By Michael E. Brooks
“And you, son of man, take a sharp sword, take it as a barber’s razor, and pass it over your head and your beard; then take scales to weigh and divide the hair” (Ezekiel 5:1 NKJV).
I am fascinated by knives, swords, axes, and almost any type of sharp tool. I enjoy using them for their appropriate purpose, but even when I have no practical need for a particular implement, I can enjoy seeing, handling, or even sharpening and caring for it.
In Nepal, I have purchased a number of the traditional “Khukari” or Gurka army knives. These are short swords with a distinctive curved shape which are the historic weapons of the soldiers recruited from Nepal for the Gurka regiments in the British army.
Similarly I have collected several varieties of “dao” or cutting tools from Bangladesh, including specialized instruments for notching trees for the collection of sap, sickles for harvesting rice, and heavy curved all-purpose chopping and cutting tools for general use.
One thing I have no interest in however is to shave or cut my hair with a sword. I get enough scrapes and nicks with a safety razor. Though I own one of my grandfather’s old straight razors (young people can look them up on Wikipedia), I have never tried to get a close shave with it. I like my ears, thank you, right where they are!
Imagine Ezekiel’s reaction when God not only commanded him to shave his beard and his hair (contrary to ancient Hebrew custom), but to do it with a sharp sword. No razors allowed.
Wasn’t that dangerous? Wasn’t it uncomfortable? Most certainly and that was the whole point. Ezekiel was to act out the judgment of God upon Israel.
He was to cut off all his hair in a most unpleasant and uncomfortable way, then to scatter it in the wind and burn it in the fire. This foreshadowed God’s scattering and destroying his people through war and captivity.
There are several lessons for us in this incident. First, serving God is not always safe and comfortable. I believe that all who profess faith in God should study regularly the life and mission of the prophets. They were sent to dangerous places, deprived of family and home, often despised by those to whom they ministered (see Hebrews 11:32-40 for a brief survey of some of their lives).
Yet nowhere does God apologize for his demands upon them. What they did, and how they lived was essential to God’s purpose. They trusted him to protect and reward them appropriately. As Christians we too must be prepared to live sacrificially, to put God’s mission and will ahead of our own desires.
Secondly, this incident demonstrates the necessity of unquestioning obedience to God’s commands. I suspect that Ezekiel had a razor and he might well have thought of suggesting that he could do a much more thorough job of shaving if he used the more appropriate tool.
But we can easily see that the sword was intrinsic to the prophecy. It wasn’t going bald that would present the message. It was the manner in which the prophet’s baldness occurred which would convey the lesson. We do not always see the reasons why God wants us to do certain things in certain ways.
That does not mean that he does not have good and sufficient reason, however. Perhaps we could not fully understand his purpose. We might not even agree with his reasoning. He is God, the all wise and all powerful. We are to submit to him in faith. “Just do it.”
Finally, Ezekiel’s prophecy demonstrates God’s detailed purpose with regard to his creation. The manner in which Israel is to be punished is prophesied, with even the proportions of those killed, those taken captive, and those preserved as a remnant being specified. God’s foreknowledge is vast and accurate.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the most intimate details of his life and death were revealed by the prophets. The New Testament, written almost two thousand years ago, speaks just as relevantly to us today as it did to the first generation who read it.
Solomon declared, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), to which we might add, “and there is nothing under the sun which God does not already know.” This includes our physical human desires, as well as our eternal spiritual needs. God knows us, and he loves and cares for us.
By Michael E. Brooks