The Word for today:
God often commanded his prophets to proclaim his Word in theatrical ways.
Sometimes, in fact, the prophet's life--more than his word--is the message.
When the Pharisees wanted to see a miracle (a "sign") Jesus said that "No sign will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:39-40)
Jonah never made a prediction, so how can Jesus call him a prophet? The answer is that Jonah's life itself was prophetic of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The prophet was the prophecy!
Hosea was told to marry a prostitute. Through the graphic illustration of Hosea's dealings with his wife, God revealed the lengths he would go to in order to bring unfaithful hearts back to him.
The book of Ezekiel sometimes reads like street theatre. The first (see 4:1-2) of Ezekiel's prophetic "sign acts" was to create a detailed model depicting Jerusalem under siege.
Then (4:3) the prophet was to take on the role of God. The iron wall set up between him and the city showed that Jerusalem had cut itself off from God.
Next (4:4-8) the prophet lay upon his side--a day for a year--to symbolize the years of punishment the Jews were to suffer in exile.
In Ezekiel 4:9-17, the horrors of famine due to siege are symbolized by the prophet's food and drink, carefully measured out--a near-starvation diet of eight ounces of food and a jar of water per day.
The knife and razor, the last symbols we encounter (5:1-17) in our reading today, suggest Jerusalem's complete destruction.
But the ultimate sign awaited the ultimate prophet. Outside the city's walls, on an outcropping of rock, on intersecting beams of wood, God's wrath against sin collided with his profound love for the world in the person of his son.
He himself was the truth he taught. He was the Word that words could not convey.
Something greater than Jonah--or Ezekiel--was here. (1)
(1) Matthew 12:41