Ezekiel was a man called by God to warn his people of the destruction and judgment that was to come. At this time, God's people were living in sin and disobedience. The rulers were misusing their power, the priests cared little about teaching God's law, the prophets lied about their visions. The people were leaving God for idols, taking bribes, stealing from one another, mistreating the needy, sleeping with their neighbour's wives, their daughter-in-laws, their sisters (Ezekiel chapter 22).

1. Attack a clay tablet

"...take a clay tablet, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it." - Ezekiel 4:1-2

The strange instructions were to be a warning to the people, presumably that Israel would be under siege.

2. Lying on one side without turning

"I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege." - Ezekiel 4:8

God instructs Ezekiel to lie on his left only for 390 days, and right only for 40 days, symbolising the years in which Israel and Judah will bear their sins.

3. Baking bread over human excrement

This was to warn Israel that they will eat defiled foods in the nations where they will be scattered. Ezekiel protests that he had never eaten unclean foods in his life, and God's response was:

"Very well," he said, "I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement." - Ezekiel 4:15

4. Lusting after the strong, handsome and powerful

"...she lusted after her lovers, the Assyrians - warriors clothed in blue, governors and commanders, all of them handsome young men, and mounted horsemen" - Ezekiel 23:5-6

God likens his people to two sisters, who shamelessly chased and prostituted themselves for other men, whilst he was their rightful husband. What a shocking allegory, with imageries of caressed bosoms, genitals which were like those of donkeys, and emission that were like those of horses (Ezekiel 23:20-21)! I cringe at even reading from the page; can you imagine having this allegory preached and explained one fine day at church?

5. Taking away life, for God's purposes

The craziest event yet. Ezekiel was carrying out what God had commanded him to do, and now, God tells him that his wife was to die. Immediately. Whilst the other events so far have been serious but so strange that it's almost amusing, this feels tragic and bewildering.

"Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes." - Ezekiel 24:16

Then, he is told not to mourn for her, in the customary way. Even more baffling, her death, and Ezekiel's response was to be a sign onto Israel for what will befall them. Faithfully, Ezekiel goes out and explains to the people the very next morning, how this was a warning for them.

Reading that, I feel quite sad, and troubled. Is it fair to take away a life of someone so precious to him to make a point onto a stubborn nation? Would I still follow God if something similar happened? How is it that Ezekiel did not give up in his ministry? I guess, he must have personally encountered God, and deeply understood who God was.

The crazy ways of God

It's tempting to ignore these quite bizarre stories of the Old Testament (by the way, The Bible Jesus Read is a helpful book in understanding what the Old Testament is about). But here, we see God's character for what it is - in loving patience, he calls on Israel again and again to turn away from idols, from sin, from a destructive way of life. In his holiness, God punishes and brings justice.

Ezekiel is given outrageous instructions, so that the prophet himself, in physical form and action, would graphically and loudly warn the people, about a judgment to come. God's roar is like that of a lion, which the people (and us also) would do well to fear and heed. Even knowing this, sometimes it still feels that God doesn't make sense, and what he says and does is craaaaaazy. Not to be irreverent though - he is creator, and sovereign, and as clay are not in the position to quarrel with the potter, neither will we quarrel with our maker, whose ways are above ours.



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