In the fourth chapter of Ezekiel The Lord told Ezekiel to do some things that would represent the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army and the resulting famine, the continued years of captivity. God told the prophet to take a brick and engrave Jerusalem upon it. He was then using the brick to represent the city to build a representation of a siege against her.
Even in captivity the Israelites were very prideful people. They still thought God would not let anything happen to Jerusalem. So God used Ezekiel to show them this was not the case. And The Lord had Ezekiel do more. He had him lie on his left side for 390 days to equal the number of years Israel would be punished. After the 390 days. Ezekiel would reposition himself to the right side and bear the punishment of Judah for 40 days to represent the number of years Judah would be punished. While there the Lord had him bound, unable to move and he would prophesy against the city.
During the Chaldean siege on Jerusalem which itself lasted about 390 days, Jerusalem suffered a terrible famine. They would have a terrible time getting both food and fuel during that time with the Chaldean army encamped all around the city not letting anything in or anyone out. The Lord told Ezekiel that during the 390 days of lying on his side, he would eat and drink only specific food and only specific amounts of it to represent the desperation of the people during the forced famine. Verses 9-13 describe it.
“And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them. During the number of days that you lie on your side, 390 days, you shall eat it. 10 And your food that you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from day to day you shall eat it.11 And water you shall drink by measure, the sixth part of a hin; from day to day you shall drink. 12 And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.” 13 And the Lord said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations where I will drive them.”
Ezekiel listened to each part of this and had to be thinking this was not going to be a good time. Set up a model of an army attacking a city, check. Lay outside unable to move for 14 months, check. Eat bread that is worse than the beggars eat, with only the smallest bit of water and pretend to like it, check. Cook it over human poop… Ezekiel put on the brakes. He said, “Whoa! Lord God, I’ve never defiled myself before, never.” So God answered his servant and conceded that he could use cow dung instead of human for cooking his bread.
Ezekiel was willing to handle the terrible circumstances of everything else, but when it came to what he saw as a sin, eating food cooked in such a dirty manner he couldn’t stomach the idea. He didn’t want to put anything unclean into his mouth. Now of course, if God tells us to do something it is good, and we know today it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person but what comes out of it. (Matthew 15:11). But Ezekiel only knew that he had lived a clean life and the idea of such defilement, the thought of sinning so grievously against The Lord was too much. But God was gracious to him and allowed Ezekiel to use cow dung instead.
God loves us deeply. He knows us perfectly. He knew Ezekiel too. He understood Ezekiel wasn’t complaining to complain. He truly couldn’t stand the idea of being unclean in God’s sight. He was willing to do as God asked him even though it would be horrible. But when it came to something that Ezekiel saw as a sin, he questioned God. And God was okay with it. He didn’t throw a lightning bolt at the prophet for his request. He said, ‘okay, I don’t want you to feel like you are hurting me and I don’t want the observers to believe you are unclean.’
If God asks you to do something and it goes against what you think is decent, you are allowed to say, ‘But God, this will hurt me.’ Maybe you feel drinking is very dangerous for your soul. And God has said, ‘Go into that bar and speak to the man playing pool.’ And as with Ezekiel, He may say, ‘Okay precious child, instead of going into that bar, you may go to the restaurant and I’ll send the man in there.’ But maybe as with Peter in Acts chapter 10, the Lord may say, ‘Do what I’ve said, if I said it is clean, it is.’
God is really cool like that. He knows you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows what you are capable of. He knows your gifts. He knows your flaws and weaknesses. He loves you. He loves you completely. If God tells you to do something, don’t you imagine, He’ll be with you through it?
He was with Ezekiel through the entire ordeal of laying on his side next to the model siege. It was uncomfortable, and I imagine painful. Ezekiel probably lost weight and more. But God was with him. The stubborn captive Israelites could look at him and think he was looney. But the self-righteous and sanctimonious among the onlookers couldn’t say, ‘Ezekiel is unclean and can’t be from the Lord.’
God not only knows you, He knows your audience. He will never ask you to sin. He will never ask you to cause someone else to sin. He will ask you to step out of your comfort zone though. He will ask you to trust Him and lean on Him.