“And I did so as I was commanded: I brought forth my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the even I digged through the wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon my shoulder in their sight.” — Ezekiel 12:7
My youth camp counselor told our cabin group of fifth-graders that for the next few minutes, each of us would take a turn silently acting out a Bible account or character, and the others would guess what or who we had portrayed. When my turn came, I chose one of my favorite accounts: the Gospel coming to the Gentiles, as recorded in Acts chapter 10. First, I got down on my knees with my hands together to show Cornelius in prayer. Then I moved to another spot and stood with my arms out to illustrate the angel appearing to him. Next, I went to the other side of the room and, while kneeling in a praying position, drew an invisible cloud above my head to symbolize Peter’s vision. I continued with a step-by-step portrayal of the whole account.
Though I’m not a particularly dramatic person and my shyness made me nervous about performing in front of people, I thought I had done fairly well. Yet, every one of my peers responded in exactly the same way: a blank stare of utter bewilderment! No one even attempted a guess, and when I told them the answer, they didn’t seem to have even a vague recollection of that account. It seems I had learned that particular Bible story at home rather than at Sunday school. Of course, it probably wasn’t the best account to dramatize, since the number of characters involved would make it tricky for any one person to act out. It certainly was a challenge for a rather reserved fifth-grader!
The first visual illustration Ezekiel acted out in this chapter was much more conducive to a single actor. God instructed him to hastily pack during the day as if he were going into exile, and then dig a hole in the wall of his house and escape through it once it was dark. However, it seems Ezekiel’s audience was nearly as befuddled as my young friends were, so God also gave the prophet a detailed explanation to convey. Later in the text, Ezekiel was given a further dramatization and explanation to communicate: he was to shake and tremble as he ate to show the terrible fear the people would experience during the upcoming siege of Jerusalem.
Why would God instruct Ezekiel to deliver His messages in such a visual manner? A portion of verse 3 in our text indicates the answer: “It may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house.” That is a cautionary word for us today. God can speak to us in a number of ways. In whatever manner His communication comes, we don’t want to be “rebellious” people that the Lord must take drastic measures to reach. We want to consider carefully every message God has for us and be obedient to His instructions. Like Ezekiel in our focus verse, we want to be able to say, “I did so as I was commanded.”
After the conclusion of the vision recorded in chapters 8-11, chapter 12 begins another section of Ezekiel’s prophetic work. In this text, Ezekiel was still at home as he prophesied and acted out Zedekiah’s upcoming flight from Jerusalem (verses 1-16), and demonstrated what the final days of the city’s siege would be like (verses 17-20).
In verse 2, the “rebellious house” alluded directly to the exiles among whom Ezekiel was living. His dramatizations and messages had made no impression upon them. Because of their unchanged hearts, God gave Ezekiel instructions for yet another visual illustration to be acted out in front of the people.
“Stuff for removing” in verse 3 referred to what a person would take into exile when hastily preparing without prior notice, and items that could be easily carried when traveling rapidly. The items were to be packed during the day, in the presence of the elders. Verses 4-12 reveal how King Zedekiah would flee Jerusalem. Ezekiel was to start his dramatization at evening by creating a hole in what likely was an exterior wall of his home’s courtyard. He was to leave his home through that hole under cover of darkness.
When the elders questioned the meaning of his actions, the prophecy was explained (verses 8-16). In verse 10, the “prince in Jerusalem” referred to King Zedekiah. Ezekiel’s actions showed that Zedekiah would sneak from the city during the night hours. (The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in 2 Kings 25:4 and Jeremiah 39:4.) He would depart by a lower gate between two city walls, as indicated by Ezekiel’s hole in the wall. The covered face indicated Zedekiah’s disguise as he tried to escape. Ezekiel’s inability to see the ground represented Zedekiah’s never again seeing the land of Israel, because upon his capture by Nebuchadnezzar, his eyes would be put out.
Zedekiah’s helpers and advisors who tried to escape with him would be scattered. The word scatter in the phrase “I shall scatter them among the nations” in verse 15 is translated elsewhere as winnow. Except when literally referring to grain, the word generally alludes to God’s extreme judgment. The “few” who remained in the land would be spared so that they would testify confirming the fulfillment of God’s prophecy.
In verses 17-20, Ezekiel’s eating and drinking with quaking, trembling, and carefulness foreshadowed the famine, scarcity of water, and deep fear that would exist in the city during the siege.
II. The condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem
C. The cause of Judah’s destruction
1. The signs of Judah’s condemnation (12:1-20)
a. The sign of the prophet’s baggage (12:1-16)
(1) The instruction of the prophet (12:1-6)
(2) The action of the prophet (12:7)
(3) The lesson from the prophet (12:8-16)
b. The sign of the prophet’s trembling (12:17-20)
(1) The instruction of the prophet (12:17-18)
(2) The lesson from the prophet (12:19-20)
We want to pay careful attention to the Biblical lessons we are given, and then be willing and obedient to follow them.