I’ve got some visual aids today. I want to paint a very clear picture of what we see here that God calls Ezekiel today. But I will NOT be TOO thorough with the visual aid. Somethings, as we will find out – Ezekiel wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. But as we dig into Chapter four we will understand the prophecy God has for Jerusalem and the lengths God will go to in order to get his point across.
Lets begin with a easy start, Ezekiel 4:1-3
“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
Now if you know me, you know I’ve worked with kids for a while and I have enjoyed it! I find Lego to be such a great medium for communicating messages. Here we have the stand in for the “Clay chunk” that God called Ezekiel to draw on. When I read it, it sounds like he probably made a 2-d drawing in this hunk of clay…but then built some ladder towers – siege works to get over the walls. What’s a siege work? In The Lord of the Rings film, “The Two Towers” at the battle of Helm’s Deep. They were big moving towers that allowed the invader to attack – sometimes very well protected from arrow fire. But the Idea is clear: Siege works= invasion, city taken by force.
So it starts of a bit weird. The Prophet draws some representative stuff, maybe you figure it out that it’s jerusalem…but then he gets his frying pan out…does THIS [put pan between self and city) and they’re like “he’s really losing it.”
Ezekiel is to put his PAN between his face and the clay Jerusalem. This kicks off the besieging of the city.
Well if you are joining Ezekiel’s original audience, thinking he was going crazy, you haven’t seen anything yet! Let’s look again at Ezekiel, starting at verse 4:
“Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.
6 “After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. 7 Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. 8 I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege.Ezekiel 4:4-8 NIV
How awkward is that? Have you ever come across someone taking a nap? Not unusual if they are in their bed or in their recliner at home, but this demonstration is taking place IN THE OPEN! The prophet is to lie down on his left side for 390 days! That’s just over a year in our calendar. It says nothing of him getting up and moving around. Lay there for a year. Then flip over and lay on that side for 40 more days. God says he will tie up the prophet so he can’t go anywhere.
I don’t have to tell you, this is not that practical. Laying around for Over 13 months to make a point? What is the point? I’m missing it in all the craziness. Here’s the point: Jerusalem will be besieged.
That’s the beginning of the message anyway…but wait, there’s more. Before we go further (and perhaps you’ve read ahead in your bible) I’ve got a question for you…
What is the grossest thing you’ve ever eaten or been offered to eat?
- Jacki and I were at a retreat one time and we started preparing our own food. We didn’t want to be tempted with the treats at the retreat. So we found a recipe for cold Tomato Bisque. I had never intentionally had cold soup before. It was disgusting and we went hungry until we got home that night.
- Have you ever heard of Scorpions encased lollipops or Chocolate Crickets? I’ve heard of them too. Never eaten them, but I’ve heard of them.
- Beef Jerky – Did you know that some Beef jerky includes an ingredient called “Earthrobate?” That is dehydrated earthworms. Check your ingredients list next time you eat packaged food.
- [UPDATE: A little bit more research would have lead me to find out that earthrobate (i.e. erythorbate) is not made from dehydrated earthworms. I left this in my sermon post here to show I make mistakes and sometimes a little more research and little less hearsay can be a good thing for all of us. Check out Straight Dope Science Advisory Board for more details on this old myth.]
- What about BREAD? Does bread gross you out? For many of us, bread is a staple food we enjoy every day. But what if grossness had less to do wit the food itself and more to do with hope it was prepared.
Here’s what we are leading to from the continuation of this Prophecy through Ezekiel. God tells Ezekiel to…
9 “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. 10 Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. 11 Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. 12 Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people,Ezekiel 4:9-12a NIV
Let’s pause right there in the middle of verse 12 for a moment. God’s giving Ezekiel a recipe. How he will have the nutrition to survive over a year of just laying out in public, carrying the sins of the people on his side. This recipe is actually the inspiration for a real bread product called “Ezekiel Bread.” I stock this bread at work, I have bought it and eaten it myself. He’s told to weigh it out, one to get the ratio’s right and two 2) so not to run out. I mean this is going to be his only food for 13 months (I hope that storage jar is air tight and very…very large.) Not only that, but he’s told to weigh out 20 shekels of food to eat each day – that’s only 8 oz! At least he can drink about a half liter of water each day. It’s not much, but’s what God’s telling him to last on during his demonstration.
- That’s all well and good. Small loaf of bread, little bit of water…but verse 12 leaves us hanging. “…bake it in the sight of the people..” what comes next?
- In your easy bake oven? Over a little campfire made of sticks and coals? If not that, what then? God continues to say that Ezekiel is to bake this loaf using…
“ ‘… human excrement for fuel.’ 13 The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”Ezekiel 4:12b-13 NIV
Perhaps you’ve seen and heard a lot of gross things. This part in verse 12 really is a new standard in gross verses in the bible. Perhaps during the instructions for this siege, Ezekiel wondered where he was going to “go the bathroom.” God said “use that as fuel.” Ewww!!!
Let’s pause for a moment or two to perhaps get that gross image out of our head. Let’s think of a simpler time. A time when, if you dropped a cookie, piece of chocolate or some popcorn on the floor you’d quickly bend down, rescue the lost snack food, maybe blow on it and then munch it down. This is known as the “Five-second Rule.”
Some people hold to this rule, believing that if you can rescue your snack in less than 5 seconds, it’s like it never happened. Quickly picking it up and blowing on it, people believe, keeps it safe from germs and bacteria.
Oh don’t forget the favorite saying: “God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt.”
I heard that especially now during a time of inflation and food costs going way up, the time limit has been raised from a 5 second to a 10 second rule.
There haven’t been many scientific studies, but there’s at least been two that have been peer-reviewed. Scientists and authors, Paul Dawson and Brian Sheldon put the five second rule to the test. In their 2006 Clemson University study, they
“(1) inoculated square samples of tile, carpet, and wood with a strain of salmonella; (2) dropped food on these surfaces; and (3) then measured the number of bacteria transferred from the surface to the food.”
The article I learned this from was an excerpt from their book, ”Did you Just Eat that?” Their conclusion is that when food is dropped on a contaminated surface, bacteria are almost immediately transferred. Depending on the type of food, (moist or sticky attract bacteria quicker) but in the end…if the surface you drop or set your food on isn’t clean…DON’T EAT IT!
That’s a lengthy set up for the following requirement that God has for Ezekiel. He requires him to do something detestable, gross involving the food he eats. It’s not for God’s enjoyment…but to better paint a picture of what will happen to the people of Israel.
“People will use human excrement to cook their food if they don’t obey God?”
Nope, that’s not the point. Ezekiel is grossed out by this prospect, regardless of the picture it would paint for the children of Israel and he lets God know he has concerns.
14 Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign Lord! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.”
15 “Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.”Ezekiel 4:14-15 NIV
For Ezekiel, to bake bread using human excrement would be defiling himself just as eating if he ate roadkill. It would be impure. Which is actually God’s point. But God agrees to give Ezekiel a second option and still fully follow his directions.
He can light cow pies on fire to bake his bread. Don’t ask me how this is somehow less defile-y or less gross, but it’s at least acceptable to God and Ezekiel.
God continues with the clear information to his prophet in verse 16.
16 He then said to me: “Son of man, I am about to cut off the food supply in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair, 17 for food and water will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin.Ezekiel 4:16-17 NIV
So here are the 2 consequences:
13 The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”
- The People will eat defiled food in exile
“…cut off the food supply in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water…” (4:16)
- Rationed food and water. Food supply cut off.
Echos in Acts – Defiled Food – Acts 10:9-16
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.Acts 10:9-16 NIV)
Here we see another strange sight. A man who has followed God, would not eat impure things, and yet the very voice of God is telling him to do so.
What’s more, Peter argues with the voice. Much like Ezekiel says “Hold up, wait a minute God. You want me to do WHAT? That would be making myself impure. I don’t want to do that. That’s against your laws.” Peter reminds the Lord how he’s never eaten anything impure or unclean. So in both situations the one God is speaking to has objections to the directions.
The part here is where these stories differ. Peter was seeing a vision while in a trance of sorts. That trance was to teach him something. With Ezekiel, he was given clear directions to be the vision or the image set before others.
The message remains the same – God will go to great lengths to communicate his messages.
Echos in Us
Has God ever used a grand demonstration, drastic situation, a confusing set of imperatives to teach you something? Maybe you can relate to these scenarios:
- God, I just got laid off. How am I supposed to pay my bills, buy groceries, keep my car running?
- Many parents have faced this in the last year and a half: “How am I supposed to stay home with my kids so they can do virtual school?! I’ve got a career. My spouse has a career. We can’t just work from home forever!
- Pastors and church leaders had to take a long hard look at their priorities and how to track them in the past year and a half.
- How am I supposed to know if our church is ministering to people, if it’s healthy if I don’t see people in church on Sunday? If they join us virtually by streaming the service online or listening to sermons later? What about Sunday School? Can’t have small group meetings if we are so spread apart.
- Perhaps the big thing in your life is the loss of a loved one. And it seemed that You wondered “What are you doing in the middle of all this God.” And as you wait for an answer, you ask again. And again. And Again. Until you hear something. That is prayer.
I hope God doesn’t have to get our attention by having some strange man take the weirdest public nap time ever or bake the grossest loaf of bread ever. I hope a sheet full of bats and snakes don’t have to fall from heaven for God to get our attention.
So what is it that God is using or has used to get your attention? Was it drastic and big or a still small voice? Comment below, I’d like to hear from you. If you have any thoughts about this post or how God has gone about using big demonstrations to get his point across, please share in the comments section.