Ezekiel –Fourth Movement
The Ezekiel study continues here. If you are viewing this blog for the first time, this is the continuation of a series. By scrolling down, you can find the beginning of it.
Fourth Movement: the Apportioner of Punishment
In this last specific symbol, Ezekiel is asked to participate by symbolizing the Lord in His deliberate meting out of punishments to the people. Apparently the command to shave all the hair off his head and face came before Ezekiel began his other symbols of besieging the city. Just as Ezekiel would “store up” the hairs until after the days of fasting and lying on his side, so the Lord would “store up” the punishments for the people: predetermined rations of burning, scattering, and slaughter.
Ezekiel is told to do his shaving with a sword, not a razor. This is reminiscent of what Isaiah predicted in 7:20 when he spoke of a hired razor from beyond the Euphrates, the king of Assyria, who would figuratively shave the manhood from the nation (see 2 Samuel 10:4, Isaiah 7:20.) But in this symbol, God makes it unmistakable that God will be the true agent of the action, impelling the king to act just as God impels Ezekiel. The unnaturalness of shaving with a sword reflects the non-natural way that God will unmistakably bring judgment to the people. Just as Jerusalem has been unmistakably favored and chosen by the Lord, their rejection of Him will bring unmistakable and unspeakable horrors in judgment. Most chilling of all is the pronouncement: “I Myself am against you, Jerusalem.”
It is significant that no avenue for repentance is offered in this image. Though his listeners would watch the strange actions of a man shaving with a sword, publicly measuring out the hairs on a scale, and then storing them for the day that he would lay a third on the clay tablet and burn them, strike a third with the sword he”‘d shaved them off with, and scatter the other third to the winds, God knew this would have no effect on their hearts. Even some of the few hairs tucked away in the fold of Ezekiel”‘s garment would suffer from the raging fire””the proximity of judgment ; and those pitifully few faithful who would be kept from the force of the judgment would nonetheless be called, as was Ezekiel, as participatory agents in the wholesale destruction.
“¢ When God calls someone to participatory judgment the focus is on the people under judgment, not the symbol portraying the action of the judgment. We do not read of this set of actions bringing anything we would think of as salutary to Ezekiel. Though his actions were divinely designed to bring attention and to cause comment, we might conclude that nothing about the enacted symbols was to bring anything to Ezekiel personally””no public affection nor acclaim, no hailing of himself as a prophet””except the personal satisfaction of obedience.
“¢ Also when God calls someone to participatory judgment, the result of the action is a primary focus on God Himself as agent, and not on any participatory factor. Throughout the book of Ezekiel, the phrase, “and then they will know that I am God” is repeated 62 times. When God acts in such judgment, any vindication of the prophet who foretold the destruction is merely ancillary, not the point of the prophecy. Thus a person who is called to act as a symbol must not ever harbor hope of personal vindication from any source but God; and that perhaps only in heaven.
“¢ A person called to be a symbol must be unflinching in the message that just as God can lavish favor on those who are obedient to Him, making their lives a showcase for the world; so will He also publicly withdraw His favor and even His pity and protection (5:11) from those who act out of their own willfulness in rejecting a message. The number of active verbs in the last part of chapter 5 are breathtaking: “I will inflict punishment,” “I will scatter,” “I will withdraw my favor,” “I will pursue with drawn sword,” “I will make you a ruin,” “I will shoot to destroy you,” “I will send famine and wild beasts against you,” “I will bring the sword against you.” When He relents, it will be only because the full cup of His wrath and anger has been emptied.