In chapters two and three of the book of Ezekiel, we saw God calling Ezekiel to a prophetic ministry. However, much of this ministry would not necessarily be speaking prophecy. God had told him,
Ezek. 3:26-27 “...I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be mute and cannot be a man who rebukes them, for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you will say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.’..."
Now, as we pick up our study in chapter four, we see much of the silent prophesying that Ezekiel will be doing...
God tells Ezekiel to basically play "army men." He is to take a brick (or a tablet of white clay), and carve a rough drawing of Jerusalem onto it. He is to then attack the city by surrounding it with enemies.
The meaning of this would be obvious. Ezekiel will be silently prophesying that Jerusalem is going to be attacked, even though most of the Jews in captivity were thinking that they would be returning home soon.
Next, he will take an iron plate or pan and set it up as a wall between Ezekiel and Jerusalem. It would seem that this represents the fact that no prophet is going to be able to prevent this from happening. Or, as some have suggested, Ezekiel would be representing God, not looking over Jerusalem with a protective eye, since his view of the city would be impeded by a wall of iron. Either way, it would demonstrate that Jerusalem was on their own, and the prophecy of their destruction was certain and unchangeable.
The second non-verbal sermon that Ezekiel would deliver would be longer than any sermon you've ever sat through in this church... Ezekiel is commanded to lie down for more than a year. 390 days spent lying down on his left side, and then forty more days on his right side.
This would seem to be an impossible task without fidgeting, but God says that He will intervene and make it impossible for Ezekiel to roll over, so that the symbolism will be successfully completed.
What was the point of this? The 390 days represented the 390 years that the northern kingdom of Israel's sin would be borne. The 40 days represented the 40 years that the southern kingdom of Judah's sin would be borne.
The numbers are unfamiliar to us. How is God counting these 390 years and 40 years? That has been the subject of many speculations and calculations. Many commentators come to the conclusion that these are the years that each of the kingdoms spent in idolatry. But it very well may represent not the years of their sin, but the years of punishment for their sin.
At the end of Ezekiel's 430 days of lying down, he was to then stand and face Jerusalem and verbally prophesy against it.
Ezekiel was going to have to eat during this time of laying down, and God told him what to eat and how to prepare it. Ezekiel was to make bread out of various grains. He wouldn't get to eat very much of it each day, and the water he drank would also be a small amount. This was to represent to the Jews that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would soon be suffering famine when the Babylonians put the city to siege for the third and final time.
Being bound with ropes meant that Ezekiel wouldn't be able to collect firewood. In the same way, the besieged inhabitants of Jerusalem would get to the point of having nothing over which to cook their bread but human dung. When Ezekiel protested the uncleanness of this, God said, "I will give you cow's dung" instead. If you consider Ezekiel's immobile position, it makes you wonder exactly what method of delivery would be used to place it within Ezekiel's reach!
Ezekiel's next task would be to use a sword to cut off his beard and hair. He was to weigh out all the hair into thirds, burning a third of it, striking another third with the sword, and scattering the final third to the wind.
However, a few of the hairs were to be bound in the edges of his robes. Then, even some of those would be burned.
What would this symbolize? The current inhabitants of Jerusalem would soon be suffering the same fate:
Ezek. 5:12 "One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind..."
Those in the besieged city would die of starvation or disease. Those who tried to escape would be chased down by the army of the Chaldeans and killed (2Kings 25:4-7). The final third represented those who would be scattered to the various nations.
The few hairs in bound in his robe represented the small remnant that God would save. He will discuss this in greater detail soon (6:8).
God also gets specific about why such harsh judgment is coming upon Jerusalem: they had rebelled against His Law and committed abominations before God, including introducing idols into the temple. He had warned them for centuries about the consequences of turning away from His Word, but they had disregarded the warnings.
In Leviticus 26, God clearly spelled out the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. He said that if they did not obey Him, acted with hostility to Him...
Lev. 26:24-30 then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied. Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins. Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat. I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you."
And so as harsh as Ezekiel's prophecy sounds, God is just keeping true to His Word. They had disobeyed, and were about to receive the promised punishment for their sin.
The high places and altars to false gods were often made on the high places (2Chr 28:4), but the valleys also were used as centers of worship, especially when sacrificing children to Molech (Jer. 32:35). God has Ezekiel speak to the mountains and valleys, that their places of idolatry are going to be destroyed. Just as God had warned them in Leviticus 26, He says that those who worshipped there will lie dead there. They had made the land defiled, and so God would make the land desolate. They had made the mountains and valleys unclean with their idolatry, and so the Lord is going to make the mountains and valleys unclean with their dead bodies.
When these things happened, God says through Ezekiel,
Ezek. 6:7 “...you will know that I am the LORD."
Jerusalem will fall, and at that point, everything that Ezekiel prophesied by his actions and words will be proven true. At that point, the people will acknowledge him as a prophet, and will admit that it had in fact been the Lord speaking to them through him.
Just as the Lord had told Ezekiel to bind up a few of the hairs in the edges of his robes for preservation, so too He planned on preserving a remnant of His people, the Jews. He sees a time when those few who will be taken into captivity will repent and acknowledge the Lord as God.
The amazing thing about God's promises is that they are always fulfilled, in spite of man's frequent tendency to go in the opposite direction of His will. Even when it seems the entire nation of Israel goes into apostasy, God preserves a remnant. Even when it seems that all the Jews have fallen away, the Lord says, "I have a remnant."
- When Joseph's brothers all should have been judged for selling their brother into slavery, and could have died in the famine, God preserved a remnant (Gen. 45:7).
- When God's judgment befell the ten northern tribes, He first preserved a remant - a few from each tribe who had moved south to escape the horrible idolatry of Jeroboam's kingdom.
- When Israel was removed from the map by the Babylonians, God preserved a remnant of Jews in Babylon for seventy years.
God's promise to preserve His people stands, in spite of their rejection of His way and His Word. As Paul says in Romans 11,
Rom. 11:1-5 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.
God's history of keeping a remnant of faithful Jews will continue until the end of the Great Tribulation.
The end of the land of Israel was upon them, and there was no turning back. God was going to judge them for what they had done, and everything that they had done was going to come back on them.
It is a vital lesson to learn, this idea of "what comes around goes around." Paul reminded us,
Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
If you plant tomato seeds, don't expect oranges. And if you sow to unrighteousness, don't expect anything but unrighteousness.
The rod was an instrument of judgment. In this case, the rod was Babylon. They would be the instrument through which disaster and doom would come to the Jews still in the land. They would be the rod in the hand of God, bringing down His wrath upon them.
A bit of historical review is necessary to understand these verses. In Leviticus 25, God gave the Law regarding the Year of Jubilee.
Lev. 25:10-11 "You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee..."
Lev. 25:13 "On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property."
Lev. 25:23 'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine...
When someone sold their land, it was always a temporary thing. The deal of the sale was that it had to have a redeption clause, to be bought back at any time. If the family was never able to buy it back, it still stayed in the family, because all property rights reverted back each Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:28).
When the land was being oppressed and then attacked by the Babylonians, you can imagine that land was quite cheap! It was a buyer's market. But in this case, the buyer was not to rejoice over his great deal, and the seller was not to mourn over his great loss. Because nobody would be staying in the land for long, and when the Year of Jubilee rolled around, there would be nobody to reclaim the land, because they would all be either dead or in the Babylonian Captivity for 70 years.
People trust in riches, but wealth means nothing when everything around you is being destroyed. Imagine being stranded in the middle of the desert, and having a wallet full of credit cards. What good will they do you? Will they bring food or water? In that setting, they are worthless and mean nothing.
In the same way, the Jews in Jerusalem will have no use for gold or silver, because they will be starving with nothing to eat or drink.
This word (Heb.: "tsaw-FAN") means "treasured" or "hidden." In this case, the Lord is making reference to His temple.
At the same time Ezekiel was prophesying to the Jews held captive in Babylon, Jeremiah was warning the people of Jerusalem of impending judgment. They had trusted in the fact that the temple of the Lord was in Jerusalem, and therefore, God would not let the city fall. But they were mistaken. Jeremiah said,
Jer. 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’"
Jer. 7:11-14 “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the LORD. “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the LORD, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer, therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.
At one time, Shiloh was the place where God met with His people. But when the people fell into sin, God allowed the ark to be captured by the Philistines, and Shiloh was no longer God's "home" on earth. He says the same thing can happen to the temple in Jerusalem.
And now, as Ezekiel speaks, we see that the people had defiled it, and so God will allow the Chaldeans to come in and profane it. They will utterly destroy the temple, as we read in 2Kings...
2Kings 25:8-9 Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Neb-oo-zar-ad-AWN the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the LORD...
Because of Israel's unfaithfulness to God, He would use the Babylonians as instruments of judgment to make sure that His secret place no longer stood in their land.
With the deportation of the priests and elders, as well as the loss of the temple, the Law will be lost to the people. In the book of Amos, we read the Lord warn, of an impending famine.
Amos 8:11-12 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it."
The people of Jerusalem will be facing both - a real famine and a spiritual famine. The Word will not be available to them, the Law will be lost, and the people will be on their own.
How glad I am when I think of the availability of the Word to us. We can open the Scriptures, come to church, and turn on the radio to hear Bible teaching.
It is as Jesus said,
Matt. 4:4 ..."MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD."