He told me, "Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel."
As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat,
saying, "Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!" So I ate it. It tasted so good - just like honey.
Then he told me, "Son of man, go to the family of Israel and speak my Message.
Look, I'm not sending you to a people who speak a hard-to-learn language with words you can hardly pronounce.
If I had sent you to such people, their ears would have perked up and they would have listened immediately.
"But it won't work that way with the family of Israel. They won't listen to you because they won't listen to me. They are, as I said, a hard case, hardened in their sin.
But I'll make you as hard in your way as they are in theirs.
I'll make your face as hard as rock, harder than granite. Don't let them intimidate you. Don't be afraid of them, even though they're a bunch of rebels."
Then he said, "Son of man, get all these words that I'm giving you inside you. Listen to them obediently. Make them your own.
And now go. Go to the exiles, your people, and speak. Tell them, 'This is the Message of God, the Master.' Speak your piece, whether they listen or not."
Then the Spirit picked me up. Behind me I heard a great commotion - "Blessed be the Glory of God in his Sanctuary!"
- the wings of the living creatures beating against each other, the whirling wheels, the rumble of a great earthquake.
The Spirit lifted me and took me away. I went bitterly and angrily. I didn't want to go. But God had me in his grip.
I arrived among the exiles who lived near the Kebar River at Tel Aviv. I came to where they were living and sat there for seven days, appalled.
At the end of the seven days, I received this Message from God:
"Son of man, I've made you a watchman for the family of Israel. Whenever you hear me say something, warn them for me.
If I say to the wicked, 'You are going to die,' and you don't sound the alarm warning them that it's a matter of life or death, they will die and it will be your fault. I'll hold you responsible.
But if you warn the wicked and they keep right on sinning anyway, they'll most certainly die for their sin, but you won't die. You'll have saved your life.
"And if the righteous turn back from living righteously and take up with evil when I step in and put them in a hard place, they'll die. If you haven't warned them, they'll die because of their sins, and none of the right things they've done will count for anything - and I'll hold you responsible.
But if you warn these righteous people not to sin and they listen to you, they'll live because they took the warning - and again, you'll have saved your life."
God grabbed me by the shoulder and said, "Get up. Go out on the plain. I want to talk with you."
So I got up and went out on the plain. I couldn't believe my eyes: the Glory of God! Right there! It was like the Glory I had seen at the Kebar River. I fell to the ground, prostrate.
Then the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet. He said, "Go home and shut the door behind you."
And then something odd: "Son of man: They'll tie you hand and foot with ropes so you can't leave the house.
I'll make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so you won't be able to talk and tell the people what they're doing wrong, even though they are a bunch of rebels.
"But then when the time is ripe, I'll free your tongue and you'll say, 'This is what God, the Master, says: . . .' From then on it's up to them. They can listen or not listen, whichever they like. They are a bunch of rebels!
"Now, son of man, take a brick and place it before you. Draw a picture of the city Jerusalem on it.
Then make a model of a military siege against the brick: Build siege walls, construct a ramp, set up army camps, lay in battering rams around it.
Then get an iron skillet and place it upright between you and the city - an iron wall. Face the model: The city shall be under siege and you shall be the besieger. This is a sign to the family of Israel.
"Next lie on your left side and place the sin of the family of Israel on yourself. You will bear their sin for as many days as you lie on your side.
The number of days you bear their sin will match the number of years of their sin, namely, 390. For 390 days you will bear the sin of the family of Israel.
"Then, after you have done this, turn over and lie down on your right side and bear the sin of the family of Judah. Your assignment this time is to lie there for forty days, a day for each year of their sin.
Look straight at the siege of Jerusalem. Roll up your sleeve, shake your bare arm, and preach against her.
"I will tie you up with ropes, tie you so you can't move or turn over until you have finished the days of the siege.
"Next I want you to take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, dried millet and spelt, and mix them in a bowl to make a flat bread. This is your food ration for the 390 days you lie on your side.
Measure out about half a pound for each day and eat it on schedule.
Also measure out your daily ration of about a pint of water and drink it on schedule.
Eat the bread as you would a muffin. Bake the muffins out in the open where everyone can see you, using dried human dung for fuel."
God said, "This is what the people of Israel are going to do: Among the pagan nations where I will drive them, they will eat foods that are strictly taboo to a holy people."
I said, "God, my Master! Never! I've never contaminated myself with food like that. Since my youth I've never eaten anything forbidden by law, nothing found dead or violated by wild animals. I've never taken a single bite of forbidden food."
"All right," he said. "I'll let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human dung."
Then he said to me, "Son of man, I'm going to cut off all food from Jerusalem. The people will live on starvation rations, worrying where the next meal's coming from, scrounging for the next drink of water.
Famine conditions. People will look at one another, see nothing but skin and bones, and shake their heads. This is what sin does."
By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.
By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph's sons in turn, blessing them with God's blessing, not his own - as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.
By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.
By an act of faith, Moses' parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child's beauty, and they braved the king's decree.
By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house.
He chose a hard life with God's people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors.
He valued suffering in the Messiah's camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff.
By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king's blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going.
By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn't touch them.
By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.
By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.
By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.
I could go on and on, but I've run out of time. There are so many more - Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . .
Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions,
fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies.
Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.
Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons.
We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless -
the world didn't deserve them! - making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised.
God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)