Read: Ezekiel 4-7
Ezekiel is given visual aids to help us appreciate what is going on in the closing days of Jerusalem as the center for the glorious people of God. It’s difficult to appreciate the difficulty. Seriously. The gravity of the situation is far removed from our current circumstance, but we must never forget the wrath of God that was poured out for their conscientious objection to the ways they were shown. Sin, at its worst, is that which we choose to embrace unashamedly even when we know it’s wrong. May we always have people in our lives that will speak truth.
A block of clay, an iron pan, side planks and baking bread
Chapter 4 provides some visual aids to help appreciate the degree to which the people of Israel had fallen. The block of clay with the city of Jerusalem drawn on it along with siege walls and battering ram provide an illustration of the fall of Jerusalem. The iron pan becomes an iron wall, impenetrable. Ezekiel is told to lie on his left side for 390 days and right side for 40 more to represent the years of sin. He’s given a recipe for a meager vegetarian diet, bread and water, to have during these days where he takes on the sin of the people.
He then said to me: “Son of man, I am about to cut off the food supply in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair, for food and water will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin. Ezekiel 4:16-17
Shaven, burned and scattered
Ezekiel is told to shave his head and beard, then burn a third, strike a third with the sword and scatter a third to the wind, “But take a few hairs and tuck them away in the folds of your garment.” (Ezekiel 5:3) The remnant is small, but not small enough, Ezekiel is told to take a few of the remaining hairs and burn them in the fire.
“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Ezekiel 5:8-9
The only consolation here is the very last phrase in verse 9, “and will never do again.” The Lord is clearly angry with his people:
I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword. Ezekiel 5:11-12
Only a few will remain, only a few will understand that God is grieved by their actions:
8 “‘But I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you are scattered among the lands and nations. 9 Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me—how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. 10 And they will know that I am the Lord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them. Ezekiel 6:8-10
The concept of God grieving is hard to imagine, but I think Tom Planck got a glimpse of this when thinking about the state of churches in this country, so many in disrepair (physically and spiritually). I can’t help but think about the words of Jesus here, just before his arrest, as he prayed for us:
I have given them the glory that you gave me,
that they may be one as we are one
—I in them and you in me—
so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Complete unity in Christ–think about that for a while.
The End Has Come
Chapter 7 provides an emotional narrative of the end of people of God as they have come to know it; no more Jerusalem, no more pride in Judah.
Doom has come upon you,
upon you who dwell in the land.
The time has come! The day is near!
There is panic, not joy, on the mountains.
Every hand will go limp;
every leg will be wet with urine.
They will put on sackcloth
and be clothed with terror.
Every face will be covered with shame,
and every head will be shaved.
The people in Ezekiel’s day were far removed from the words of Jesus and if they stopped reading at this point I have no doubt the remnant, even the fewest of the few would have fallen, but there is more to read. I have to provide a glimmer of hope here:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees… Ezekiel 36:26-27
Lord, as we read the words that are difficult to appreciate, help us to see how your hand is constantly in our present history, how you are concerned about our well-being. Please do not remove your hand from my shoulder, especially not today. Let me sense your presence and know with certainty that your plan is unfolding as you desire, even when I can’t see how.