Ezekiel Study Resumes
I am back from my trip, in which I was able to accomplish quite a bit of writing and thinking.
Here is the continuation of the study of Ezekiel: The Creation of a Man as a Symbol.
If you would like to see the beginning of this study, continue to scroll down until you find the first post of the study.
FIFTH SYMBOL: SUITE OF SYMBOLS CONCERNING THE FALL OF JERUSALEM (CHAPTERS 4 AND 5)
We could properly say that the next set of symbols serve as a suite, or interconnected and ordered arrangement of images that Ezekiel will personify with his bodily actions. Just as a musical suite has one theme but several movements, we will consider each of these separate actions as “movements” within the suite of the image of the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem. It seems that during these “movements” literally only movement is allowed as Ezekiel is apparently still under the heavy hand of the Lord to keep his mouth incapable of speech.
“¢ Thus the destruction of the city would not be by words, but by actions accompanied by the implacable silence of God. We can generalize that though God is patient to warn about coming destruction so as to urge repentance; once He moves toward destroying, His time for speaking will end as His actions become both His present speech (and the fulfillment of His past words.)
“¢ Ezekiel never had the privilege, apparently, of serving in the priestly role of representing the people to God. Unlike Moses and Paul, both of whom expressed to God that they would die themselves for the sake of the rebellious Jews; Ezekiel was a noncommutative image of God to the people””not of the people represented before God. Perhaps we might generalize that certain people are chosen by God to represent Him and His will before the people, while the majority of Christians through intercessory prayer serve as a nation of priests, representing and serving as advocates of each other before God. This might be a distinguishing quality of one who is called to be a symbol””perhaps he or she would be more message-oriented and less of what we might call a “people person”?
First movement: The Agent of Siege
In this image, Ezekiel was to draw the outline of the city of Jerusalem upon a clay tablet, and then to construct both siege works, attacking camps, and battering rams against it. He was then to place an iron pan between himself and this model of the city, and to turn his face toward it.
This action was intended not to be done in private, but to be displayed to the people around him, to become a “sign to the house of Israel.” We do not read of the reaction of the people to this or to subsequent symbols””perhaps because their hearts are too hardened; perhaps they think Ezekiel odd or demented; or perhaps because they are hundreds of miles away from the scene he describes and do not believe it will affect them.
“¢ The completeness of the besieging of the city suggests the completeness of the fully-ripened purposes of God when He decides upon destruction. The siege works would have been towers to look over Jerusalem”‘s walls so that no action there would have been undetected. The ramps would provide access up and over the walls when completed. The camps around it would cut off communication from possible sources of aid and of essential food and supplies. And finally, the battering rams would forcefully push the walls on which they depended for safety down upon them. We might generalize that just as God is careful in giving people multiple opportunities through many messengers to repent; so also He will be careful to strategize their destruction. This would be not only as recompense for individual rebellion, but also as a sign of the justice of God to others.
“¢ The iron pan would signify the barrier between the people and their God. Just as Isaiah would say, “Your sins have separated you from you God,” so when God enacts judgment does He take a different posture in which justice and judgment overwhelm the many ignored pleas to accept His mercy. One who is called to be a symbol must recognize the urgency of his task: to get people to understand the consequences of barriers between themselves and the God who stands ready to save them””but only up to a point.
“¢ Ezekiel was not permitted to just passively symbolize. He was commanded to turn his face toward the scene of destruction he had constructed, and to pantomime out the actions. Surely it must have been painful to not be able to turn away from the scene. Perhaps this is one of the characteristics of one called to be a symbol: He is not allowed to escape the sight of destruction””perhaps so that he will be committed to salvation if possible.
“¢ Ezekiel was asked to symbolize the agent of destruction. Just as when he was told that he must symbolize a watchman to warn the people, now he is put in the Lord’s role of destroying them when they have not repented. We might generalize that when a symbol is asked to symbolize a role of destruction on behalf of the Lord, that while he would realize that he himself is not strictly agential he would nonetheless be participatory. Just as he could rejoice when someone would turn from their wickedness and be saved–he might say, “I helped save that person”–he would also have to realize that when someone was destroyed, he helped in their destruction. This implies an increase of burden, not only of responsibility, but of emotion, of the one called to be a symbol.