When was the last time you were truly stunned by something?
The one that sticks out in my mind the most happened when I was watching the season 2 finale of NCIS. It is one of two shows that I follow faithfully (yes, even pastors have their vices). I won’t give anything away for those of you who have yet to experience the full awesomeness of NCIS, but I was completely stunned for a couple of DAYS after that season finale. Just ask my wife.
As you read Ezekiel today, recognize that God instructs Ezekiel to use shock tactics in giving prophesies to the nation of Israel. These tactics would have certainly gotten the attention of his audience and left the people hearing Ezekiel stunned.
Let me explain. Ezekiel chapter 5. God instructs Ezekiel to publicly shave his head and beard with a sharpened sword (I can’t imagine the nicks he much have had afterward). Understand, there were very strict rules about hair and beards for the Jewish people (Leviticus 19:27, Deuteronomy 14:1) and even stricter rules for priests (Leviticus 21:5-6). Remember Ezekiel was a priest. For a priest to stand in public and shave his head and beard would have been scandalous and certainly would have gotten people’s attention.
Here is why: the shaving of your head and beard was a sign of humiliation, great sorrow or mourning. In this way, God was physically demonstrating to the people how he felt about the upcoming disaster that was going to fall on Jerusalem. God was in mourning over his people. What was going to happen to them, by the sword of Babylon, was breaking the heart of God.
Have you ever stopped to consider the lengths to which God goes to get our attention sometimes? Have you ever stopped to consider the depth of pain and sorrow God endures when we turn our back on him, live our lives as we choose and then suffer the consequences of our actions? While it is true that he never leaves us, it is also true that God will not (always) stop us from self-destructing (Romans 1:28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.)
One final thought about chapter 8. Have you noticed that when the going gets tough for the faithful remnant (we’ll talk about that topic a bit more in the days to come) those people who remain faithful to God despite what everyone else is doing, that God often shows up to them in special ways to keep them going. He did it for Moses when Moses was going to throw in the towel leading Israel. God did it for David after his sin with Bethsheba. And God does it here for Ezekiel. The burden of these prophetic messages of judgement must have weighed heavily on Ezekiel, but every once in a while God wild show Ezekiel His full glory as a way of keeping Ezekiel centered on God.
Remember, Ezekiel is all about having proper reverence for God, a reverence that comes as we fully appreciate God’s glory.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezekiel 9-12