“Son of man, take a sharp sword.” Ezekiel was told to give himself a haircut and a shave with a dangerous weapon. He would act out the carnage that would soon come upon the people of Jerusalem. His hair would be used to give a picture of divine judgment. As the prophet was to split up the cut strands from his head and face into three piles, there would be three groups represented. The first third would “die of pestilence and be consumed of famine in your midst.” The second would “fall by the sword all around you.” God would scatter the final third “to all the winds” and He would “unsheathe the sword after them.”
A few stray hairs would be left over. In the parable these would be bound up “in the skirts” of the prophet’s robe. They would symbolize the small group of survivors, although even some of these would soon lose their lives. A few that lived on would suffer, but the Lord would use them for His own secret purposes in the generations to come. “From there a fire will come out into all the house of Israel.”
This would be the fate of Jerusalem and any surviving Jews in the days of the Babylonian Empire. God had set the city “in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.” Though Jerusalem had rebelled against His Law, the Lord had a plan for His servants who would live.
When Jesus spoke to Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 long after the days of Ezekiel, He testified to His own holiness and love. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Our only appeal to our Lord for His saving kindness must be based upon His mercy for repentant Law-breakers. We are like the tax collector in Luke 18:13 who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
It is a comfort to our souls that the Jesus who will one day come in judgment has called on His people to be agents of compassion. Remember what He said to those who opposed Him in Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Lord will not tolerate rebellion against His Word, yet He has chosen some to be recipients of His gracious favor. He will use His beloved children in every generation. Filled with the Spirit of holiness, they will be a powerful instrument of eternal love in the hands of the Almighty.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O Father, how can we dwell in Your presence? You demand righteousness, and there is much evidence that confirms that You are uncompromising concerning Your holy Law. Your people of old rejected Your statutes. They did not even act as well as the nations all around them who did not know You. The depth of the sin of Your chosen ones was obvious, and You withdrew from them. So many died. Your anger came upon them. Are we any better in Your church? Do we imagine that You have no claim upon our lives? Thank You for the cross and resurrection of Your Son, which is our only hope. May we never forget to be merciful to others, for You have been full of compassion toward us.