Why does God do what he does? In all of our lives there are times we wonder why God acts in a particular way. Wasn’t there another way that God could have acted that would have been easier or less painful for me or those that I love?
At Covenant, the church I pastor in San Jose, we are reading through the Bible chronologically. About a week ago I read Ezekiel 24 as part of that reading. In the last half of that chapter God announces to Ezekiel that he is going to take Ezekiel’s wife through death. God explained that this was part of the lesson he was going to teach Israel and gave directions to Ezekiel about how to respond, including not to mourn (Ezekiel 24:16).
I admit that this passage has haunted me. There are passages of the Bible that I do not doubt but that leave me with a multitude of questions – and this is one of them. Is this the only way God could confer his message to Israel? Was it really necessary for the Lord to take Ezekiel’s wife?
Of course God is not required to give any of us answers to such questions. He is the Lord and we are his creatures. As his creatures we cannot demand that he answer to us – that turns the relationship on its head! But as I have meditated on this passage over several days I have, in the midst of my questions, reached two important conclusions.
First, it is a comfort to know that the Lord is sovereign and is accomplishing his plan. The context for the Lord’s message to Ezekiel about his wife is the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. That siege lasted almost two years before the city fell. God wants his people to know that this horrific event was decreed and planned by the Lord. But the death of Ezekiel’s wife was also one of those events decreed by the Lord to accomplish his perfect plan. I may have lots of questions about events that happen to me and around me but it is a great comfort to know that they all have been planned and are under the sovereign control of the Lord. There are no events of chance. There is no bad luck or good luck. My God controls all and does so for his glory and my good. I may not understand but I must believe.
Secondly, meditating on this passage made me realize how idolatrous I really am. I resonate with the language God uses when he describes Ezekiel’s wife as the “delight of your eyes” (Ezekiel 24:16). My wife, Donna, is the delight of my eyes. It would be devastating to lose her – a grief that I do not even want to contemplate. But as I did consider this, I was reminded of Jesus’ demand that my love for him be my greatest love (Matthew 10:37-39). Do I love the Lord more than I love my wife? Would I be willing to give up my wife if it was God’s plan and for his glory? Is my love for Donna a greater love than my love for the Lord? That is a test I do not desire. But if God should take Donna (or any of my other loves) my reaction would reveal my greatest love. If I would respond with anger and bitterness it would be clear that my greatest love was not the Lord. There is no evidence in the Scriptures that Ezekiel did anything but obey the Lord in this episode of his life. His love of the Lord was so great that he loved God more than the delight of his eyes. I’m reminded of the Christian song with the line, “I told you when we wed that I would surely rather be found dead, than to love you more than the one who saved my soul.”
I don’t have all the answers to Ezekiel 24. But I do have certainty of at least two things: My God is sovereign and I must love him with all of my being. May he give me grace to continue to do both.