Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 25 2019 - Ezekiel 3:12-4:8 – Jerusalem's coming judgment

Having commissioned Ezekiel to be his prophet, the glory of the Lord left him with the rumbling of wheels and wings. Ezekiel is left feeling bitter and angry as he considers the task he has been given and the opposition he will face. The Spirit transported him back to the river Kebar, returning him to the company of the exiles and to the place where he was to begin his ministry. There, like Job's comforters, Ezekiel sat silently among the exiles for seven days, deeply depressed.

Although we are not told of Ezekiel being transported away from the Kebar River to receive his vision, something like that must have happened – unless the transportation was spiritual rather than physical. We should also note that the "Tel Aviv" (meaning "mound of the flood"), mentioned here was by the River Kebar and should not to be confused with the Tel Aviv in Israel.

After seven days Ezekiel received a new word from the Lord; he is to act as a watchman over the people of Israel. When he sees someone who is living in disobedience to the Lord he is to warn them that they will die in their sins. If they turn from their sinful ways, the Lord will pardon them and they will live. But if Ezekiel sees people living in open rebellion against God and says nothing, they will still die in their sins but the Lord will hold Ezekiel accountable for their blood (v. 18).

A similar charge is given concerning those who are currently obedient to the Lord. Ezekiel is to warn them of the danger of turning away from the Lord. If Ezekiel fails to speak and they become rebellious, they also will die in their sins but Ezekiel will be held accountable for their blood.

We mentioned that Ezekiel had been taken into exile after the first Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, when King Jehoiachin, the royal family and prominent people of the land were taken off to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar appointed a puppet king, Zedekiah, in Jehoiachin's place. King Zedekiah's rebellion against the king of Babylon some nine years later would lead to a more serious siege of the city lasting two years with the destruction of both the city and the temple. Ezekiel chapters 4-24 are chiefly concerned with the judgment which God is about to execute against his rebellious city.

In the first eight verses of chapter 4 we see that Ezekiel is called to act out God's judgment against Jerusalem. First he makes a model of the city from clay and then lays siege to it. His model includes the devices that ancient armies used to capture walled cities: ramps built up against the walls to allow soldiers to stream in over the top; battering rams to force their way through the locked and barred gates. Israelites passing by would see what God planned to do to the city.

Ezekiel is told to lie on his left side for 390 days and then his right for 40 days, acting the part of one trapped in the sieged city. This drama, which must have attracted much attention, is to end with him prophesying against the city.

What are we to make of this passage? We are powerfully reminded here of the reality of God's judgment against his rebellious people. Our obedience towards God is not to be motivated primarily by fear but is to be the response of love towards the one who first loved us. Nevertheless, we should also be moved by a due regard for the holiness of our God and by a concern to live every part of our lives in glad submission to him.

But this passage also challenges us to consider our responsibility towards others. If we see people living in rebellion against God and say nothing to them, will we not have their blood on our hands? How can we speak to others of their need to repent and believe in ways that will win their attention and concern rather than immediate rejection?

Holy Father, make us like the Lord Jesus who spoke of your judgment against sin but also showed and told of your great love for sinners. Equip us by your Spirit to draw others to the Saviour that they might find life in him. Help us to break our silence in the face of a rebellious and dying world.

Peter Misselbrook