In our study of Ezekiel chapter four, we see how God uses the actions of the prophet to warn His people of the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem. In chapter three, we saw God cause the prophet to be unable to speak with his mouth but he is going to act out the coming judgment as a warning. There were false prophets going around telling God's people that everything was going to be fine and that they were going to have peace and prosperity. In this setting, Ezekiel is called to tell the people the truth but he is told to do it in an unusual way.
'Now, son of man, 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.'
God gives the prophet specific instructions on what to do to demonstrate the coming destruction of the city. The clay tablet was basically a brick of dried clay that they used at the time because they did not have paper. In a siege, the enemy would surround a city and sorta starve the residents out. A ramp would be built up to the city gates and a big pole would be used to beat down the gates. God was using this to let the people see that the city was going to be attacked even though the other "prophets" were predicting peace and prosperity. The same type of thing is going on today as many just tell the people what they want to hear and do not warn them that, like Jerusalem, judgment is coming to all the earth. This is what Peter was talking about, in 2 Peter 3, when he speaks of the scoffers in the last days.
'Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel.'
In our day of advanced materials, iron may not seem like a big deal but, in the Ezekiel's day, iron weapons were unbeatable. God has him to continue acting out His judgment by symbolizing a siege. This was a picture to tell the people that God had made up His mind and it was unchangeable. This is a lesson for us too as many think that we can go on doing whatever we want with no regard for the will of God. God has surrounded us with reminders of Him much like the siege works described. All of creation testifies to the fact that God exists and is in control.
'Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the house of Israel.'
Imagine a man going out and laying in the street for over a year. That is what God had Ezekiel do as a symbol to the people of the northern kingdom (Israel). This was a witness to Israel of the patience of God and even though judgment was coming He had been patient as He allowed them 390 years of rebellion.
'After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.'
The right side is the position of inheritance and honor. God told Ezekiel to lay in the street on his right side a day for each year that Judah has rebelled (sinned against God). Judah refers to the southern kingdom where Jerusalem (the city of God) was located. Israel had rebelled for 390 years and Judah had been influenced by them and gone astray as well. This lasted for forty years before God decreed judgment on them for their rebellion. From this, we can learn that it matters who you choose to associate with as they can influence you and your walk with the Lord.
'Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. 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.'
God bound Ezekiel with ropes to demonstrate the fact that He would not change His mind about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. We have all heard about God's love and are grateful for it but we also must remember that God is just and will deliver judgment at the appointed time. This is like what Peter was talking about in his second letter to believers. (see 2 Peter 3)
'Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times.'
God even gave Ezekiel instructions on how he was to eat and drink during his prophecy. He lists the food and it is interesting to note that it is three groups of two things each. We remember from our studies that the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will while the number two is the number of witnessing. With this in mind, we can see that God is going to use this diet to testify against the people.
'Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.' The Lord said, 'In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.'
Nobody would want to eat food that has been cooked over a fire of human waste but God is warning His people that it is going to happen. When God removes His blessing from the people they will do whatever they have to do in order to survive. God is the same today in that, if we continue to disobey, He will remove His blessing from us as well. He does it not to punish us but to draw us back closer to Him.
Then I said, 'Not so, Sovereign Lord! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has entered my mouth.'
Ezekiel does not want to do what God said and we have probably all been there as well. When we don't want to do what God says, it is usually because of our own selfish desires. That is not the case in this verse as we see that his reason is that he has never dishonored God in this way and does not want to start now.
'Very well,' he said, 'I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.'
There are those that say that God does not change His mind but, as we see with this verse, God does listen to us and will change His mind sometimes.
He then said to me: 'Son of man, I will cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair, for food and water will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin.'
God is going to cut off the supply of food and water from Jerusalem since they did not give Him the glory for providing it. They will look at each other and be shocked at the sight of what happens when God removes His hand of blessing.