Few have a life like Ezekiel, or are called by God to do the strange things God asked him to do. In Chapter 4 of Ezekiel, God wants Ezekiel to get the point of the seige God is going to let happen to Jerusalem by acting out physically to represent the sin of Israel and Judah. He is to lay on his side for 390 days “the same number of days as the years of their sin” to represent Israel’s waywardness, and then turn over and lay on his other side for 40 days (Judah hadn’t been in existence long enough to sin as many years). While he is on his side, he was allowed to eat 8 oz of multigrain bread and 2/3 quart of water. That is quite a fast, and it wouldn’t allow him to do much else. This shows us the very important gravity of sin in God’s eyes. We often don’t take our sin very seriously.
But these reqired practices also remind us of how God often asks us to use our bodily posture to allign with our hearts. Sometimes getting into a particular posture can make us feel a certain way. Crouching in a football stance can make one feel ready to pounce at someone, curling up in a fetal position can make one feel helpless, bowing down on the ground with your face to the ground makes you feel submissive– this is why so many people around the world (especially muslims) pray with this posture.
We can see this importance of physical in other ways as well– it is important, according to the Bible, to get together with other believers on a regular basis. That person-to-person contact, and the frustrations and joys it brings, are important to us spiritually. Singing out loud with our voices can help our heart and head allign in the right way. Praying together in unison prayers of liturgy allows us to physically display the unity that we know we should be feeling with the Body of Christ (the Church). Fasting (like Ezekiel) makes our sin real, and makes us discipline our body to be subservient to our wills and spirit.
So God asks Ezekiel to lay on his side and eat next to nothing for 430 days. Most of us could already think of reasons to object…but not Ezekiel. What really gets Ezekiel is how he is to cook his bread in the sight of all the people of Israel: “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.” But this is just too much for Ezekiel– “Not so, Sovereign Lord! I have never defiled myself.” Ezekiel can deal with the laying on his side and eating little barley cakes and little water for over a year. But please– no cooking with Human excrement!
So, God, mercifully– relents. He compromises with Ezekiel. That alone is an interesting fact. We think that to be Godly is not to compromise, not to relent, not to alter what once we have committed to. But God here, as he does in other situations (Abraham, Lot, Moses, David, etc) is willing to give Ezekiel a break and cut a deal– (would that our politicians could discover the godly practice of compromise). “Very well,”God said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.” Sometimes, as the famous popular Poet and Songwriter Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones said, “you can’t always get what you want– but you get what you need.” Evidently, Ezekiel is happier with this compromise to cook with cowpies instead of the human-kind.
Stories like these are why I love the Old Testament so much. If you don’t spend time reading in the first 2/3 of the Bible, I would strongly encourage you to give it a shot. Its very interesting, and there is a lot to learn here.
May God have mercy on us all…