We expect to lament the loss of a home or the loss of friends and family and even a great leader. In 3 chapters, a large chunk of text is devoted to Ezekiel lamenting Egypt, the neighboring former enemy and enslaver of Israel. In this portion of Scripture, Ezekiel devoting 3 chapters to lamenting the judgment of a nation other than Israel seems significant and should give us pause to ask why? Why spend so much space devoted the judgment of Egypt, the enemy?
I think, though I can’t be certain, that the answer has a bit to do with how much time we spend devoting thoughts to our enemies and the ones who have wronged us, that we hoped would not. Someone does not become an enemy if they do not occupy space in our mind. Someone may be mean or rude to me or insult me but if I can shrug it off I don’t make much of the incident and never think of the person again. An enemy is someone whose wrong lingers. Their harm continues to hurt and their disregard for our humanity is a threat. An enemy seeks or causes us harm on more than one occasion. They are the ones that hard to forgive and hard to love but easy to remember.
Usually when our enemies are about to suffer, something inside me rubs my hands together with a smirk hoping the punishment is comparable or hopefully greater than my suffering. That’s the part of me that needs to disappear. And the only way it can is to understand more of the God who loves His enemies. When reading these 3 chapters the refrain we should pay attention to is, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” 4 times in chapter 30, it is echoed. Chapter 31 warns of the death of the nation’s leader and 32 the mourning of the nation itself.
Ezekiel seems to be aware that a just God administers justice so He might be known. From being known, that we might know His love. From knowing His love to love Him back in obedience. While annihilation might be inevitable it is not ideal. No creator wants to scrap His creation, which is why God does not delight in death and judgment though He can redeem from it (see Jesus). That is one freeing component of this life, this life and breath and body is not the final verdict of God. In His mercy, there is something more to come. And His mercy is greater, always greater than His judgment. It’s always greater even for those of us that were once enemies of God, even those that still are which is what I think Ezekiel wrestles with while writing these chapters.
Yesterday, I took a step or rather, I vocalized a step hoping my soul and body takes it. I said I can no longer let past hurts and moreover ones who have hurt me hold me back from loving taking risks, steps of faith and obeying. There may be other fears to navigate that present themselves in the present like a fear of rejection or inadequacy, but those fears will be addressed in those moments. However, the ones that are from the past I cannot tolerate as an excuse nor can I hold onto as leverage against God or others to withhold love and creativity. I pray my soul would be sustained by grace to persist in this.