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. When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair 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. But take a few hairs and tuck them away in the folds of your garment. Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up. A fire will spread from there to all Israel.
Ezekiel 5:1-4 (NIV)
Ezekiel’s performance art piece continues in today’s chapter. After a year and three months to act out the siege of Jerusalem, God tells Ezekiel to cut off his hair and weigh it on the scales. Burn a third, strike a third, scatter a third, but tuck a few into your cloak.
The word picture God has Ezekiel act out is actually very direct.
Think of how Jesus described our importance to God. He said, “even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Ezekiel cutting off his hair is a picture of the cutting off of all those numbered, important ones – God’s people.
We all know that scales represent justice. Almost every courthouse in the country has a statue of the woman, Justice, blindfolded and holding out the scales. Think of what we just read in the stories of Daniel when Daniel interprets the dream of Belshazzar:
You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
God is going to allow His people to be cut off from Jerusalem in judgement.
- Burn a third: Jerusalem will burn in the siege, a third of the people will die in the fire
- Strike a third with with the sword: One third will be killed in the battle/siege
- Scatter a third: One third will be scattered to the four winds, a diaspora
- Tuck a few: God will tuck away a small remnant into His keeping and protection (exactly what happened with Ezekiel, Daniel and his three Amigos, and the remnant in Persia)
To understand the prophets, we must learn to think in word pictures and allegory. We hear God’s command to Ezekiel and picture his acting all of this out on the street, and we think that we would probably have dismissed him as a crazy fool. Yet even Shakespeare knew that it is usually the fool who knows and speak the truth, and he used that as a device over and over again. Through Ezekiel and his contemporaries, God attempted to communicate what he was about to do through the acting out of metaphors that even an uneducated person could understand.
Today, I’m struck once more by the language of metaphor that God wove into the fabric of creation. It is the basic means by which God expresses Himself in profound ways that touch and move both mind, soul, and spirit. To become effective communicators, we must learn to both hear and to speak in that same language.