In the last post in this series, we saw how Ezekiel was called by God, and what the call actually meant for him. In this week’s chapter, God continues his commands for Ezekiel’s ministry, but it does not go the way many people might expect. Rather than yelling into the void, Ezekiel is called to adopt some extreme behavior in order to show case the behaviors of God and His people.
As a continutation from the previous chapter, God is giving Ezekiel a odd instruction. Ezekiel is to write Jerusalem on a brick and lay siege to it. His is to “[b]uild a tower against it. Heap up a ramp against it. Make a camp against it.Set up battering rams against it all round” (Ezekiel 4:2, Goldingay). All this is to be a sign to the people of Israel. Furthering this sign, Ezekiel is commanded to lay on his left side for 390 days then another 40 days on his right side. Each is depicting the years (1 day per year) of rebellion of the Hebrew people against God; left is the nation of Israel, right is the nation of Judah. God also chooses to bind him there to insure that he cannot move. While he is laying this seige, God specifies his diet. Ezekiel is to eat wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt that he will make into a bread. God initiall commands Ezekiel, “You’re to eat it as a barley cake. Cook it on human excrement in [the sight of the Israelites]” (Ezekiel 4:12, Goldingay). But Ezekiel pleads with God that he does not share in the same defilement that the people of Israel have, so God chooses to switch out human excrement for cow.
“To love someone is to see him as God intended him.”
— Fyodor Dostoevsky
This section is beginning a series of visions showing how God is punishing His people for their lack of loyalty to him. The books of Judges, Kings, and Chronicles are all reminders that God’s people have always had trouble staying completely faithful to Him. They will do it for a while, then something “better” comes along. Many of the prophets are speaking into this world; one where the people of God do not want to truly be His people. Ezekiel, here is asked to do some very extreme and odd behaviors in order to get the people’s attention. He has to, essentially, play army men with a brick while eating a diet that would have made him ritually unclean, and probably made him known to be a unstable individual within society. He would have been considered unapproachable by society. I wonder if that was some of what God was showing as well. The people of Israel had made themselves so dirty, that God was not able to be with them as He intended.
Have you ever had to do something crazy to get everyone’s attention? Especially a boring topic, or something people are so accostumed to that they do not care anymore? This is kind of what God is like today. I feel that most people do not actually practice a faith that engages both body and soul. They are comfortable to think about God for an hour on Sunday morning, then completely ingore Him until they attend church again. During this time, it might be important for our ministry leaders to think of doing something extreme or unexpected. It’s time for people to wake up to their faith and see the world that God has for them. Ezekiel did it in an extreme fashion. He was told to lay seige to a brick and eat a terrible diet for over a year! What crazy thing can you do to help someone awaken their faith?