Israel's Captivity (Ezekiel 4); Israel's Continuing Trouble
By Benjamin H. Liles
[The LORD to Ezekiel]: "Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.
Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink. And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight." ~ Ezekiel 4:4-6, 9-12, New King James Version
At the time this prophecy was written both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel were yet to be taken captive. The Northern tribes would eventually be carted off by the Assyrians for three hundred ninety years: "For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. I have laid on you a day for each year." Likewise the same would happen to those in the Southern tribes, but for less time; forty years.
What's the point of this? Prophecy has been given by God and been fulfilled numerous times.
That may be the case, but it's always been a partial prophetic vision of God's overall plan. Because of the fact Israel would often harden her heart against God and His commands, time and time again God had to get her attention through His loving rebuke; a chastisement of sorts for going her own way.
But what does this has to do with part of your title "Israel's Continuing Trouble?"
If you notice the passage I have also given that Christ tells the disciples about the signs of the end, He tells them, "These are the beginning of sorrows: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:4-8, New King James).
When Ezekiel was given his prophetic view of the invaders who would lay siege to Jerusalem and Northern Israel (as I said, Assyria for Northern Israel, and Babylon for the inhabitants in Jerusalem and in Judea). But God also has said this, "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued" (Daniel 12:1, New American Standard).
Jeremiah was told to write the words: "Therefore you shall say to them, Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink you, and be drunken, and spew, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you" (Jeremiah 25:27, American King James). If we take notice it's not only Israel God is putting in tribulation, but also the nations. He Himself makes Jerusalem the hot-spot of activity, a cup in which the nations get drunk off of and then fight against each other. Notice how it's phrased!
The point is God is dealing with the sins of the people of the nations, the world, Israel, and sifting them all--the chaff from the wheat. It will be amazingly violent! It is because of the rampant sin, and consequently death and destruction, even going on in world events now, that we see God's activity coming to a close. Why is that? I wonder.
Paul gives us a wonderful glimpse as Jesus Christ gave to him: "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you will not be conceited: A hardening in part has come to Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in" (Romans 11:25, Berean Study). The Greek word for Gentiles is ethnos, from which we get the word ethnic. An ethnic portion of society is a group of like people; in this case Paul is talking about those who aren't born Jewish. The rest of the world, aside from those who descend from Jacob (renamed Israel), aren't at large able to have salvation due to lack of faith.
But you who do have faith, you are part of God's family, which He has made possible through Jesus Christ having given His life at the cross. Paul said, "This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" (Romans 5:5-6, 8, Holman Christian Standard).
And that's the deal of it all. God is doing what He can to get our attention. If Peter and Paul alone are telling us the truth about the activity of God, we should take the time to see things as they are. Things are getting slowly worse, not better. We're only granted a short reprieve, because as we've seen so far, and what we will continue to see is that God's enemies are far from done doing their best and utmost to undermine Him and His power and might. They will do everything possible to blind some, keeping them from finding the way; others will experience hardness of heart. As it is written in Jesus' sowing parable: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them" (Matthew 13:3b-4). If we deduce that Jesus is calling the birds that take away the seed as demonic entities, they won't allow for God's word to even take root in a person's heart. That is hardness of heart.
This hardness was going on with the Jewish leaders Jesus tried to teach, but they weren't willing to see Jesus as the suffering servant. They wanted the Messiah who would throw off the yoke of Roman involvement. Jews at Jesus' time wanted the Messiah who would return to set up His earthly rule, to dispossess Israel's enemies. These men Jesus opposed weren't willing to be part of God's plan to bring to the "blind...sight, lame walk, lepers cleansed, and the deaf hear" (see Matthew 11:5). They wanted God to get on with extending His justice, not His mercy.
And that's the reason even now God delays His return. There is still time to extend even more and greater mercy to those who desperately cry out for it, who hunger and thirst after it. Who wouldn't want to enter God's rest, having helped Him in loving others where they are at? We have a responsibility not just in our love towards God, but to love others. Such as if you see someone hungry on a sidewalk, take them something to eat and drink (water to be honest). If you see someone cold, take them warm clothes, jacket, better shoes, socks even. For those who have no husbands, treat them as if they were your mom or grandma. The list is actually never-ending. Everyone deserves God's kindness so they can come and give their lives, their hearts and all, to Him. We have the greatest effect of change, should we allow God to work in and through us.
I don't exactly have available means at my disposal to help those in need, not all the time. But what I do have I freely give: and God, I suppose is happy with me providing His love and mercy through this website. The point is, however, Israel and the nations who gather against her will experience trouble due to their lack of acknowledgement of sin, coming to change their hearts and minds so that renewal can happen, and becoming children of God. It won't happen until the rest of God's word comes to pass. And for that to happen, the rest of the world needs to come in and be baptized into God's people: "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Romans 11:25b, New American Standard).
Father, I not only want Your name and Your deeds known in this world. Whether or not the time is upon us for Your Son's return, I don't know. No one does but You. But with some I cry out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Luke 13:35). I want Your dwelling place, this house in which I ask You to indwell (that is my heart and mind) to no longer be desolate. Your temple is here, within me. You make for Yourself a home in which no human hand can ever make. I want those parts that lay in darkness to be gone. I want Your light, Lord Jesus, to fill me up to overflowing so no one can deny You are in my life. I want You and the Father known. For Your deeds have been made clear since the founding of the world. You who made man. You who caused the seas to roll from the land. You who caused the beasts of the earth to appear. You who cause men's hearts to tremble and quake. I am here before You, standing on holy ground, speaking to You. I may just be a man, but I will always desire to do Your will to the fullest, as best as I am able. I ask this in Jesus' name, for You to come back in glory and in mercy, not Your justice, to redeem those who still have faith in You. Amen.