Imagining something without visual assistance leaves it all up to our minds, our imaginations. In today’s chapter, God doesn’t want the Jews, who are already in Babylon, to imagine anything. He doesn’t want them to think that — no, there’s no way Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed! So, He tells Ezekiel to dramatize what the siege of Jerusalem might look like. These exiles were deported way before the destruction of Jerusalem. In addition, he is to prophesy (explain) to the exiled Jews what will be happening. What Ezekiel has to do for God is above and beyond the scope of what we may consider “serving” as one of God’s prophets. Let’s dig in…
“And now, son of man, take a large clay brick and set it down in front of you. Then draw a map of the city of Jerusalem on it. 2 Show the city under siege. Build a wall around it so no one can escape. Set up the enemy camp, and surround the city with siege ramps and battering rams. 3 Then take an iron griddle and place it between you and the city. Turn toward the city and demonstrate how harsh the siege will be against Jerusalem. This will be a warning to the people of Israel.
4 “Now lie on your left side and place the sins of Israel on yourself. You are to bear their sins for the number of days you lie there on your side. 5 I am requiring you to bear Israel’s sins for 390 days—one day for each year of their sin. 6 After that, turn over and lie on your right side for 40 days—one day for each year of Judah’s sin.
7 “Meanwhile, keep staring at the siege of Jerusalem. Lie there with your arm bared and prophesy her destruction. 8 I will tie you up with ropes so you won’t be able to turn from side to side until the days of your siege have been completed.
9 “Now go and get some wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and emmer wheat, and mix them together in a storage jar. Use them to make bread for yourself during the 390 days you will be lying on your side. 10 Ration this out to yourself, eight ounces of food for each day, and eat it at set times. 11 Then measure out a jar of water for each day, and drink it at set times. 12 Prepare and eat this food as you would barley cakes. While all the people are watching, bake it over a fire using dried human dung as fuel and then eat the bread.” 13 Then the Lord said, “This is how Israel will eat defiled bread in the Gentile lands to which I will banish them!”
14 Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord, must I be defiled by using human dung? For I have never been defiled before. From the time I was a child until now I have never eaten any animal that died of sickness or was killed by other animals. I have never eaten any meat forbidden by the law.”
15 “All right,” the Lord said. “You may bake your bread with cow dung instead of human dung.” 16 Then he told me, “Son of man, I will make food very scarce in Jerusalem. It will be weighed out with great care and eaten fearfully. The water will be rationed out drop by drop, and the people will drink it with dismay. 17 Lacking food and water, people will look at one another in terror, and they will waste away under their punishment.Ezekiel 4 NLT
Why all the Drama?
- Remember, the Jews were stubborn and hard-hearted. They didn’t want to accept the fact that God would destroy Jerusalem and their beautiful temple.
- They also didn’t think He’d actually make them stay living among pagan Gentiles for 70 years. There were false prophets who said it would only be 2 years. It had already been 5.
- They were in for the long haul and God wanted them to see that they’d be eating Gentile food, thus defiling themselves.
Why 390, then 40 Days?
- First, the Northern Kingdom of Israel disobeyed God in 975 BC when King Jeroboam made golden calves so the people could worship God without going to Jerusalem. That story is in 1 Kings 12. That accounts for the 390 years since the first disobedient act.
- Second, Judah, the Southern Kingdom’s disobedience started with Manasseh in 698 BC when he brought pagan idols into God’s temple. That’s in 2 Kings 21. Read that story.
- Ezekiel had to stay lying on one side for 390 days, then turn over and lay on the the other side for 40 days. Man! He must have been sore! Could he get up? No! God tied him down.
Pastor Sandy Adams comments…
Ezekiel is being asked to put God’s command ahead of his religious training, and his own conscience. To make it easier for him he’s allowed to use cow poop (rather than human dung).
It’s interesting, usually our conscience is God’s tool to help us sort out right from wrong. But there are times when it becomes our enemy. The conscience is a body member that gets trained. Religious training, and a person’s upbringing – help to program our conscience. And at times we’re betrayed by our previous training.
Remember, much like Ezekiel, Peter had been trained by a legalistic Jewish heritage. He too, was raised kosher. This is why it surprised Peter when God called him to a picnic where everything on the menu was unclean (Acts10). When God told Peter to “kill and eat.” He balked, “not so, Lord.” God went on to show Peter that He could change the rules when need be. What once was considered unclean, God now deemed proper. And if God could do this with foods, He could also do it with people. Though the Gentiles had been considered unclean in times past, God was cleansing them now through the cross of Jesus. God was doing a new work to bring unclean Gentiles into His family.
And like Peter and Ezekiel, if you’ve ever lived under strict, legalistic training there may come a time when your conscience works to oppose the grace of God. When that time comes it’s vital to remember 1 John 3:20, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” (NKJV) When your conscience contradicts God’s grace, listen to God not your conscience! “God is greater than our heart.”Sandy Adams
God made the rules — He can change the rules.
Jesus’ Going Above and Beyond
Of all the people in the Bible, Jesus was the one who really went above and beyond! Sure, laying on his side for 430 days must have been extremely uncomfortable. Yet, that doesn’t top what Jesus did for us on the cross. He was betrayed, whipped, tortured, and suffered excruciating pain on the cross. In fact, the word “excruciating” comes from crucifixion in attempts to describe indescribable pain.
What are you waiting for?