In last Thursday's study, we saw Ezekiel's vision of Jerusalem, which he then related to the elders of Judah who were sitting in his house. Tonight, we pick up in chapter 12 as the Word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel about the upcoming judgment upon Jerusalem.
God described the Jews of Ezekiel's day as having eyes, but not seeing, and ears, but not hearing. This should certainly sound familiar to you. When Jesus began to speak in parables, the disciples asked Him why He was doing so. Jesus answered by quoting from Isaiah 6, Jeremiah 5, and Ezekiel 12. He said,
Mark 4:11 "...those who are outside get everything in parables"
Matt. 13:13 “...I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear..."
Many people think that Jesus was teaching in parables to disguise the truth. But in reality, the parables were illustrating it so clearly that He was simply making more obvious those that were not hearing or seeing. He was differentiating between those who chose to make their ears and eyes work, and those who didn't.
God is saying that in spite of the fact that He has given eyes and ears to the Jews of Ezekiel's day, they are refusing to use them, because they are rebellious.
God told Ezekiel to pack his bags and set them outside his house during the daytime. Then, at night, he was to dig through the wall of his house, pick up his bags on his shoulder, and walk out of town.
This would confuse the Jews in captivity with Ezekiel, and would prompt them to ask, "What are you doing?"
Ezekiel was then to answer them that this symbolized the fact that the remaining inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to go off into exile. Many of them would be sneaking out of the city and running away. As a matter of fact, the leaders would be preparing for this, packing their bags and putting them in an accessible location.
Ezekiel was also going to be singling out a certain citizen of Jerusalem: "the prince." This is interesting, because he's talking about the king, King Zedekiah. Why does Ezekiel call him "the prince"? Because Jehoiachin was the king, but he had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar (2Ki. 24:12), and led into captivity at the same time as Ezekiel and the other prominent Jews of the land (2Ki. 24:14-16). Zedekieh was the one that Nebuchadnezzar had placed on the throne (2Ki. 24:17). In the eyes of the exiles, he was not the king, but merely "the prince."
This prophecy about him is strange. He will be taken away, yet will not see Babylon, even though he's going to die there. Jeremiah also spoke many prophecies to Zedekiah, but he did not give heed to either prophet.
The historian Flavius Josephus writes,
Ezekiel also foretold in Babylon what calamities were coming upon the people, which when he heard, he sent accounts of them unto Jerusalem. But Zedekiah did not believe their prophecies, for the reason following: It happened that the two prophets agreed with one another in what they said as in all other things, that the city should be taken, and Zedekiah himself should be taken captive; but Ezekiel disagreed with him, and said that Zedekiah should not see Babylon, while Jeremiah said to him, that the king of Babylon should carry him away thither in bonds (Antiquitites of the Jews 10:7:2).
And so while Jeremiah had said Zekekiah would be taken to Babylon, Ezekiel had said he wouldn't see Babylon. So Zedekiah, instead of repenting, wrote off the prophets as being contradictory. But if you check out 2Kings 25, you find out that both were exactly correct in their prophesying. Nebuchadnezzar did attack Jerusalem again, putting the city to siege until the citizens were suffering terrible famine...
2Kings 25:4-7 Then the city was broken into, and all the men of war fled by night by way of the gate between the two walls beside the king’s garden, though the Chaldeans were all around the city. And they went by way of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and he passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon.
Jeremiah was right - Zedekiah was taken to Babylon. Ezekiel was right - Zedekiah never saw the place. This should remind us that when a passage of Scripture appears to be contradictory, the problem lies in our understanding and faith, not in God's Word.
God continues in His statement about the upcoming attack on Jerusalem. He is going to spare a handful of people, not as a remnant to be preserved, but so that they will give testimony to what happened regarding Israel's idolatry and God's judgment.
The next prophecy which Ezekiel was told to act out and then explain was to eat bread and water while acting out trembling from anxiety. This represented that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were hearing from the false prophets that everything was going to be just fine, would soon be terrified, knowing that what they were eating would probably be their last meal.
Among the exiles, a catchy phrase had begun to circulate: "The days are long and every vision fails." This was in reference to the fact that although prophets like Ezekiel were foretelling disaster, nothing had happened.
It is very similar to the kind of statements we hear today, as Peter warned us:
2Pet. 3:3-4 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
"Why hasn't Jesus come back? You said He would! You said the Bible said it was gonna happen any day, but that was 15 years ago! It's not true, and you can't trust the Bible!"
That's the kind of attitude that had developed among the Jews. "It ain't gonna happen. They're just blowing smoke."
But God's response is that it is most certainly going to happen, and He promises that the days are drawing near. Everything He said would come to pass."
There was another movement among the Jews, a group which said, "Oh, we believe that God's Word will be fulfilled. But it's not going to happen soon, probably not in our lifetime."
We see this same thing today as well. Christians who say, "I believe the Bible. I believe that Jesus is coming back. But I don't believe I'm going to see it. I think that's far in the future." Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 and 25 that there is inherent danger in that attitude. It makes believers sleepy and unready. John said that this attitude will make people ashamed and afraid when Jesus does come unexpectedly (1John 2:28).
But God has Ezekiel tell the people that not only are these things going to take place, but they will happen soon. In fact, the destruction of Jerusalem at that point was less that six years away.
I wonder how differently our lives would be lived if we knew exactly when the Lord's return was? If we could see just how close it was coming up on the calendar, I know that we would live in readiness.
Matt. 24:42 “...be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
Matt. 24:44 “...be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.