Today you should read: Ezekiel 19
I remember the first funeral I ever attended (and, of course, I remember the most recent one, too). My mother dressed us in our best suits. She didn’t have much to say. We pulled in at the parlor, and when we went in, I saw something I never experienced before. I watched her sob. It was a tough thing to see as a young child. Despair was new to me and death was now an unwelcome acquaintance.
There is something about funerals that just seem to stay with you. The aura, the mood, the garb… it seems to become chemically etched in your mind. They often make darkness feel victorious, at least for a moment.
In today’s reading, Ezekiel gives us a vision of what is called a funeral song. The language is a bit puzzling and the allegories aren’t completely congruent. Even for lifelong Bible scholars, this is a confounding chapter. What can be known, though, is that this funeral song is about two living princes who were deemed functionally dead. Maybe it was because of political turmoil, or possibly because they lacked a spiritual backbone. Nonetheless, there is a somber tone found here. Here are one commentator’s thoughts that really helped me process the chapter. It is a bit lengthy, but track with it:
An ancient Near Eastern funeral song had a distinctive rhythm and style and usually extolled the virtues of the person who had died, contrasting past glory with the current loss. In this case, those being lamented were not yet dead, and the dirge contained a catalogue of their faults. This dirge profoundly communicated the certainty of their fate and the reasons for it. • The lion (19:2-9) and the vine (19:10-14) were familiar images for the princes of Israel, the royal dynasty of Judah. The first picture is of a lioness and one of her cubs, whom she chose as the leader of her pack. This cub represented Jehoahaz, who reigned for a mere three months before being carried to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco (2 Kgs 23:33-34). • hunt . . . devour prey . . . man-eater: The prophet characterizes Jehoahaz’s brief reign in entirely negative terms. • Lions were traditionally hunted with a net and a pit, here a metaphor for the violent way that Jehoahaz would be carried away to Egypt. The behavior of the second cub was similar to that of the first but even more violent, as he destroyed their towns and cities. This cub could represent Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, or Zedekiah. It is not clear which towns and cities the king of Judah destroyed—the prophet might have been thinking of the negative effect that foolish foreign policy had on the cities and towns of Judah. (NLTSB)
While this passage is definitely a lament, lamentations always point me to another important funeral in scripture: the death of death. Jesus lays death to rest. He offers up a different song, not in a funeral-esque, somber tone, but in triumph and joy. If you have some free time, read 1 Corinthians 15 & Revelation 19-21 this weekend. It’ll be worth your time, and it’ll help move the funeral blues to the background as the hope of Christ takes the forefront.
Posted by: Todd Thomas