Vicarious Suffering
Ezekiel 4:1-8
You also, son of man, take you a tile, and lay it before you, and portray on it the city, even Jerusalem:…

Every true prophet is a forerunner of Jesus Christ. We do not detract from the work of the Saviour - we magnify it - when we discern that the same kind of work (though not equal in measure or effectiveness) had been done by the prophets. Ezekiel was called of God, not only to teach heavenly doctrine, but also to suffer for the people. "Thou shalt bear their iniquities." No one can be a faithful servant of God who does not suffer for the cause he serves. Suffering is the badge of a Divine commission.

I. EVERY PROPHET IS A VICAR. He represents God before the people; he represents the people before God. In his whole person, action, suffering, mission, he is a type of Jesus Christ. When men will not listen to his words, he is commanded to speak to them by deeds. The life of the prophet is a prophecy. Ezekiel deals with these captives as with sullen children. To the ignorant he became as ignorant. He condescended to their low estate. Being made dumb by reason of their perversity, he pursues his heavenly task in another way - he teaches them by pictures, object lesson and deed symbol. It is "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little." So long as there remains an avenue to the heart, God will not abandon men.

II. HIS SUFFERING IS VICARIOUS. This prophet was not himself free from sin, and suffering was its effect. Yet the suffering described in this chapter is wholly vicarious. What was justly due to others was laid upon him by God. "I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity." Yet this was impossible without the prophet's willing consent. In proportion as the prophet's mind had expanded under the Divine afflatus, be had considered and comprehended the magnitude of Israel's sin. Their past and their present iniquity was clear and vivid to his mind. He saw its extent and aggravation. He perceived the moral turpitude. He felt its baseness and criminality. He foresaw its bitter fruits. The burden of a nation's sift pressed upon his conscience. He drew it in upon himself and confessed it before God. But, further, Ezekiel represented in himself the severity of Divine judgment - God's sense of sin. Hence he was required to lie upon one side for the space of three hundred and ninety days - a pain to himself, a passive rebuke to the people, in order to represent in visible form God's indignation. Yet there was pictured forth also Divine compassion. Just severity was alleviated; there was but a day for a year. Jerusalem was sacrificed, but it was in order that the people might be saved. Not an item was overlooked by God. The proportionate guilt of Israel and Judah was vividly symbolized in the several acts of the prophet. The one end sought was - repentance.

III. HIS ACTION IS VICARIOUS. The prophet was a Hebrew, a priest; he loved Jerusalem. Possibly affection was bestowed on the city, which belonged alone to God. For Ezekiel to represent the Babylonian invaders, for him to invest the city with fire and sword, this must have been gall and wormwood. Yet, in vision, he had eaten the roll of God's behests, had digested and assimilated the knowledge of his will. Therefore, in his vicarious character, he has to set his face against the city as the impersonation of the foe; he has to "make bare his arm" to typify the resolute energy of the spoiler. Be the effect upon the Jewish chiefs, already in captivity, what it may; be the effect to exasperate feeling against the prophet or to produce repentance; the prophet is constrained to fulfil his task by a Divine necessity. "Bands are upon him."

IV. HIS ENDURANCE OF RIDICULE IS VICARIOUS. We can well suppose that many who visited Ezekiel in his dwelling would fail to perceive the propriety or utility of this long and irksome penance. They would sneer and laugh at this toy siege, at this childish exposure of an outstretched arm, at this constant recumbence on one side. Be it so; the prophet continues his task unmoved. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men." Littleness and greatness are matters about which men egregiously err. Ezekiel, in his humiliation, was as magnanimous and noble an actor in life's drama as Elijah on Carmel vindicating in solitary sublimity Jehovah's power. What could be baser to the vulgar eye of the world than to bear a felon's cross through the streets, and then to hang in nakedness and pain thereon? "But God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty... and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are." Like his Divine Master, Ezekiel "despised the shame." - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and pourtray upon it the city, even Jerusalem:

WEB: You also, son of man, take a tile, and lay it before yourself, and portray on it a city, even Jerusalem:

The Siege of Jerusalem and the Sufferings of the People Symbolized
Top of Page
Top of Page