Ezekiel 4-7
(Laying Down on the Job)
August 25th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“Now, son of man, take a block of clay, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the people of Israel"

- Ezekiel 4:1-3 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

This group of chapters comprises warnings from Ezekiel to the exiles regarding the judgment of Jerusalem.

In chapter 4, the LORD instructs Ezekiel to act out a symbolic play that would last more than 400 days. He told Ezekiel to draw the city of Jerusalem on a clay tablet and then to create a model of a siege. He was also told to lie down on one side of his body for 390 days and on his other side for 40 days with an iron pan between him and the model city. During this time he was to ration out a meager daily portion of grain that he would cook for himself over burning cow dung. The LORD explained that the people of Jerusalem would be forced to ration their food and drink and “ ‘will waste away because of their sin’ (4:16 - NIV).”

Chapter 5 opens with the LORD telling Ezekiel to shave his head and beard and then divide the clippings into three piles minus a few that he should tuck into his belt. The hairs represented the people of Jerusalem and their intended fates were acted out by Ezekiel: Some were burned in the city in the final days of the siege, others were cut down by the sword, and the remainder were scattered to other nations. The hairs tucked in his belt represented the remnant that would survive.

The LORD makes clear that this unique and severe punishment is being delivered because the people had broken the first commandment with their worshipping of false idols.

    “Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again.”

    -Ezekiel 5:9 (NIV)

In chapter 6 Ezekiel is told by the LORD to prophesize against the mountains of Israel, telling them that the people there will also suffer for their idol worship. Some of these people will survive and will return to the LORD because of this lesson. In the time period captured in chapter 7 the day of destruction is imminent. The LORD tells Ezekiel to warn the people that they are out of time:

    “I, God, the Master, say:
        ‘Disaster after disaster! Look, it comes!
        the end comes.
    The end is ripe. Watch out, it’s coming!
        This is your fate, you who live in this land.
    Time’s up.
        It’s zero hour.
    No dragging of feet now,
        no bargaining for more time.
    Soon now I’ll pour my wrath on you,
        pay out my anger against you,
    Render my verdict on the way you’ve lived,
        make you pay for your disgusting obscenities.
    I won’t look the other way,
        I won’t feel sorry for you.
    I’ll make you pay for the way you’ve lived.
        Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you.
    Then you’ll realize
        that it is I, God, who have hit you.

    - Ezekiel 7:5-69(MSG)

Everything will come to an end in Jerusalem. There will be no recovery of lands bought and sold and soldiers will not be able to go into battle. The land will be totally plundered and the prophets, priests, and rulers will be unable to fulfill their duty. “ ‘ Then they will know that I am LORD’ (7:27 -NIV).”

Reflection and Application

Here is another assignment that would probably be difficult for us to accept. If given a choice between eating a scroll versus lying on the ground for 400 days, most of would probably choose the scroll entrée. But Ezekiel did not have a choice; he was given both assignments and obliged.

Ezekiel did object to one aspect of the 400 day assignment and the LORD allowed for an amendment to his instructions. It does not seem to be generally advisable to challenge the LORD, but there are biblical precedents for a well-intentioned request that leads to a change in mind from God.

Abraham asked God to spare Sodom if righteous people were found and the LORD ended up letting Lot and his family leave. Ezekiel made a request for a modification of his assignment and it was granted. So perhaps it is reasonable for us to believe that we might address God in the same way. However, we might want to make sure we are asking for the right reasons – and if the answer is no, we accept it. For example, in his case, Ezekiel objected to being asked to disobey God’s commandments regarding eating defiled food, thus his objection was more for God’s sake than for his own self-interests.

What was the point of the living play that Ezekiel was asked to put on? Sometimes words are not enough to make a point, but people need a strong visual illustration. We see the same impact when people demonstrate in the streets or put on a street play that has a meaning. These verses don’t explain how people reacted, but it seems likely that many thought it was weird and perhaps a small minority got the point. Ezekiel showed an awesome amount of faith and persistence in completing this task. The next time we feel like we are not accomplishing anything and want to give up we can remember Ezekiel and how he persevered.

In earlier books we read how the LORD had given Moses the 10 Commandments to explain to the people. The order of the commandments is not random in any way. The first one deals with honoring God and not worshipping false idols because everything else is built on top of this.

Somehow the people forget this first rule, so the LORD created a lesson for them that they would never forget. It is recorded here and in other books so that it will always be remembered.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions

  1. What is the most dramatic haircut you ever had (in terms of a change in your look)?
  2. How would you have reacted if you saw Ezekiel laying down for 400 days in front of a model of your city?
  3. What does God want you to demonstrate today?
Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, you are worthy of our worship. Forgive us for not always making you our priority.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
Street Performers

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Ezekiel 8-11 (Exit of the Glory of the LORD)

Comments and Questions
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