This chapter is arguably the strangest in the whole Bible. This is even stranger than the vision from chapter 1-2. After Zeke's vision and call to ministry, what does God have him do first? He has him bound up and laying on his left side for 390 days, then on his right for 40 days. He can only eat a poor excuse for bread and 3/4 of a quart of water per day. God wanted him to cook the bread using his own dung, but after Zeke cried foul, God let him use cow dung. (my question is who brought him the dung?)
How does this apply today? Interestingly enough, the total days (430) represents the years of Egyptian captivity and will represent the years of Babylonian exile. Iain Duguid points out some interesting ideas in his NIV Commentary. The idea is that of a "sign-act" that was used on occasion in the Bible. A modern day version is a visual aid, but it is much more than a video, drama or flannel graph depiction of a Bible story. Ezekiel actually lived the visual aid. He was the visual aid. The sign act was delivered with divine authority and functioned as the divine word made visible and sure. As Duguid stated, the message took over the messenger (Ezekiel) in a life-dominating way.
What was the ultimate prophetic sign-act? The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. No drama or flannel graph but He lived in our midst for 33 years, preaching and teaching. The culmination of Jesus' ministry was the profound sing act of the cross, where God's wrath and mercy met.
We need to remember that the cross is an "in your face" message of God's love and wrath, justice and grace. We play too much to the "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." There needs to be a balance. There is consequence for choosing NOT to follow the cross. The cross is the quintessential "fork in the road." A decision needs to be made. And, as in Ezekiel's case, God's plan was for him to suffer as an example to Israel of what will happen to them. God's plan for our life may be to suffer for Him to the point of martyrdom. As Paul said, "I count it all joy!" "To live is Christ and to die is gain."
Duguid ended this section with: "Like Jesus and Ezekiel, we are called to lives of identified purity, living in the world but not of it, loving every one of our neighbors even while living radically different lives from them."