Advertising for prescription drugs nearly always lists possible side effects. Such things as heart attack, stroke, nausea, headache, or high blood pressure may be among the effects. Sometimes ads even say, “In a small number of cases death has occurred.” The audio versions of the ads are delivered via a pleasant sounding voice, similar to the calm assurance a mother would give to a child.
We’ve all heard mothers try to assure us as we weighed a new experience against the fear of getting hurt: “Honey, just try the monkey bars. What fun you’ll have. And if you fall, it’s only four feet to the ground.” After urgings to, “Go ahead. Have fun. You’ll enjoy it. Be a big girl,” the warnings also arrived: “Be careful. Hold on tight. Don’t fall.”
Those mother-messages had mixed blessings of love, concern, and caution. Re-reading portions of Ezekiel brought a question to mind for the drug companies and their ad campaigns: Why isn’t HEALING mentioned as a side effect? If an ill person looks for a cure, wouldn’t you want to hear that the main reaction most have to your prescribe drug is healing?
This week in our Bible-book journey, we’re in the land of Ezekiel, a major prophet, who spoke warnings and also pronounced side-effect-blessings. However the majority of the book of Ezekiel is filled with warnings, the ill side effects of disobeying God.
Filled with symbolism, a good portion of Ezekiel describes God and the judgment that has come upon Israel (Ezekiel and others were already in Babylonian captivity). Why were they there? Israel had broken faith with God and given allegiance to foreign gods.
But not every individual had abandoned God. As always a few remain devoted and Ezekiel was one of them. A characteristic theme throughout Ezekiel’s writing is individual responsibility before God. No wonder God chose this completely obedient man to act out messages to his wayward people. And his were tough assignments: Who among us could refrain from weeping if our beloved spouse died? Find out why in Ezekiel 24:15-27.
Or who among us could lie on our left side in public, eating only grain-rich bread for 390 days, and then roll over and remain on our right side for an additional 40 days? All of this was done so that Ezekiel might be a visual aid, a prophetic-one-man act, a sign to Israel about the punishment for their sins (Ezekiel 4). Since the bread ingredients are mentioned in the Bible text, some have attempted to duplicate this grainy bread that sustained Ezekiel for well over a year. At www.foodforlife.com you can buy the bread, or find a recipe at www.allrecipes.com
In other prophetic references, we see that Jeremiah, Baruch, and Ebed-melech were among those “marked” to be spared from the punishment that would fall upon so many. “The mark was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, ‘taw,’ written as a cross in the oldest script,” states “Erdman’s Handbook to the Bible.” Talk about symbolism!
Through Ezekiel God said each man will be judged according “to his ways.” They were told, “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.” God further encouraged them to get a new heart and a new spirit, also saying that he took no pleasure in the death of anyone. (18:30-32).
We hear of illness, tragedy, wrongs done, and we long to hear that all is right again. Things have been fixed. God’s mercy intervened and there was a good outcome. In an another scene, Ezekiel shows us a nourishing river with fruit bearing trees lining its banks. That’s how Ezekiel wraps up his writings by letting us know sin has awful side effects, but healing can take place.
Index card verse for week 21: “Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12).
Receive a blessing this Memorial Day, take time to thank our Father for the freedoms we enjoy because men and women were willing to love this country and us in sacrificial way.