By Bob Bunn
For several years, I’ve kept an unopened soft drink can on my desk at work. While that might not seem too unusual, there is a catch: the can is empty.
Whenever people ask me about it, I encourage them to pick it up. They’re usually pretty surprised because it’s so light. They wonder how a can that was never opened is now emptied.
The answer is really simple. Some time ago, my team leader’s assistant came into my office and said there was a mess in the boss’s office. Someone had given him a carton of soft drinks, and one of them had somehow spilled all over his desk. After helping her clean up the mess, we found the offending can and realized that it had a small hole in the side. The hole is tiny and so well-hidden that you could never find it unless you knew exactly where to look.
Instead of throwing the can away, I kept it. For me, it’s a reminder of the danger that comes from looking good on the outside while being empty on the inside. All it takes is a small character flaw to create a great big mess.
I think God’s prophet Ezekiel would have appreciated my object lesson. He seemed to have a flair for the dramatic because God asked him time and time again to act out His prophecies rather than speaking them.
The first example we have of a dramatic prophecy is found in today’s passage. God told Ezekiel to take a brick and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. As if that wasn’t enough, he was told to decorate it with miniature ramparts, battering rams, and other items associated with war and suffering. Then, as a finale, God commanded him to lie on his left side for more than a year. Once he was done with that, he needed to lie on his right side for almost six weeks (Ezekiel 4:1–6).
Here in the twenty-first century, all that might seem like more trouble than it’s worth just to get a point across. But for the ancient Jewish people living in Babylonian exile, the message was very clear and very important. God’s judgment against His people wasn’t done. He was going to bring another wave of punishment against those still living in Jerusalem. He was going to destroy the city He had called by His own name, and more people from the nation of Judah were going into captivity.
God uses a variety of methods to get His message across. Most likely, He won’t lead you or me to create a scale model of our city and stretch out on our side for months at a time. However, He does speak, through His Word, through the voices of our friends, and through our circumstances. We need to be careful to hear and heed His words.