Hi, thanks for coming back to my expeditions into the experiences of Ezekiel. At present I am working through the 4 signs of the prophet found in Ezekiel chapter 5.
Firstly Ezekiel was commanded to draw a picture of Jerusalem and simulate siege against it. Now we are presented with a most puzzling condition to observe; that of a prophet of God being told to go to bed. This is enough to catch anyone off guard, but if you look closely at this, there is something compelling about this directive to our guy Ezekiel.
I keep trying to consider what Ezekiel must have been thinking or feeling, and I admit this must have been very perplexing to him. How does this relate to Moses? To us, in modern times and familiar with Christian perspectives, the concept of “bearing the sins” of Israel relates very strongly to the actions of Jesus. And yet, Moses too complained about the heavy burden of leading his people which weighed on him.
More importantly, Moses and Ezekiel had a similar task at that moment. In both cases, their people wanted desperately to return to the lace that they knew, the place where everything was familiar – to go back to just the way it was. And here is God saying no, we’re going to take over a year to sit here and consider what I’m about to do to Jerusalem and why. Here is my warning and at the same time, here is my mercy.
It is at this point that Ezekiel must have connected the dots so to speak. The directive is to meditate on Jerusalem, meditate and think on the disasters about to come upon the remaining inhabitants. He thinking about the plagues about to come, and that he was the one bringing tidings of this kind – just like Moses. Heavy burden indeed.
But that is not all. God wanted him to take on physical attributes of this pause before the real storm. Ezekiel was to lie in his bead on only one side for “X” number of days to represent the same number of years for one house of Israel, and then “Y” number of days to represent the same number of years of the other house of Israel; in the later case, it was 40 days to represent Judah.
He is to prophecy with outstretched arm, while lying in bed, over the image of Jerusalem and relate over and over again that things about to befall that city. How mentally, emotionally, and spiritually grueling it must have been. Further, to look at the image of the besieged city as you go to sleep, and to have that as the first thing you see every single day for over a year.
Here in again we gain a glimpse at the way God chooses to interact with his people. Ezekiel’s behavior must have been perplexing to his neighbors and to the Elders of Israel in exile as they came to visit him. To his family, it must have been distressing to see how this weighed on Ezekiel. But through all that, it must have been fiercely visible how dedicated was Ezekiel’s contemplation of Jerusalem. He was unswerving every day of that sign, his face was set towards Jerusalem and could not be turned. This is the same way that Jesus was described on his final journey to Jerusalem. One can almost picture God’s eyes, longing for the committed faith of his people as he gazes over the city of Jerusalem, much as Jesus’ eyes when he wept for the holy city.
No, the modern reader can not pronounce God to be an immediately vengeful God full of anger and destruction in the old testament. He did not just randomly fling disaster and judgment and plague in some capricious manner as depicted in the mythology of other nations. As we will read further on, this is not mindless obedience God is seeking. Even in the next verses we see an interaction with Ezekiel that is focused on purpose and faith. God was looking for open acceptance of the principles of faith and justice, and an adherence to the call to come worship in prayer, in humility, in generosity and the spirit of compassion, all of which Israel had left at the door as they came running to bow before their newly adopted practices of idol worship.
Is it any wonder that God called one man, once again, to come out into the middle of a desert, to teach him about faith, faith that is not bound to this place or that place, this rock or that rock, etc. Just faith, just truth, just prayer, just trust.