Even the women and children rejoiced

In Ezekiel 8, the Spirit lifts Ezekiel up between earth and heaven and brings him in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy is located. There, Ezekiel witnesses women sitting and weeping for Tammuz, an ancient Mesopotamian god believed to be a beautiful shepherd slain by a wild boar (see 1 Samuel 16:7).

There can be few things more abominable than misplaced mourning like this. The image of the grieving woman in the Bible is a powerful instrument in God’s redemptive story. And not one to be trifled with.

Job evokes the power of female grief, when he says, “This is the portion of a wicked man from God … Though his sons are many, they are destined for the sword … Their widows will not be able to weep.” (Job 27:13-15). And in Luke 23, Jesus reminds a crowd of mourning women of this when He says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:27-31).

You may remember that in Genesis 35, a boy with two names is born. On her deathbed, his mother Rachel gives her son his first name, Ben-Oni, son of sorrows. Rachel’s burial place outside of Bethlehem cements her sorrow.

Rachel is weeping for her children, 14th-century fresco from Marko’s Monastery.

In fact, the place of her death is where Nebuchadnezzar would later assemble the people of Judah for their long trek into captivity in Babylon. At this time, as the prophet Jeremiah grieves with and over his people in exile, he uses the image of their mother Rachel, who wept over her newborn baby.

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.”

Jeremiah 31:15

This divine demonstration heralds God’s own sorrow over those who weary themselves committing injustice. And when God grieves, women are often His mouthpiece. As Jeremiah is overcome with sadness, God tells him to send for the mourning women and tell them to teach their daughters how to grieve. Only when women of God weep can all God’s people’s eyes shed tears and our eyelids flow with water (Jeremiah 9:17-18).

And only when women of God rejoice has genuine peace arrived. We get a taste of this after Nehemiah appoints two great choirs to stand with him in the house of God.

And the singers sang, with Jezrahiah their leader, 
and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy,
even the women and children rejoiced,
so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.

Nehemiah 12:42-43

This is more than just a vision of God’s people returning from Babylonian exile. It is an eschatological picture of a new heaven and earth, where all of God’s children, the Bride of Jesus Christ, people of the New Jerusalem will sing. Strength and honour are our clothing. We will rejoice in time to come (Proverbs 31:25).

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21: 2-4NIV

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