Ezekiel 24:15–27; Jeremiah 16:5–9
There is something unusual about marriage. For whatever reason, a man and a woman have a special kind of relationship that transcends logic. There is a deep spiritual aspect to it that is part of the Christian marriage ritual, “what God has joined let man not separate.”
While this is the ideal, we are all far from the ideal. As much as there are men and women who are “2-become-1”, there are a great many couples were 1 plus 1 equals neither 1 nor 2. In most such cases, barring miraculous intervention, the couple separates.
A few decades ago, the concept of “no-fault” divorce was invented. In reality, it mostly seems to have been an “agreement” that the reason for the divorce was something other than infidelity (whether of sexual or other nature) and that it was okay. This was a “thumb the nose” at the church, but it was also a recognition that the church often failed to understand this sacred institution.
The deep deception of “no-fault” divorce was the perception that “no-fault” meant “no hurt”. Divorce hurts. Sometimes it is the path to divorce. Sometimes it is the event. Sometimes it is the result. Sometimes it’s all of it.
There is something deep within us that understands marriage is not to be trifled with. This is why younger generations are putting it off, even while cohabitating. This is also why same-gender marriage became a cultural phenomenon.
Despite powerful and public peoples’ often peculiar and sometimes alliance driven marriages, most normal people see something transcendent in marriage. Even in this day and age where divorce in the church is as high (if not higher) as the culture around. There is still something.
Imagine then what it would be like to receive the message as Ezekiel did. While you may have received, for example, the news that a loved one was going to die, or even suddenly died, you had the ability to grieve. Ezekiel was commanded to not grieve. Just as he would soon bury his wife, he would bury his feelings.
Males are, granted, more likely to tuck their feelings away. However, just as we are often tempted or even driven to disobey when commanded to do (or not do) something, imagine Ezekiel being commanded to not grieve, which probably made the loss of his wife even more pronounced on his heart.
While the Scriptures do not say that Ezekiel stands figuratively in the place of God, it does make sense. The precious bride (Israel) is about to die (conquered and exiled). This is a result of sin and corruption. God, therefore, cannot grieve for God’s holiness was denied. If God were to grieve, God might protect Israel once more, allowing it to fall even more deeply into depravity.
This gets even darker in Jeremiah’s words. Jeremiah is banned from lamenting with any family who has lost a loved one. In other words, lamentation has become a luxury. The gift of lamentation has been taken away. The gifts of consolation, commiseration, and sympathy have also been taken away. Through their disobedience, the deepest loss is now only a fact. Hearts and feelings must be set aside.
※ Prayer ※
Father God, we are thankful for your never-ending mercy. Give us the wisdom and discernment to be bearers of your compassion, mercy, and love for all of those who are grieving in these days. Amen.
※ Questions ※
1) What does it mean to lament, to you? How is that different from being sad or grieving, if anything?
2) Have you ever repressed really strong emotions? Why? What were the lingering effects?
3) In Jewish/Israelite society, grief and lament were semi-public community events. How did that work in the church pre-COVID? How does it work now?