I really like my barber, Shane. He gives me and my sons a fantastic cut every time we see him. He has a great personality, and I enjoy talking with him. We have razors at home too, and I will ask my wife to cut my hair as well, to save time and money. She will admit that it is not her favorite, though, especially because Shane does such a good job.
I wonder what it is like to be a barber, cutting the hair of so many people day after day. And what does he do with all the hair? I guess he throws it away. I’m thinking about my barber because in today’s post, in our ongoing five-part series of the really strange skit God has the prophet Ezekiel act out in Ezekiel chapters 4 & 5, now Ezekiel plays the role of God’s barber.
Read chapter 5:1-4, which is part four of the skit. If you want to catch up on the other parts of the skit, the first post in the five-part series is here.
Ezekiel, God says, is to take a sharp sword, and like a barber, shave his head and beard. Then he is to pull out a scale and divide the hair up into thirds.
Imagine the people watching Ezekiel not only cutting his hair, but then dividing it equally into thirds. God says that Ezekiel must be precise. He can’t just eye it up. God says Ezekiel has to use a scale to divvy his hair up into three equal piles. That’s just odd. I mean, it’s hair we’re talking about here. It barely weighs anything, and you can pretty easily eye it up into equal piles. If I’m watching Ezekiel measuring hair on a scale, I’m thinking he is nuts. But the skit only gets weirder.
First God says Ezekiel is to burn one third of his hard inside his little model of Jerusalem. Next he is take a third and really chop that up. I bet some of the people watching jumped back in fear when Ezekiel pulled out the sword again and started whacking. What must he have looked like hacking away at his hair! The final third he throws into the wind.
If you saw someone doing that in your town or city, what would you think? Especially after this guy had just spent 430 days lying on his side and cooking food over cow poop. Total bonkers right? This guy must be out of his mind.
But no. He was a prophet of God, doing what God told him to do, following very precise instructions. If I saw someone doing that, I would likely be thinking, “Yeah, right, buddy…God told you to do that? Uh no, God doesn’t ask us to do that kind of thing.” And we would get away from him as fast as we could.
Except that God did tell Ezekiel to do all that, and in the concluding verses, God gives a detailed account of why. Read chapter 5, verse 5.
God is describing what will happen to the people of Jerusalem, because of their wicked rebellion. Just as Ezekiel is to cut his hair in thirds, one third of the people in the city will die inside the city, one third will be killed by the enemy armies outside the city, and one third will be scattered and pursued by the enemy. It’s gruesome. But it is not random. God says in verses 7-11 that Israel has been unruly, not keeping his laws. They have worshiped idols, even allowing idolatry in the temple of God. And they will face severe consequences of turning away from God. In verse 11, the symbolism comes full circle when God says, “Israel, I am going to shave you.” Just like Ezekiel has separated his hair from his head, God will separate Israel from himself because they have broken covenant from God.
Read verses 13-17 to learn more about the consequences.
This is awful stuff. God himself is against Israel, and that means they are in big trouble. The message of Ezekiel, through the method of the dramatic skit of 430 days, lying on his sides, cooking food over cow manure, and cutting his hair, is a harsh, awful message of God’s impending judgment against Israel.
Why? Primarily because of the sins of disobedience and idolatry. Israel had worshiped the false gods of other nations, including setting up physical idols in the temple. This is a total betrayal of their relationship with God.
Do you think Ezekiel’s 430-day skit made a difference? Did anyone see him doing this day after day, and think “Yes, we have been disobedient, we have practiced idolatry. We need to repent!” I don’t know. Ezekiel doesn’t tell us. If I were to guess, I would doubt it. Especially because we know the end of the story. Those terrible dramas of judgment that Ezekiel acted out, with his model of Jerusalem and his hair…they all come true. We’ll learn about that later in the book. For now, we would do well to think about what principles we can learn from this story. Check back to tomorrow’s post to find out what principles from Ezekiel’s bizarre skit might be transferable to our lives.