Chapter 24:19-27 (ESV) - And the people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting thus?” Then I said to them, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. Your turbans shall be on your heads and your shoes on your feet; you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another. Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord God.’
“As for you, son of man, surely on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their soul's desire, and also their sons and daughters, on that day a fugitive will come to you to report to you the news. On that day your mouth will be opened to the fugitive, and you shall speak and be no longer mute. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the Lord.”
Question to consider: Why would the death of Ezekiel’s wife cause people to finally start listening to Ezekiel?
Even though death has been a present reality since Adam’s rebellion into sin, most people will go out of their way to avoid talking or even thinking about it. It is not until someone sees a body in a casket at a funeral that the reality of death sinks in, and people’s hearts become much softer to the word of God.
Despite the fact that both the northern kingdom of Israel and the areas of Judah outside of Jerusalem had been overrun by the Babylonians, the people inside the city considered themselves to be marked safe from Nebuchadnezzar. Despite the repeated warnings by Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and a number of other prophets over several years that the city was going to fall if people did not repent and turn back to God, those in the city called the prophets “conspiracy theorists” and continued to profane the name of God among the nations.
The reality of the judgment began to sink in when God suddenly took the life of Ezekiel’s dear wife the very day Ezekiel proclaimed it would happen. Ezekiel proclaimed the coming judgment of God for seven years, but it hadn’t yet come to pass so people could assure themselves that Ezekiel was probably a false prophet. However, to proclaim that God would take the life of his wife on the very day that it happened removed any doubt that Ezekiel was speaking the word of God. It’s important to remember that Ezekiel was just coming to the age where he would have served as a priest if the exile had not happened. So the year in which Ezekiel’s tongue was silenced (about 593 BC), and he began acting out the dramas of God, he would have been about 25 years old. Since the judgment came in 586 BC, it would have meant Ezekiel was around 32 years old when his wife died. It was not like his wife was 100 years old and living on borrowed time. Ezekiel prophesied the day of his wife’s death when she was still young enough to cause people to ask, “What does this mean for us?”
God’s response was that Ezekiel’s state was a sign of what would happen to them. The city would be judged so swiftly that they wouldn’t have time to put on their mourning clothes or grieve their dead. The men of that city would lose their beloved wives and children just as Ezekiel had. If the death of Ezekiel’s dear, young wife was not enough to convince people that God was speaking through Ezekiel, a further sign would be that the moment Ezekiel heard of the siege, he would no longer be mute. At that moment, Ezekiel could finally express how foolish he really thought they were, but of course by then it would be too late.
Dear heavenly father, may we glorify You even in death so that people can continue to be brought to realize their need for Christ. While we continue to draw breath, give us the courage to proclaim the truth of Your word even when it’s something that people do not wish to hear. Amen.