Ezekiel Acts Out
1The Lord said:
2 Ezekiel, son of man, you are living among rebellious people. They have eyes, but refuse to see; they have ears, but refuse to listen. 3So before it gets dark, here is what I want you to do. Pack a few things as though you were going to be taken away as a prisoner. Then go outside where everyone can see you and walk around from place to place. Maybe as they watch, they will realize what rebels they are. 4After you have done this, return to your house.
Later that evening leave your house as if you were going into exile. 5Dig through the wall of your house and crawl out, carrying the bag with you. Make sure everyone is watching. 6Lift the bag to your shoulders, and with your face covered, take it into the darkness, so that you cannot see the land you are leaving. All this will be a warning for the people of Israel.
7I did everything the Lord had said. I packed a few things. Then as the sun was going down, and while everyone was watching, I dug a hole through one of the walls of my house. I pulled out my bag, then lifted it to my shoulders and left in the darkness.
8The next morning, the Lord 9reminded me that those rebellious people didn't even ask what I was doing. 10So he sent me back to tell them:
The Lord God has a message for the leader of Jerusalem and everyone living there!
11I have done these things to show them what will happen when they are taken away as prisoners.
12The leader of Jerusalem will lift his own bag to his shoulders at sunset and leave through a hole that the others have dug in the wall of his house. He will cover his face, so he can't see the land he is leaving. 13 The Lord will spread out a net and trap him as he leaves Jerusalem. He will then be led away to the city of Babylon, but will never see that place, even though he will die there. 14His own officials and troops will scatter in every direction, and the Lord will track them down and put them to death.
15The Lord will force the rest of the people in Jerusalem to live in foreign nations, where they will realize that he has done all these things. 16Some of them will survive the war, the starvation, and the deadly diseases. That way, they will be able to tell foreigners how disgusting their sins were, and that it was the Lord who punished them in this way.
A Sign of Fear
17The Lord said:
18Ezekiel, son of man, shake with fear when you eat, and tremble when you drink. 19Tell the people of Israel that I, the Lord, say that someday everyone in Jerusalem will shake when they eat and tremble when they drink. Their country will be destroyed and left empty, because they have been cruel and violent. 20Every town will lie in ruins, and the land will be a barren desert. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
The Words of the Lord
21The Lord said:
22Ezekiel, son of man, you've heard people in Israel use the saying, “Time passes, and prophets are proved wrong.” 23Now tell the people that I, the Lord, am going to prove that saying wrong. No one will ever be able to use it again in Israel, because very soon everything I have said will come true! 24The people will hear no more useless warnings and false messages. 25I will give them my message, and what I say will certainly happen. Warn those rebels that the time has come for them to be punished. I, the Lord, make this promise.
26-27Ezekiel, the people of Israel are also saying that your visions and messages are only about things in the future. 28So tell them that my words will soon come true, just as I have warned. I, the Lord, have spoken.
This chapter has two parts that focus on two different subjects. Ezekiel is writing this from exile in Babylon.
In verses 1-20 Ezekiel dramatically depicts what will happen to those still living in Jerusalem: the king and the people will go into exile (vv 1-16), and those living in Jerusalem will live in fear and anxiety as they endure the Babylonian invasion (vv 17-20). Ezekiel’s fellow exiles were expecting that God would deliver Jerusalem. Yet Ezekiel expresses the contrary message that those in Jerusalem will join those already in exile, and before that happens, the people of Jerusalem will endure extreme emotional distress. Ezekiel was attempting to convince the exiles that they should not put their faith in a false hope of a divine intervention of deliverance. We often assume that God should or will deliver his people from calamitous situations. We develop a false sense of hope that everything will quickly turn out for our good. Yet, sometimes, God’s message is that the disaster will not be divinely altered. Rather, we must reorient our thoughts to what will happen after the disaster, rather than speculating on being delivered from it.
In verses 21-28, the people were rationalizing away the impact of Ezekiel’s prophecies of judgment. They were assuming that Ezekiel’s predictions of judgment were wrong, since they had not yet occurred (vv 21-25), and that even if the prophecies of judgment were to come true, it would be so far off in the future that they need not worry about any immediate impact on themselves (vv 26-28). To these objections, the divine response was that God’s word would come true, and it would not be unduly delayed. Even today, when we do not see our wrongful actions being immediately brought into judgment, it’s easy to dismiss the idea of being held accountable.
Lord, I believe your word to be true. Help me not to presume on you that I will be spared from troubles and difficulties in life. Rather give me a picture of how to go through the difficult times, always believing that your word will ultimately come to pass. Amen.