3There are some who say, “It’s not yet time to build houses. This city is the pot and we are the meat.” . . . 10By the sword you shall fall on the border of Israel. I will judge you! Then you will know that I am YHWH! 11This city will not be the cooking pot for you, and you will not be flesh inside it. At the border of Israel I will judge you. 12And you will know that I am YHWH in whose statutes you have not walked, and whose judgments you have not carried out, but who have instead carried out the judgments of the nations around you. — Ezekiel 11:3, 10-12
It was hard for me to pick out the verses to quote for the devotional today. I’ve been doing some almost random reading before I do anything else in the morning. That led me to Ezekiel 23 for two devotionals. I had a reason to be looking at Ezekiel 23. This morning as I started looking around, I was about to pick something else, when I heard â€œEzekiel 24â€ repeatedly. So I read Ezekiel 24. So why is the text from Ezekiel 11? That’s the interesting thing.
In Ezekiel 24 God uses a cooking pot with meat inside to provide a message of judgment. The nation of Judah is so corrupted that the pot has to be destroyed. God is going to pile wood under it until it is gone. It is so rusty and corrupted that only destruction will work to clean it up.
But I remembered another passage, this one in Ezekiel 11, in which a cooking pot is used in a different way. There, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, say that the city is the pot and they are the choice meat inside. The meat is preserved from the fire by the pot, and rather than being destroyed, it is properly developed and prepared for eating. God follows up by telling them that they have misunderstood the situation. There victims were the ones he preserved. They would not have to live through the exile. But the people who were claiming to be the choice pieces of meat in the pot would be thrown out, and would die on the borders of Israel.
It all looks simpleâ€”meat, pot, fire–but it’s really not so simple.
Now this isn’t a message of judgment today. It’s a message of relationship and discernment. It’s very easy to look at hardship in our lives and make the assumption that God is either angry with us, or is disciplining us for some reason. Now both of those are possibilities. In both Ezekiel 11 and 24 the people are under judgment. But if you read further into Ezekiel 24 you will see the story of Ezekiel’s suffering. His wife died, and he was not allowed to mourn. For a very long time he was unable to speak except when he spoke God’s word.
If I were Ezekiel, I think I would have felt rather put upon. That’s hardship! But God is neither disciplining Ezekiel, nor is he judging him. Ezekiel is doing what God wants him to do. What God is doing is teaching others through the suffering of his prophet. In fact, chapter 24 ends with the Lord telling Ezekiel that he (Ezekiel) will be a warning to the people, and then the frequent refrain: â€œthey will know that I am YHWH.â€
I’ve known some times of hardship, and I’ve known good times. Recently things have been getting better, but at the same time there are so many things that I would like to see get even better still. It’s the devil’s plan for me, and for all of us, not to see all the possibilities when we suffer hardship. That leads to discouragement. I’ve often felt myself limited to deciding between judgment and discipline. Have I done something that means that God is out to get me? Is God trying to correct me through this? I am bright enough to put something else in there. â€œIn the world you will have tribulationâ€ (John 16:33). The world is just that way.
But at the same time, I claim to be a teacher. If God can teach others through Ezekiel, do I have the right to say he can’t teach others through me?
Don’t let this keep you from seeing when God is trying to teach you something. It’s so much easier to see the faults of others than your own. It’s so much more gratifying to think you’re suffering for someone else’s sake than your own. But when hardship comes, don’t let the devil blind you to all the possibilities of what God is doing. Consider the flexibility of the meaning of the pot, the meat, and the fire in Ezekiel 11 and 24.
Discern, listen, and let God point you to the right application for you.