Ezekiel as the Second, Third and Fourth Symbols
Thank you so much Noel, Celeste, and Amber for your supportive comments on previous postings regarding this series on Ezekiel. I will be out of town for 10 days so it may be a while before I can post more. For that reason, I am posting three new symbols.
Second symbol: The Silent Man
When Ezekiel was conveyed by the Spirit back to the banks of the Kebar River, he was taken back to the site of his first vision. There he sat for seven days in complete silence. The other captives could see that something extraordinary had happened to him. Though different translations vary on whether it was Ezekiel who was “overwhelmed” (NIV) or it was the watching captives in whom his behavior “caused consternation,” (NASB), the fact remains that it was an emotion-charged seven days in which the bitterness of spirit that Ezekiel felt and his anger matched the emotions of the Lord who had determined to bring a disaster onto the people among whom Ezekiel sat.
“¢ One who carries the message of the Lord is often called upon to enter into the same set of emotions that God Himself has when He sees a situation. Just as the angels who brought a glad message to the shepherds about the birth of the Savior were joyful, a painful message brings the bearer pain as well.
“¢ Sometimes silence, not just preaching, must be learned and practiced. Because silence is such a remarkable quality””one which is noticed sometimes more than speech””it can be an effective means of communication about the severity of a situation.
“¢ The last sound Ezekiel heard before he was literally spirited away from the sapphire throne room was the loud rumbling sound of the wheels and the whisper of angelic wings brushing against one another. Those were the devices powered by, and led by, the Spirit. He himself was to become a device for conveying the things of God, and the echo of those sounds in his ear must have brought him encouragement, for he would have known that just as the Spirit took leadership there, just as the Spirit exerted power in conveying him back to Babylon, so He would take leadership over this newest bearer of the things of God.
“¢ Perhaps another reason that Ezekiel might have felt overwhelmed was that “the strong hand of the Lord was upon him.” As we will continue to see, such direct guidance by the Lord involves being silent when He wants silence to convey a message.
The third symbol: The Watchman
In this symbol, the personal responsibility of Ezekiel to the message is highlighted. He, not the people, is the sole focus. His neglect of the role of watchman will doom not only the people, but himself personally. Ezekiel could thus avoid his own condemnation and that of his listeners through the same act of prophesying faithfully what was given to him.
“¢ Salvation of others””which would always be the primary purpose of prophecy on human behavior; and the glorification of God””which would always be the primary purpose of prophecy on the human mind””have a personal impact on one who is called to be a symbol. His disobedience to the faithful conveying of the message would cost him his life.
“¢ God can and will put something called “a stumbling block” in the path of a righteous man who has turned to evil. On the one hand, such an impasse could cause a man of little will to change, to become stymied and locked into his path of wickedness. For a man who retained spiritual sensitivity, such a stumbling block would serve as a “chastening reminder” of the Lord”‘s direct involvement in his life, and cause him to re-evaluate and change. Someone who is called to be a symbol before the world, then, would be able to help a backslidden but essentially righteous person to see that the stumbling block in his or her life is there because of the care and attention of a Lord who wants the sinner to return and live.
The fourth symbol: The Restrained Personality
In chapter 3:24, the hand of the Lord is again upon Ezekiel, but this time it is under his own power that he is told to go to the plain. Ezekiel is once again able to see the immense glory of the Lord, just as he had seen by the Chebar River. Since there is little description of this event, it is easy to pass over; but perhaps Ezekiel needed another “dose” of the glory of God, a reaffirmation of His power and majesty, to fortify him before the institution of the next symbolic act.
In this symbolic act, Ezekiel is told to subjugate all his natural tendencies before the Lord as a symbol. Though he is filled with the same anger and bitterness that God Himself feels toward His faithless people, Ezekiel cannot act upon those feelings. His restraints are seen in three symbols: He will be confined to his home, he is going to be bound with ropes, and his tongue will stick to the roof of his mouth. All of these are restraints against his personal reaction to the people””you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, though they are a rebellious house.” Only when the Lord directs can he tell them what they are to know.
“¢ The Lord wants intimate and personal control over the language of people who are to be symbols to others. Even though someone might share in the same emotions as the Lord””and might feel as fervently dedicated to their salvation and disgusted by their sins””such a person does not have the freedom to react to their sin. A symbol must inherently put the direction of the Lord above personal reactions (even when those reactions are the same as the Lord”‘s.) He must wait until the Lord authorizes speech.
“¢ Someone called to be a watchman and any type of symbol must never confuse his consciousness with that of the Lord”‘s. In other words, just because you may feel about a situation the same way the Lord does, does not necessarily authorize action that isn”‘t directed by the Lord.
“¢ The ropes, home confinement, and inability to speak were all protections for Ezekiel so that he could be assured that he would not act out of his own consciousness or naturality, but only under the direction of the Lord. Though they might be thought of as the direct action of others on him (“they will bind you with ropes”) Ezekiel was to see them as instruments of God. (In a similar way, Joseph of the Old Testament was able to say to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “You didn”‘t send me to Egypt, God did.”)
“¢ We can see a progression, an ever-tightening restraint upon a symbol. First he is unable to leave his home””no personal latitude. Then his body is restrained””no autonomy. Then even his tongue is stilled””no ability to represent. But again, such must be seen as the protection and refining of the Lord, no matter what the agent by which they come.
“¢ Then the Lord gives back the ability to represent, but only under his authority. When the symbol, the servant of the Lord, has undergone such a process, he will be purified in speech, because he will be better able to compare and distinguish his own consciousness and naturality from the messages from the Lord. Restraint, then, would give a person a basis for comparison. Thus a period of restraint””physical, verbal, or otherwise””would have to be viewed as a time of teaching and refining by the Lord.
“¢ When speech is finally restored, the message must be conveyed faithfully without assessing of results by the message bearer. There is an air of inevitability in the Lord when He says, “whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house.” Also inherent in the way God refers to Ezekiel”‘s listeners is his characterization of them as “a rebellious house.” Though hope for individuals is held out by the message, the corporate body is rebellious by nature.