“Yet He never said a word”

As we approach the end of 2022 and are fresh off the holiday season, there is so much to be thankful for. As a college student, things like being home with family, hanging out with friends, and even sleeping in my own bed are such simple blessings after a grueling finals week and long semester of classes. Whether it is the Christmas spirit around this time of year or the defrosting of Mariah Carey’s singing career every December, it is not hard to find something that makes you happy about this season. Yet all of these simple joys of life should remind, not distract, us from the reason why we celebrate this season of Jesus’ birth.

One of the most intriguing figures in the Bible to me has always been the prophet Isaiah. His life was full of despair but through that, he was able to catch God’s prophecies concerning a coming Messiah who would save and redeem the nation of Israel from their sins against God. During the Christmas season, one of the most often used verses comes from Isaiah 9 where he writes, “For to us a child is born, a son is given to us… he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The birth of Jesus signifies the comforting reality that God doesn’t just see us or is aware of us but He is Immanuel, God with us and would soon save the entire world through obedience. Not just obedience to the point of suffering but obedience to the point of death—death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Reading further into Isaiah 53 alongside Ezekiel 24 one Monday, the Holy Spirit was convicting me of a sin that I knew all too well about.

Though the end of the year is usually a time of joy and celebration, this time of year can also be very stressful for people. For myself, things going on in the youth community that I pastor began piling up alongside friendship issues, schoolwork stress, and feelings of frustration to name a few things. It was still very easy for me to love God and approach Him every Sunday with my best church attitude but it became hard for me to trust Him. And from that moment started the complaints against God of why this happened to me and why that person did something to me. Yet in that one random Monday afternoon, there was a moment of realization that the Holy Spirit had been trying to lead me to for weeks on end. 

The prophet Ezekiel was a Jewish priest during the Israelites’ exile to Babylon and during that time, God was giving messages to Ezekiel in hopes that they would repent and escape the coming of judgment the Lord had prepared through the King of Babylon. One of these messages came in Ezekiel chapter 24 where the Lord told Ezekiel this impossible message: “Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure. Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears. Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave. Do not uncover your head or take off your sandals. Do not perform the usual rituals of mourning or accept any food brought to you by consoling friends” (Ezekiel 24:16-17). In another translation, Ezekiel’s wife is described as “the desire of your eyes” which says a lot about Ezekiel’s heart. Up to this point, Ezekiel can be seen as an unyielding and disciplined man who will stop at nothing to get God’s message out to His people yet in this moment of tragedy, we see a glimpse of his tender heart in the way that he loved his wife. As the rest of chapter 24 plays out, Ezekiel’s wife indeed suddenly dies and just as the Lord commanded, Ezekiel did everything that the Lord told him to do and did not mourn the love of his life.

In parallel, Isaiah 53 is a well-known chapter for Isaiah’s vision of the coming Messiah as a suffering servant. Yet upon reading that chapter after Ezekiel 24, two particular verses stuck out to me. In verses 7 and 8, Isaiah describes the coming Messiah as one who was “oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream” (Isaiah 53:7-8). It would be so easy to claim that God was unjust for making Ezekiel go through such a painful loss just so that God could send a message to His people or for letting God’s only son die such a humiliating and lonely death. Could you imagine the pain and confliction that Ezekiel and Jesus, the Messiah, went through just to obey God? Yet, they did so without complaint.

So much of modern life and 21st-century culture is about how simple and efficient we can be that maybe, we have forgotten the joy of suffering. When was the last time you needed to wait for something? Many times for myself, part of the joy that God’s blessings or provisions give me come from remembering what I went through to get here. Like the Israelites in the desert for forty years, believers today can fall victim to spiritual amnesia. We forget God’s guidance through a past issue but doubt and question whether God could make something good out of our suffering. Instead, would we realize that as children of God, our waiting is never wasted. As a matter of fact, suffering as believers only makes us more like Jesus. There is suffering that is caused by our own sin but there is also suffering that comes about without an apparent good reason for us; yet in both cases, God can use that for our good in the long-run (Romans 8:28). 
Looking at the perseverance and obedience of Ezekiel and Jesus, they were so obedient to God to the point that they did not even complain in the middle of their suffering. When I imagine myself having just lost the love of my life and been asked by God to not mourn or being betrayed by my own friends and handed over to die in the hands of an oppressive government, the last thing I would think to do is stay quiet and obey God. Yet in that moment sitting in my room, I could do nothing but weep. Even as I recall that moment in time a few weeks later as I write, I can’t help but to feel those same feelings of conviction. I remembered all the problems that I was going through at the time with thoughts of complaint and anger toward God yet Ezekiel and Jesus, with problems lightyears more serious than mine, did not say anything but instead, obeyed without question. This is the type of obedience that every follower of Christ must have. Following and submitting your life to Jesus Christ must mean complete and total obedience to Him in a trust and reliance that God will use all our pain and suffering, no matter how big or small, for the good of those who Him and who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). So as we enjoy this holiday season, would we remember and be moved to a greater level of obedience to the founder and perfecter of our faith. Christmas day is beautiful but starting December 26th, the work of Christmas must begin in our lives as we live with the light of God for others to see, whether in joy or in suffering.

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