This week we’re studying Ezekiel 19 and its two allegorical parables of lament. The first was a lament about lions. The second parable of lament is similar. Read about it in verses 10-14.
Very similar to the lions, isn’t it? A vine grows fruitful and abundant and strong. But it gets uprooted, withered by an east wind, set on fire, and it dies. This is another funeral lament. It’s a different parable about the same story of the same death. God is saying, “Israel, I am singing a funeral dirge about you! I am lamenting about you! Because you are dead.”
This is way worse than the psalms of lament I mentioned earlier this week. Like I said before, it can feel extreme to get angry and complain to God. It feels especially wrong to tell God to wake up. But in God’s lament about Israel here in Ezekiel 19, he says, “You are dead. Like caged lions, like a dried-up vine, you are dead.” Can you hear the sadness in God’s voice?
This is a lament like Psalm 88, with no hope at the end. We come to Ezekiel 19, verse 14, and it is over. No hope. No joy. God simply repeats to Ezekiel that this is a funeral song, and it is to be used as a funeral song. You can imagine Ezekiel there in Babylon holding a funeral for the nation of Israel, as his neighbors looked on. Ezekiel says to them, “People, hear the funeral song that God is singing at your funeral.” Think about how well that went over.
But the message is true. God’s people have so often repeatedly chosen to run so far from God that it is as if they have died.
We’ve heard so many times in the prophecies of Ezekiel that there is hope. Chapter 17 had hope, chapter 18 had hope. Why is chapter 19 different? Why doesn’t God include any hope in his lament?
Because, as we saw in Psalm 88, lament is sometimes like that. Sometimes you are just so frustrated, so angry, so hurt, that you need to sit with the pain a while longer. You might not be ready for hope. There was a Saturday of darkness after Jesus’ death on the cross. It wasn’t right away that hope was realized.
Frankly, we can sometimes move past our pain far too quickly. Or we can avoid the pain and be addicted to the hope. It’s like when you break up with someone and your friend’s response is simply “Don’t worry, there are other fish in the sea.” That might be true, but that’s not always what you need to hear in that moment. You need your friend to acknowledge the hurt and the pain and the grief.
We can want to be done with the pain immediately because who likes pain? I hate it. I want all difficult situations to be done immediately, and I don’t want any new difficult situations to ever occur. I always want enough money, I don’t ever want to get sick, and I want all my relationships to be awesome. Well…that’s not realistic, is it?
What can often happen, therefore, in our craving for ease and comfort, in our desire to be done with pain and hardship, is that we fixate on the resolution, on the end of the pain. When we focus only on the resolution of the pain, we can miss out on what we can learn in the middle of the pain. Lament helps us to think about that pain, to learn what God wants us to learn in the pain. But that often means we need to sit in the pain. Remember to sit in the pain with God! That’s the key to lament.