“Now, son of man, take a block of clay, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the people of Israel.”
Ezekiel 4:1-3 (NIV)
In the play Hamlet, the young prince of Denmark is faced with a dilemma. His father died and his mother was quickly married to his uncle, the brother of his father. The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears, tells the prince he was murdered by his brother, and tasks Hamlet with revenge. Hamlet is haunted by the vision, the accusation, and his task. He must find a way to verify that the story his father’s ghost told was true.
The idea Hamlet comes up with is to have a visiting troupe of actors write and produce a play that tells the very story his father described: a king murdered by his brother in order that he might marry his brother’s wife. Hamlet knows that if his uncle is guilty of murdering his father, then the uncle will be convicted by the play and Hamlet will know for sure that what his father’s ghost said is true. “The play’s the thing,” Hamlet says, “wherein I’ll catch the conscience of a king.”
In today’s chapter it is God who is saying to Ezekiel, “The play’s the thing.” He commands Ezekiel to do very much what Hamlet did. Ezekiel is going to get out the ancient equivalent of his Legos and erector set and play out the siege of Jerusalem in a marathon performance art piece which will last for well over an entire year. Ezekiel’s public performance was intended to visualize for his people what they were in for if they didn’t turn their hearts around, and to convict them to repent.
In the class I’ve been teaching on Wednesday nights we’ve been exploring metaphor, how it is the foundational way in which God expresses Himself, and the powerful ways we use it to communicate. Today’s chapter serves as a powerful example. He didn’t tell Ezekiel to preach from the street corner. He told Ezekiel to act it out.