The Burning Hair
Would you take your Bibles please and turn to the book of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel chapter 5:1-17.
>Last Sunday we were reminded that Ezekielís ministry as a prophet...
Was unlike any other prophet that God ever called and commissioned.
Every other prophet of God that God called and sent out to do ministry...
Was a public preacher of the message God had given to him.
But Ezekielís initial ministry was not one of public proclamation.
But rather it was one of acting out in very vivid scenes the messages that God gave to him.
Last Sunday in chapter 4, we saw Ezekiel acting out the first three of those scenes.
The first one of them was a little clay tablet.
The KJV of the Bible calls it a tile.
He had a little clay tablet similar to what you and I would write on.
And every day he was to go outside of his house and on that clay tablet he was to sketch out an outline...
That was to represent Jerusalem.
And all around that little clay tablet he was to put little toy soldiers and little toy battering rams...
And toy bows and arrows, and all of this was a symbol of the coming war that was going to come to Jerusalem.
Now remember, Ezekiel is not in Jerusalem.
Ezekiel is not even in Israel.
Ezekiel is one of the captives that have been taken out of Jerusalem over into Babylon.
And Nebuchadnezzarís army is preparing another siege of Jerusalem.
And Ezekiel is letting the people there in captivity know what God is going to do in Jerusalem.
God is going to send judgment.
>The second of those scenes that he acted out in chapter 4, in addition to the clay tablet in the playing of war...
He was to lie on his side for 430 days.
He was to lie on one side for 390 days, and each day was to represent one year that the judgment of God...
Was going to fall up Israel, the northern kingdom.
After he was lying on his side for 390 days, God said...
"I want you to turn over and lie on the other side, and youíre going to lie on the other side for 40 days...
And each one of those days represents a year that Iím going to bring judgment upon Judah...
The southern kingdom in Israel."
430 days representing 430 years that the judgment of God was going to fall upon Israel, upon his people.
>And then there was the third scene.
He was to eat every day the most meager, scantiest, pitiful portion of bread that you could imagine.
It was to be made out of the sorriest ingredients that you could imagine.
And it was to be cooked on a fire that was fueled by cow dung, cow manure.
It was a picture of gross famine that was coming upon the children of Israel.
And so we saw those three scenes last week.
God is going to bring judgment upon Israel.
Heís going to do it by bringing the Babylonian army in against them to destroy them.
And itís going to last 430 years, this siege of Jerusalem.
And he said that itís going to be a time of famine when many people starve to death.
Now thatís the three scenes in chapter 4.
>When you come into chapter 5, we come to a fourth scene...
And the main thing to note about this is if you look there in Ezekiel chapter 5.
I want you to look in verse 2.
When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair with fire inside the city.
Now what does that mean?
Hereís what it means.
It means that this is not going to be done every day.
All of the rest of these things are going to be done every day for 430 days.
Every morning Ezekiel is going to get up early in the morning.
And heís going to come outside of his house and heís going to lie down on his side.
And while he is lying on his side, heís going to take that clay tablet and draw that outline of the city of Jerusalem.
And heís going to put all these little miniature implements of war, and thereís going to be that little fight scene.
Every day heís going to do that.
Every day while heís lying there on his side heís going to prepare this bread and cook it over that cow dung fire.
Every day heís going to do that.
It doesnít matter if it rains...it doesnít matter if the sun is shining.
It doesnít matter if itís hot...it doesnít matter if itís cold.
It doesnít matter if itís a regular day...it doesnít matter if itís a holiday.
Every day straight for 490 days, 14 months, every day, day in and day out he comes out of his house.
He lies down on his side.
He plays the little game of war, and he prepares that meager biscuit and eats it in the presence of the people.
And every day he does that.
>Now you have to understand, and itís not difficult I donít think to comprehend...
That the people eventually would have gotten bored with that.
The people eventually would have come to the point of complacency about that.
They would begin to ignore that.
As a matter of fact, Ezekiel would come to be considered more of a public nuisance than he was a man of God.
Every day Ė no change in schedule Ė no variety...
Nothing different Ė but day after day after day the same old thing.
After 390 days passed he at least would start lying on the other side.
But other than that, there was no change whatsoever.
And the people began to probably laugh at him.
They began to ridicule him.
They began to ignore him because he seemed to be in a rut.
>But now when those 430 days were about to come to an end, God said to him...
"I have another scene that I want you to act out; and itís not going to be a scene involving a clay tablet.
Itís not going to be a scene involving the eating of bread.
Itís not even going to be a scene in which you lie on your side.
But when these 430 days are over there is a fourth scene, another scene I want you to act out.
I want you to get a sword...not a knife...not a barberís razor.
But I want you to get a long sword, and I want you to sharpen it as sharp as you can sharpen the sword...
Because with this sword you are not going to kill an animal.
With this sword you are not going to kill an enemy soldier.
But with this sword you are going to shave your head and youíre going to shave your face."
Now Ezekiel knew about this from the very beginning.
And so we can only assume that at this time his hair would have been very, very long...
And his beard would have been very, very long.
And God says to him, "When the 430 days are over, I want you to shave your head and shave your face."
>Now the second thing he says I want you to do...
"I want you to separate all of this hair, the hair from your head and the hair from your face...
I want you to separate it into two groups.
Now the first group is going to be just really a very, very few hairs, just a very few hairs.
But the second group is going to be much, much larger.
As a matter of fact, itís going to be all the rest of the hair.
All the hair from your head, all the hair from your face, all of it hasnít been touched...
Hasnít been shaved in 430 days and even before that...
But all of that hair is going to be here in one pile and over here in this group is just a very few little hairs."
>Now the third thing he says, not only do I want you to shave your head and face and make these two divisions...
He said, "I want you to take this large volume of hair, the large group, the biggest pile of hair...
And I want you to weigh it.
And after you weigh it I want you to divide it into three equal portions.
Take that large mass of hair from your head and from your face and I want you to divide it...
Into three equally weighing portions.
After you have divided all of that hair into three equal sections...
I want you to take the first third part of that, the first part of it, and I want you to set it on fire.
I want you to burn it in the middle of the city.
Then I want you to take the second third of that bundle of hair and I want you to put it on the ground...
And I want you to take that same sword that you used to shave yourself...
And I want you to begin to beat that sword against the hair that is on the ground...
Cutting it into many, many millions of pieces.
Just cut it and hit it and cut it until you just obliterate it."
Then he said, "I want you to take the third stack of hair...the first stack youíve burned...
The second stack youĎve cut into a billion pieces with your sword...
I want you to take that third section and when the wind gusts just throw it up in the wind...
And watch that hair blow all over.
I want you to take that hair and throw it up."
>Now you can imagine what the reaction of those people who had been captive over there in Babylon...
Can you imagine their reaction...
Seeing this man who for 430 days has done absolutely nothing but come outside of his house...
Lie down on his side, draw in a clay pot, play a little game of war...
And eat this bread cooked on cow dung...
Can you imagine what their response must have been to see Ezekiel not lying down but standing up...
To see him publicly with that sword cutting his hair?
I have an idea he probably held some of it up and then cut it.
I donít think it was a Yul Brenner look but he got all he could get.
But he cuts his hair off his head and his face and then he divides it into these three piles.
He burns a third of it, and he beats a third of it and cuts it to smitherings...
And he takes a third of it and throws it into the wind.
And the people look at him Ė you talk about a captive audience.
"Whatís going on? What is this man doing? Whatís happening?"
And they come to him and they begin to ask him, "Whatís the meaning of this?"
They knew the meaning of the clay tablet, and they knew the meaning of his lying on his side...
And they knew the meaning of the meager bread cooked on cow dung because he had already told them that.
They knew what that meant.
But what does this mean?
It means that Godís patience was going to come to an end...
And now this God who had been warning that this was going to happen...
Now the warnings are over and he takes the sword in his hand.
>What are the meanings of these symbols?
Look in verse 5, he says:
This is what the sovereign Lord says, "This is Jerusalem."
Whatís he talking about?
What is Jerusalem?
All that hair.
He says, "the hair is Jerusalem."
Every bit of it represents Jerusalem.
Those few little hairs in one group, theyíre going to be a remnant.
He said, "But take a few strands of hair and tuck them away in the folds of your garment."
God always has a remnant.
But notice he says that even that remnant, most of them...
Are eventually going to be thrown into the fire because even the remnant is going to turn their back on God.
And so it is going to be an awful scene, and awesome scene.
All of this hair represents Jerusalem.
"Ezekiel, what does this mean?
What are you doing?"
He says, "You see all this hair?"
"Oh, yeah. How can we help that?"
He says, "This is whatís going to happen to Jerusalem."
>Then look in verse 12. God says:
A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine.
That third part of the hair that was thrown into the fire...
Speaks of those that are going to die by plague or famine.
Well what does throwing it into fire have to do with it?
It is more than likely some kind of a disease that is indicated by an extremely high fever.
Many plagues, many people who die of plagues in our world, that death is accompanied by a very high fever.
We talk about spotted fever.
We talk about scarlet fever.
We talk about Rocky Mountain fever.
And so there is some kind of pestilential death that is going to come...
That will be accompanied by an extremely high fever.
One-third of all the people in Jerusalem are going to die under the judgment of God, he says...
By a plague accompanied by high fever.
>Now look again in verse 12.
He says in verse 12, a third will fall by the sword outside your walls.
In the day of the OT, people understood what the sword meant.
They meant that they were going to experience an extremely difficult war accompanied by great bloodshed.
Thatís what the sword meant in the OT.
It is a picture of warfare and bloodshed, and God is saying through Ezekiel...
"I want you to know that in Jerusalem one-third of all the people there are going to die from a plague and famine.
And one-third of them are going to be killed by Nebuchadnezzarís army.
Young men and old men...young women and old women...
Little boys and little girls...little babies sucking at their motherís breast.
A third of all the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem are going to be destroyed by the sword of a warring enemy.
>But then he says, a third, in verse 12...
And a third I will scatter to the wind and pursue with drawn sword.
What does that mean?
It means that a third of them are not going to die by plague and famine...
And theyíre not going to be killed by the sword.
They are going to be carried off into exile.
They are going to live out the rest of their days as slaves, as somebody elseís property.
They are no longer going to be free men.
They are no longer going to be able to make choices that free men and free women make.
Their day will be determined for them.
They will be told when to get up and theyíll be told when to go to bed.
Theyíll be told when they can eat and when they must work.
God says, "Iím going to bring judgment upon Jerusalem.
A third of them are going to die of a horrible, horrible fever.
A third of them are going to be killed in battle by the swords of an enemy.
And a third of them are going to be scattered.
They are going to be led into captivity."
Husband separated from wife...
Parents separated from children...
Scattered like throwing hair into the wind.
>My soul...what a picture.
Not only do I see here the instructions God gave to Ezekiel and the meaning of all this symbolism...
I think itís important to see why the judgment had to come.
Go back up and look in verse 5.
Why is this judgment going to come?
Well first of all he says, "This is what the sovereign Lord says.
This is Jerusalem: which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her."
Now friends, I want to tell you, God is no respecter of persons.
But I also want to tell you that there is only one city that God ever set his heart upon on the earth.
And itís not Dallas.
Itís not Hot Springs.
Itís not Paris.
Itís not Athens.
It is Jerusalem.
God set his heart on that city.
Jerusalem is special to God.
Now God could have chosen any city he wanted to choose.
But God in his grace, God in his sovereignty chose Jerusalem.
This is Jerusalem.
My city...my holy city.
The darling of my heart.
The apple of my eye.
This is Jerusalem.
And he said, "I put them at the very center."
>Did you know that every nation to the west of Jerusalem writes from left to right?
And every nation to the east of Jerusalem writes from right to left?
All the world focuses toward Jerusalem.
God said, "I have placed you in the center of the world."
Because Israel was to be an example of what it meant to belong to God.
Israel was to be a witness of what it meant to be in a covenant relationship with God.
Israel was to be a proclaimer of what it meant to be loved by God and to love God.
This is Jerusalem.
And I put the whole world around you to see what people can do who love and reverence and worship me.
>But Israel failed.
Israel failed to be a witness for God.
Israel failed to live for God.
Israel failed to honor Godís word.
He said, "Youíve broken my ordinances...youíve broken my statutes.
Youíve broken every part of the covenant I made with you."
Over and over in this chapter, God says, "You did not obey my commandment...
You did not obey my ordinance...you did not obey my statutes.
I put you in the center of all the world so that you could be a witness for me...
But you failed."
>But I want to tell you, friend, not only had they failed to be a positive witness...
They had become a negative witness.
Look in verse 6: Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled.
You have taken what I teach in the Bible and youíve twisted it and perverted it...
And made it to be an excuse for your sin.
Youíve made it to become a license for iniquity.
Youíve taken all the royal teachings about grace...
And you have made it a whore, a prostitute for your own wickedness.
Youíve changed it...youíve twisted it...youíve perverted it.
And he says, "Against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her."
You know what that means?
God says, "You have become more ungodly and more wicked and more lewd...
And more immoral than all of the pagan countries around you."
He says, "Even those pagan countries have a higher standard of spiritual existence than you have.
You have not only failed to be a positive witness, you have become the greatest negative witness.
When people look at you, they donít love me, they hate me.
When people look at you, they donít respect me, they ridicule me.
When people look at you, they do not have a desire to worship me.
They ignore me."
And I want to tell you, there is not a nation, not a city...
There is not a church, there is not an individual believer...
That can fail at being a witness and become a negative influence for God...
That God will not deal with that person, that church, that city or that nation.
>What kind of judgment is it going to be?
Look in verse 8.
He says first of all itís going to be a divine judgment.
Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: "I myself am against you.
Itís going to be a divine judgment.
God says, "When I get through with you, nobody is going to be able to say, ĎWell that was a strange coincidence."í
We love to blame what happens to us on other things sometimes.
It was the finger of fickle fate or it was strange circumstances...
Or it was an unusual coincidence.
He says, "I want to tell you, when I get through with you, youíre going to know itís me thatís done it."
It is going to be a divine judgment.
>But he says secondly, not only is it a divine judgment, itís going to be a public judgment.
Look in verse 8.
He says: And I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations.
God says not only will you know that I am dealing with you...
Everybody else will know it as well.
God says, "you have humiliated me publicly, and now the judgment is going to be public.
That which you have done has brought open shame to me, and now Iím going to bring open shame to you."
A public judgment.
>Notice a third thing he says in verse 9.
He says itís going to be a very unique judgment.
He says, "I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again."
God said, "When I get through with you, youíre going to stand amazed at what I have done...
Because I have never done it before, and Iíll never do it again.
Itís going to be a very unique judgment."
>And then I want you to see the next thing he says.
And this is almost unbelievable.
God says it is going to be a ghastly judgment...
Because when the judgment falls you are going to be so hungry and starvation is going to set in so strong...
Youíll practice what to the Jew is the most unthinkable thing on the face of the earth.
Why no respectable Jew would ever touch a dead body...
Because for a Jew to touch a dead body is to bring defilement upon them.
And no Jew would ever do it.
But look in verse 10: Therefore in your midst fathers will eat their children, and children will eat their fathers.
God said that this judgment that is coming is going to be unique...
That itís going to be ghastly and cannibalism will be the order of the day.
You say, "Bro. Joe, I canít believe it. I cannot believe it.
Oh, Bro. Joe, this surely is not the same God who so loved the world and gave his only begotten son.
Bro. Joe, this surely is not the same God of the NT."
But I tell you, there is but one God.
Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord.
There are not 500 gods....
There are not 3 gods...
There is but one God, and this God of the Bible says you will be under such a heavy hand of judgment...
That cannibalism will be the order of the day.
And even that wonít last.
After all the vegetables are gone, after all the animals are gone...
And you begin to eat the flesh of your parents or the flesh of your children...
Youíll starve to death.
>He says in verse 11 that this divine, public, unique, ghastly judgment is a certain judgment.
Therefore as surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will withdraw my favor.
He says, "Iím gonna bring you down."
>Well we see what heís going to do.
What about his attitude?
Well look back again in verse 8.
God says in verse 8: I myself am against you.
Isnít that strange?
In the book of Romans, the Bible says, "If God be for us"...
And the word "if" is not even hinted in the Greek NT.
Thereís not any possibility that heís not.
"Since God is for us"...
And yet here he says, "I, even I, am against you."
It doesnít mean heís against them as persons because as persons that belong to him...
Heís for them.
He has set himself against their sinfulness.
"Iím against you."
>Look down in verse 11, the last phrase.
I will not look on you with pity.
How foreign that sounds for the God whom we love.
God says, "I will set myself against you, and Iíll have no pity on you."
If anybody in this room came here tonight thinking that God doesnít take a dim view about sin in the life of a believer...
I hope this has changed your mind.
And if you think, "Oh, but Bro. Joe, the cross has changed all that."
Friend, if even for one second you think that the cross has changed Godís attitude about sin...
Then you miss what the cross is all about.
If you want to know how much God hates sin, you do not have to look to Jerusalem as a nation.
All you have to do is look at a cross upon which Godís son died.
The cross speaks of Godís love for people.
But the cross speaks of Godís punishment for sin.
>It bothers me that we live in a day when more and more people of God are slipping into immorality.
It bothers me when more and more pastors are leaving their wives and running off with some other woman.
It bothers me when more and more church staff members are falling into immorality.
It bothers me when more and more church members are changing their mind about abortion.
It bothers me when Iím told that a great many of the folks that go to Tunica are church members right here in HS.
Great God almighty!
>Why is God doing this?
Is God doing it because heís mean?
Is God doing it because heís hateful?
Is God going to do it because he likes to crush us with his thumb like ants?
Verse 14, and Iím through.
God says, "I will make you a ruin."
You know what God says?
God says, "Iím going to reduce you to what you really are."
Oh we can become so full of pride and arrogance and conceit.
But folks, I want to tell you, Jesus said, "Without me youíre nothing."
Jesus said, "Without me you can do nothing."
God says, "Iím going to crush you. Iím going to crumble you...
Iím going to bring you to ruin."
Is it because he hates us?
No. Itís because he loves.
God is not a God of hatred.
God is a God of love.
And when God sees his people breaking his word and walking away from his will...
And turning their backs in rebellion, Godís heart is broken.
This is not some moody God that acts in fits of rage.
It is a God that so loves the world that he sent his son to die...
And he sees his children walking in such a contradictory way it breaks his heart.
And it is not because God needs us.
It is because we need him.
God said, "Iím going to bring you down."
>May I say to you with all honesty, Iíve never learned much about God on the mountaintop.
Almost everything I know about God Iíve learned in the valley.
But itís what I learned in the valley that makes the mountaintops so much sweeter.
So whatís the application?
Iíll make three statements and Iím through.
God is long suffering.
Secondly, thereís a limit to Godís patience.
Thirdly, thereís no limit to the measures God will take to bring his children back to him.
God is long suffering...
Thereís a limit to his patience...and
Thereís no limit to what he will to do bring wayward children back to him.