Summary: Once again, God give Ezekiel a dramatic presentation in order to communicate the fate of King Zedekiah and the nobles in Jerusalem. Ezekiel obeys and THEN is given the meaning of his visual aids.
VERSES 1-2: How to ruin your Spiritual Vision
God begins this prophetic cycle with a reminder that the people Ezekiel is ministering to are rebellious. Further, their lack of response to Ezekiel’s message is based on their spiritual insensitivity which was brought on by their rebellion. God tells Ezekiel that they could see if they chose to do so. He tells them that the people could hear if they wanted to. Their stubborn rebellion has created a situation where they don’t hear God or see His judgment coming upon them.
When the first Soviet Astronaut went out into outer space he declared that he did not see God evidenced everywhere. When the first American astronaut went into space he declared that he saw God evidence everywhere. What’s the difference? It was a matter of perspective.
These people were refusing to listen to God. They were refusing to recognize the judgment that was coming upon them was because of their sin. They refused to take responsibility for their sinful conduct. They were stuck in rebellion and refused to be moved from that position. God was reminding Ezekiel that he wasn’t a failure. It was the rebellion of the people that was causing Ezekiel’s message to fall on deaf ears.
The man of God can love God, get a Word from God, and proclaim it boldly under the unction of the Holy Spirit. People must be prepared to lay aside their own personal rebellion in order to apply the Word properly to their lives.
VERSES 3-7 Pack Your Bags
Ezekiel is once again given a message that would be acted out as a living visual aid to the prophetic words he was proclaiming. God told him to prepare his baggage as if he himself were going into exile (which he already was). His baggage was to contain only the barest essentials—a waterskin, a sleeping mat, and a bowl for food. Then in the evening he was to depart. While the people watched his odd behavior, he dug through a wall of a house. This was obviously a picture of those (Zedekiah and the nobles) who attempted to sneak out of Jerusalem through breaches in the wall and to flee the Babylonians. (They got caught, by the way). Ezekiel, in faith, is obedient to the Lord and did as he was commanded, though at the time, it may not have made a lot of sense to him.
VERSES 8-16 This shall be a Sign unto You
Isn’t it interesting that God did not tell Ezekiel the meaning of his visual aid until AFTER he had been obedient. The people, their curiosity raised, asked him what he was doing. Ezekiel then explains that the dramatic message was a declaration of what was coming onto the king and nobility in Jerusalem. Some scholars suggest that placing the bag over his face is symbolic of the blinding of Zedekiah, but I’m not certain it really means that. I think it means that the nobles and the king were still refusing to see what God was doing, even as they attempted to escape the siege at Jerusalem. I think it relates more to the opening verses of the chapter.
Once again, God states that His divine purpose is to demonstrate that He is the Lord. We also see (verse 16) a promise of the remnant that will be preserved.
The nobles in Jerusalem had been saying that everything was going to be okay. The crisis would soon be over and things could go back to normal. However, we see that God was telling them the opposite. In modern times, the political spin doctors try to create an attitude of peace and comfort, advising us that the many trials (the current economy here in 2011) and the military actions around the world will soon be over. Remember that we are told in the end times it is when the people cry out “Peace! And Safety” that sudden destruction falls.” It was not much different in Ezekiel’s time. The leaders wanted to put on a show of strength when they should have been repenting.
VERSES 17-20 Can’t I eat my meal in peace?
In this section, Ezekiel is commanded to act out the drama of the nervous eater. He was to demonstrate the turmoil of those who were going into exile, wondering if there would be another meal. They would travel from place to place seeking food.
Modern Americans don’t really know too much about the deprivations caused by war. It is difficult for us to truly grasp the scene in “Gone with the Wind” where Scarlett holds up one measly rotten scrap of food and declares boldly “As God is my witness I will never be hungry again.” We have people who are experiencing hunger in America, don’t read me wrong. But most Americans have no idea what it means to be hungry and wonder where the next meal will come from.