“Also for your part lie on your left side and place the iniquity of the house of Israel on it. For the number of days you lie on your side you will bear their iniquity. 5 I have determined that the number of the years of their iniquity are to be the number of days for you–390 days. So bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 When you have completed these days, then lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 40 days–I have assigned one day for each year.”
“Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”
“Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
“Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”
This image of Ezekiel, a watchman for Israel, lying on his left side for 390 days then on his right side for 40 additional days, eating exactly 8 ounces of food each day is tortuous. Even moreso when we consider that he did not deserve such treatment. It does not make sense to us, but the purposes of God are higher than our own.
We do not like to be inconvenienced in today’s culture. Our flesh recoils at the idea of suffering for our own actions and the ensuing consequences, but to do so for someone else? Not something eagerly desired. Even a child will cry out “not fair” or “it was not my fault” when blamed for an action he did not commit. This makes sense to us – no one should have to receive unfair judgment. Still God’s righteous laws demand payment for our unrighteousness.
Ezekiel was a watchman appointed by God Almighty. He was a covering for the Israelites. The blood was on his head if he did not warn them, and by suffering symbolically, he, more than anyone, would have a zeal to warn His fellow people after catching a glimpse of what was to come.
This heart for God’s people and for the lost sheep is the very heart of Christ, who willingly chose to bear the iniquity of those who were unable to bear it themselves. In fact, it was for the “joy” set before Him that He endured the cross. Wow. Jesus had an unspeakable joy that his actions would deliver the entire world from the grip of sin and the sting of death.
At the height of suffering I have lamented for self, miserable that I have had to bear consequences for another’s actions, but Christ thought of us. He chose rejection and suffering – I did not. This revelation reveals the selflessness of Christ and our need to follow in His steps – serving others and considering them above ourselves. Humbling and freeing at the same time. We cannot accomplish this on our own, but we can ask God to open our eyes and to work in our stubborn hearts.
He is still calling servants today to be watchmen for His people. It might be uncomfortable or inconvenient – forcing us to lay down our idol of comfort, but like Ezekiel, God needs humble servants willing to roll up their sleeves and bear iniquities on their knees for others still today. No, we cannot wipe away the sins of others, but we can stand in the gap, pray and warn people of the devastation of sin. When the sting of sin’s aftermath and its stigma is fresh in someone’s life, we can stand with them and guide them to God’s Word and the faithful forgiveness and love of Jesus.
Encouragement in the face of a fallen world might be the very catalyst to turn one from repeating the same sin or serve as an example for another to abstain from walking that path of sin at all. The voice of truth might not be welcome today when absolute truth seems nonexistent, but more than ever the world needs to hear this voice of God’s people, uniting to be watchmen for the glory of God. The temporary cost might be more than we want to pay, but the rewards are eternal.
Lord, forgive us for being lulled into complacency. Help us to care for those around us as you do and to be faithful in the calling of watchmen for You.