Ezekiel 5:1-17 (NIV) 1 “Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. 2 When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair with fire inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword. 3 But take a few strands of hair and tuck them away in the folds of your garment. 4 Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up. A fire will spread from there to the whole house of Israel. 5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. 6 Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees. 7 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you. 8 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. 9 Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. 10 Therefore in your midst fathers will eat their children, and children will eat their fathers. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds. 11 Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will withdraw my favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. 12 A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword. 13 “Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath upon them, they will know that I the LORD have spoken in my zeal. 14 “I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. 15 You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I the LORD have spoken. 16 When I shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you. I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food. 17 I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the LORD have spoken.”
On verses 1-17: Here comes another object lesson from Ezekiel, given to catch the attention of the spiritually calloused Israelites. Ezekiel senses God telling him to shave his head and beard with a sharp sword. He is to burn one third of the shavings inside the city. He is to take another third and strike it with the sword, doing this all over the city. He is also to take the last third of his hair shavings and scatter them to the wind. All of these actions were to symbolize how, as punishment for their persistent disobedience and idolatry, God would give the Israelites over to famine (possibly symbolized by the fire), military attack (symbolized by the sword), and to wild beasts and disease (symbolized by the wind). The reference in verse 10 to fathers eating their children and children eating their fathers is talking about how severe the famine would become that the Israelites would resort to cannibalism.
“How could a loving God do this to His own people?” you may ask. It is worth noting that for centuries God repeatedly and with great clarity warned the Israelites that they should expect such consequences if they continued to disobey Him and persist in rebellion and idolatry. See, for example, Deuteronomy 28 where Moses warns the people of all the problems they could expect to come upon them if they disobey. In his final song before his passing, Moses even includes this prophetic warning to the Israelites in the event that they followed after other gods: 23 “I will heap calamities upon them and spend my arrows against them. 24 I will send wasting famine against them, consuming pestilence and deadly plague; I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts, the venom of vipers that glide in the dust. 25 In the street the sword will make them childless; in their homes terror will reign. Young men and young women will perish, infants and gray-haired men.” (Deuteronomy 32:23-25)
What can we learn from this? God’s wrath against sin is real. However, this passage also hints at the mercy that God is willing to show His people. When God tells Ezekiel to “take a few strands of hair and tuck them away in the folds of your garment” (v3), this is a picture of how God would preserve a remnant of the Israelites and have mercy on them.
Likewise, you and I have been shown similar compassion and mercy. The Bible says that all of us have sinned against God and deserve a similar fate as the Israelites in Ezekiel 5: to be abandoned by the very God whom we abandoned when we sinned (Romans 3:23 and 6:23-24). Yet thankfully our story does not end there. In His great mercy and grace, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to take the ultimate punishment for our sins so that we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. God exhausted His holy and just wrath against sin at the cross where Jesus died, so that He can look upon all those who trust in His Son’s atoning sacrifice with mercy and compassion.
In other words, you and I have a choice. We can either be torn apart by God’s wrath or we can be tucked away in His mercy.
Just as God told Ezekiel to take a few hairs and tuck them in the fold of his garment, through faith in Jesus Christ we are tucked away in the fold of Jesus’ garment of righteousness, hidden away from God’s wrath.
Heavenly Father, You are a God whose holiness is great and whose wrath against sin is real. Thank You that Your mercy and grace are as real as Your wrath. Thank You that while we were sinners, Christ died for us, took on the punishment for our sins, so that we can be forgiven and reconciled to You. Thank You that through Jesus Christ we can know You not only as the One who warns against sin and punishes sin, but who saves us from sin too. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!