Being raised in Presbyterian circles, I have learned to worship a bit more traditionally than others. Typically we do not have movie clips in the middle of our sermons. It is fairly rare for us have dramas, plays or skits between the “Call to Worship” and the “Benediction.” Presbyterian worship is pretty simple. God talks to us; we talk back; God talks to us; we talk back, etc …
However, in our Scripture reading for today, Ezekiel is commanded by God to perform a monologue — a one person drama. We can read of this in Ezekiel 4.
“And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around. And you, take an iron griddle, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel. “Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment. So long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah. Forty days I assign you, a day for each year. And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared, and you shall prophesy against the city. And behold, I will place cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege. “And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them. During the number of days that you lie on your side, 390 days, you shall eat it. And your food that you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from day to day you shall eat it. And water you shall drink by measure, the sixth part of a hin; from day to day you shall drink. And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.” And the Lord said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations where I will drive them.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.” Then he said to me, “See, I assign to you cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.” Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, behold, I will break the supply of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. I will do this that they may lack bread and water, and look at one another in dismay, and rot away because of their punishment.
Ezekiel is to take sand, brick and kitchen utensils and act out the coming siege upon Jerusalem. Then, following his first dramatic presentation, he is to lay on his side for 430 days and eat scant food baked over cow refuse. Bottom line, Ezekiel is going to suffer. He is going to be mocked and believed to be out of his mind. Ministry for him is not going to be the sweet gig that many expect. However, one thing is certain; he will be heard. God is determined to get His message out loud and clear.
So what are we to do with this in the year 2013? We do not live in Judah or Israel. I do not plan on preaching from my side on a park bench in Falls Park this weekend. My food will be cooked by my wife in my comfortable house. When I lie on my side, it will only be to watch the football game following the upcoming Thanksgiving meal.
I would encourage us to see the love of God in this text. God is still incensed at sin. He is very angry, and his justice demands that he condemn the wicked. Hell is coming. However, before he lowers the heavenly fist and the rod of iron, he begs and commands his people to repent. He sends people like Noah to preach to his community; Lot to preach to his city; John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth to preach to their nation. God is holy and violent. However, God is also loving, patient and long-suffering. He loves to bestow mercy and grace upon the penitent. Every time we hear the message of God’s wrath and salvation, we should rejoice in the love of God who has sent such revelation our way.
I would encourage us to see the hardness or dullness of our of heart. Judah and Israel were hearing, but they were not listening. They had no desire to respond rightly to God’s messenger. What about you? As you read the Scriptures this week and attend your church services on Sunday, God will be addressing you. Are you hearing or listening? Are you ready to react and respond? Are you hungry to trust and obey? Or are you just going to mock the crazy minister and go on your merry way?
Therefore, why don’t we all pause now to rejoice in God’s grace. Special revelation is a gift from God that not all men receive. This email before you is one evidence of God’s special love for you. He is calling for you to worship and find refuge in him.
Additionally, why don’t we continue in prayer asking God to soften our hearts and remove the spiritual cobwebs from our brain. Day after day the message of Ezekiel was preached. Day after day the message of Ezekiel was ignored. If we are not careful, we will disregard that which is so readily present in our psuedo-Christian culture.
Scripture Reading for Thursday, November 14: Ezekiel 4-6; Hebrews 10:1-23
Scripture Reading for Friday, November 15: Ezekiel 7-9; Hebrews 10:24-39
Scripture Reading for Saturday, November 16; Ezekiel 10-12; Hebrews 11:1-19