Lord, I will do whatever You instruct.
Read EZEKIEL 4:1–8; 5:1–13
Siege of Jerusalem Symbolized
4 “Now, son of man, take a block of clay, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. 2 Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. 3 Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the people of Israel.
4 “Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. 5 I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.
6 “After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. 7 Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. 8 I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege.
God’s Razor of Judgment
5 “Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. 2 When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword. 3 But take a few hairs and tuck them away in the folds of your garment. 4 Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up. A fire will spread from there to all Israel.
5 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. 6 Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees.
7 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even[a] conformed to the standards of the nations around you.
8 “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. 9 Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. 10 Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds. 11 Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. 12 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.
13 “Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath on them, they will know that I the Lord have spoken in my zeal.
a Ezekiel 5:7 Most Hebrew manuscripts; some Hebrew manuscripts and Syriac You have
New International Version (NIV)
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“Almighty God, have mercy upon me, forgive me my sins, confirm and strengthen me in all goodness… through Jesus Christ my Savior, who lives and reigns with you” (David Adam, Walking in the Light, 32).
The drama begins. Although Ezekiel is confined to one place and unable to speak, he receives detailed instructions on how to present the message for its recipients. Previously, scenes enacted by prophets have been short-lived, but his daily repetition of several central actions, interspersed by shorter ones over the course of more than a year, means that most of the community gets to see them (4:9–13). These actions both prefigure and reinforce the events that Ezekiel later goes on to describe in vivid detail (Christopher Wright, The Message of Ezekiel, 75).
Each starts with a command about an object—clay tablet (4:1), bread-making ingredients (4:9) and a sharp sword (5:1)—with each pointing to a wider message about the siege of Jerusalem (4:1–8), the suffering of the people both in Jerusalem and in exile (4:9–17), and the ultimate fate of Jerusalem and the Israelite nation (5:1–4). In the first scene Ezekiel represents God himself, and in the second he takes on the symbolic identity of Israel, lying under the weight of her collective sin. The 390 days culminate in Ezekiel laboriously shaving off his hair and beard with a sword, an exercise fraught with risk of injury but also symbolic of humiliation and mourning.
At the heart of the message is God’s deep disappointment in Jerusalem and its inhabitants (5:5–8). They are supposed to exemplify his reign over and work among them as a light to the surrounding nations, with an emphasis on God’s wider missions-minded purposes (Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:4–6; Isa. 42:6). Instead, they act demonstrably worse than the pagan nations surrounding them, serving only to illustrate the consequences of defying the very God they are supposed to serve. Their position of privilege presupposes enormous responsibility, which they have ignored to their extreme peril.
As God’s new community, the church should demonstrate to others what God is like: his priorities, love and transforming power. How is your church a collective signpost to these things?
Lord, though we are often at a loss to explain why You want something done, give us the grace to carry it out nonetheless.