By Michael Fitzpatrick

A Reading from Ezekiel 4:1-17

1 And you, O mortal, take a brick and set it before you. On it portray a city, Jerusalem; 2 and put siege-works against it, and build a siege-wall against it, and cast up a ramp against it; set camps also against it, and plant battering-rams against it all round. 3 Then take an iron plate and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; set your face towards it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel.

4 Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it; you shall bear their punishment for the number of the days that you lie there. 5 For I assign to you a number of days, three hundred and ninety days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment; and so you shall bear the punishment of the house of Israel. 6 When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, one day for each year. 7 You shall set your face towards the siege of Jerusalem, and with your arm bared you shall prophesy against it. 8 See, I am putting cords on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.

9 And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. 10 The food that you eat shall be twenty shekels a day by weight; at fixed times you shall eat it. 11 And you shall drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; at fixed times you shall drink. 12 You shall eat it as a barley-cake, baking it in their sight on human dung. 13 The Lord said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread, unclean, among the nations to which I will drive them.” 14Then I said, “Ah Lord God! I have never defiled myself; from my youth up until now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by animals, nor has carrion flesh come into my mouth.” 15Then he said to me, “See, I will let you have cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.”

16 Then he said to me, Mortal, I am going to break the staff of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with fearfulness; and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. 17 Lacking bread and water, they will look at one another in dismay, and waste away under their punishment.

Meditation

We don’t avoid doomsaying these days, we just tend to do it from places of privilege and security. We rant on Twitter, and the objects of our ire are kept at an arm’s length, so that we can easily distance ourselves from “people like them.” This was the prophetic style of Jonah, almost gleeful to watch Israel’s enemies fall under divine wrath.

The Lord will not allow Ezekiel any such attitude. For Ezekiel is not merely to tell of Judah’s siege at the hands of Babylon, but to symbolize it by the suffering of his own body. Part of each day he must lie still, bound and held on his side. He does this for the number of years that Israel and Judah will suffer. For food, he must eat the meal of siege desperation, cooking whatever is on hand. The food is baked over animals feces, for the people of the siege will find any means to cook their food. Ezekiel lives as the people will suffer, both as a witness to them of the truth of his vision and to empathize with them in the horror they will experience.

Ezekiel’s bizarre symbolic acts are wonderful insights into St. Paul’s idea that we are to wear Christ crucified on our bodies. If we suffer, people should see that it is not meaningless suffering, but suffering because we are obedient to the living God. We hold nothing back in communicating God’s message to a broken world, even if it means offering our bodies as corroboration to the truth of our witness.

Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Dallas
The Diocese of Butare (Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda)