When your husband is a prophet warning the people of destruction and devastation in the days ahead if they don’t repent, well, it might affect your standing in the community. She would have likely felt a distance from the other women. At times it probably felt like the two of them against the world.
But at least they had each other. At the end of a particularly difficult day of preaching to the masses, Ezekiel knew that he could come home to outstretched arms, a warm welcome, and a hot meal waiting for him. They gave each other strength to face the difficulties.
Ezekiel was a young man when his wife died. One day she was the light of his life. The next, she was gone.
To make matters worse, God forbade him to properly mourn her. God instructed Ezekiel to not weep, to not mourn outwardly, to not cover his head and sprinkle dust on it, to not take off his shoes, and to not hold a funeral feast. In other words, to not do any of the activities normally associated with the death of a loved one.
Ezekiel 24:18 shows the true character of Ezekiel.
“So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died; and the next morning I did as I was commanded.”
Of course, everyone asked why he behaved in such an unusual manner.
We already talked about how Ezekiel lived out his prophetic illustrations. This was another visual to prepare the people for what to come. He shared with them what the Lord was about to do. God would destroy the pride of their eyes, the temple in Jerusalem, with the remnant left in Jerusalem dying by the sword.
He told them that when that time came, they were to follow his example and not mourn as they would be inclined to do. Instead, because of their sins, they would waste away and mourn among themselves. When this happened, they would know that the Lord was God.
This is one of those obscure stories that most of us would have skimmed over a few years ago. But now, in 2021, it holds a whole new meaning. Many of you experienced similar situations this past year.
Thanks to Covid, many were unable to properly mourn for loved ones who died in 2020. You weren’t able to be with them in their last moments. You couldn’t view their body or hold a funeral or even have friends and neighbors drop off a casserole or two. Instead, you had to mourn alone.
It may have felt disloyal to your loved one, that you weren’t giving them the respect they deserved. But here’s the deal. God knows how much you loved them. He knows how dear they were to you, and how much you miss them. And He’s with you, wrapping His arms around you to comfort you.
Mourning is part of the grieving process, but there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. We just have to trust God and put our faith in Him to see us through the loneliness and sadness that accompanies death.
I want to close by reading two passages. The first is from a sermon by the Reverend J.R. Thomson.
“There are occasions when a good man can do little in the way of directly benefiting or influencing the ungodly by whom he may be surrounded. But even in such circumstances he may be a witness to God, and he may render service to his fellow-men, by his own life, and especially by his demeanor in times of affliction and trial.”Reverend J.R. Thomson
And then a poem written by an unknown Scottish poetess, quoted in Herbert Lockyer’s All the Women of the Bible.
He needed me,
To be a sign for Him; my death to stand
A figure to my people of the things
Which He will do to them, except they turn
And seek His face. I am so content
To die for this. I could not speak for God
As thou hast done so well; but I can be
To God and for my people, and for thee
To aid in thy great work—a sign.
Lord God, thank you for this timely reminder of how important it is that we trust in You even when it goes against our natural inclinations. Thank You for making it clear to us what it is that You want us to do. Forgive us those times when we, like the ancient Hebrews, lose sight of your will. Comfort us in our times of sorrow and grief. Help us to be like Ezekiel and his wife, willing to do hard things for You. Give us the strength and the courage to stand for You when all around us is opposition. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Backstory: Ezekiel 2-3
Her Story: Ezekiel 24:15
The Rest of the Story: Ezekiel 24:16-24
Bible Study Review
- How did God describe Ezekiel’s wife?
- What did He say was about to happen to her?
- How did Ezekiel respond?
Thoughts to Ponder
- What did Ezekiel do to bring his messages to life?
- Why did God give him such odd directions?
- What was the significance of his mourning?
- What would be the greatest challenge being married to a man like Ezekiel?
- How would you have responded in her place?
- Are you willing to be a vessel used by God?
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