“Thus says the Lord God: This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. And she has rebelled against my rules by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the countries all around her; for they have rejected my rules and have not walked in my statutes.”
“Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'”
These chapters in Ezekiel sound strange to our modern ears.
God commanded Ezekiel to enact the forthcoming siege of Jerusalem in some sort of bizarre street theater presentation. It involved a clay model of the city and symbolic acts including laying on his side and scattering hair. Yep. Scattering hair.
But as I think back throughout the Old Testament, this was a common way for God to communicate to his people. Not necessarily scattering hair:) I mean communicating through symbols or symbolic acts. The tabernacle and temple were built using symbols – all revealing a glimpse of God’s character and redemptive plan. Even the daily sacrificial system was a consistent reminder of the cost of sin that was re-enacted by the priests daily.
Word pictures. Symbolic acts. Different layers of meaning. Poetic imagery. God used all of these techniques to reveal Himself to his people. So even though it seems strange to me, Ezekiel symbolically acting out the siege to Jerusalem as described in Ezekiel 4 was consistent with how God had chosen to reveal Himself throughout the Old Testament – especially among His prophets.
After Ezekiel’s extended street theater, Chapter 5 records God speaking through Ezekiel… As God explained the significance of Ezekiel’s symbolic acts, we read a familiar message of judgment against Israel.
Sin and judgment. Most prophetic books begin with judgment and end with the hope of restoration. Restoration can only occur after the problem of sin has been dealt with…
As we turn our focus to Acts, we read that even Stephen is preaching on the sins of Israel. He reminds us that Israel had been turning against God from the very moment He rescued them from Egypt…
Our fathers refused to obey [Moses], but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us.’ (Acts 7:39-40)
It’s hard for me to read such harsh words of judgment. It’s like slogging through mud…covered with grime and filth. But understanding the reality of sin is the first step to restoration and hope. As a friend of mine used to remind me…”As the depths of your sin are revealed to you, so the cross becomes larger to cover you.” God has the last word. And thankfully, it is good.