When one was appointed a Prophet, God required them to act the part, literally. ‘At the time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, ‘Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.’ And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot’ (Isaiah 20:2). Why did he have to do this? You may ask. ‘Then the Lord said, ‘Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, so the King of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared- to Egypt’s shame’ (v3-4). As a Prophet, one did not only have to speak the words of God, but demonstrate them. Jesus speaking to the crowd about John the Baptist says, ‘What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out and see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you and more than a prophet’ (Matthew 11:7-9).
Prophet Ezekiel was required to ‘lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself . . . After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin for the house of Judah’ (Ezekiel 4:4,6). The 430 days he lay on his side, symbolized the ‘number of days as the years of their sin’ (v5). During the 430 days Ezekiel was locked up in his house, he was to eat rationed food as a symbol that God ‘will cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair, for food will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sins’ (v16-17). In the one year and three-plus months, Prophet Ezekiel lay on his side and prophesied against Israel and Judah, symbolizing the upcoming siege due to their sins. Sometime later, when the total siege of Jerusalem neared, God required Ezekiel to symbolize it, telling him to ‘pack your belongings for exile, and in the daytime, as they watch, set out and go from where you are . . . Then in the evening, while they are watching, go out like those who go into exile . . . for I have made you a sign to the house of Israel’ (12:v3,4). As a sign, God used Ezekiel not just to speak His words, but demonstrate what was to come.
Later, God tells Prophet Ezekiel, ‘Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead’ (24:v16-17). This was to demonstrate that the Lord would ‘desecrate my sanctuary- the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection . . . You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves’ (v21,23). The death of Ezekiel’s wife symbolized that God would destroy the temple and His glory would depart. Just like Ezekiel did not weep and ‘was a sign to you; you will do just as he has done’ (v24). For Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord’ (Hosea 1:2). Later, God told him, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes’ (3:v1).
Whichever the Prophet existed at that time, God spoke and demonstrated the people’s sin, calamity, or redemption through them, because, ‘Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house’ (Ezekiel 12:3). The people had become so rebellious that they ‘have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but they do not hear’ (v2). God in His attempt to reach out spoke words through the Prophets, and even made them bear the burden of the people’s sins. God tells Ezekiel, ‘I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel: so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me . . . When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood’ (3:v17-19). This kind of weight can only be carried by a human for a time. Moses even asks God, ‘Why have you brought this trouble for your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? . . . I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me’ (Numbers 11:11-12,14).
God saw that such a burden was heavy for man to carry. The Prophets also only existed for a time, as God asks, ‘And the Prophets, do they live forever?’ (Zechariah 1:5). God wanted a lasting solution for sin in order to reconcile people back to Himself, for He loved us ‘with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). Therefore, ‘his own arm worked salvation for him’ (Isaiah 59:16) and ‘made himself of no reputation, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!’ (Philippians 2:7-8). God became man in order to demonstrate to us His love, to show that He empathized with us, and more importantly, to save us from our sins. Speaking of Jesus, Caiaphas the High Priest tells the people, ‘You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish’ (John 11:50). So, Jesus became our substitute and suffered in our place.
And so God Himself was a sign, ‘For as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matthew 12:40). This is the ultimate sign that Jesus demonstrates His fullness of Deity, as He declares, ‘I lay down my life- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father’ (John 10:17-18). Jesus did not only talk about sin bringing death, but ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). This symbol had an effect because, ‘just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’ (John 3:14-15). Jesus’ death and resurrection was also a way that, ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). This became the Final Act.
‘For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit’ ~ 1 Peter 3:18
‘The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ ~ Romans 6:10-11
‘Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’’ ~ John 11:25