“At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot. 3 Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush.”
“Now John wore clothing made from camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.”
2 Kings 1:8
They replied, “He was a hairy man and had a leather belt tied around his waist.” The king said, “He is Elijah the Tishbite.”
1 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you – eat this scroll – and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was sweet like honey in my mouth. 25 As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and tie you up with them, so you cannot go out among them.
4 “Also for your part lie on your left side and place the iniquity of the house of Israel on it. For the number of days you lie on your side you will bear their iniquity. 5 I have determined that the number of the years of their iniquity are to be the number of days for you – 390 days. So bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 “When you have completed these days, then lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 40 days – I have assigned one day for each year. 7 You must turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it. 8 Look here, I will tie you up with ropes, so you cannot turn from one side to the other until you complete the days of your siege. 9 “As for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, put them in a single container, and make food from them for yourself. For the same number of days that you lie on your side – 390 days – you will eat it. 10 The food you eat will be eight ounces a day by weight; you must eat it at fixed times. 11 And you must drink water by measure, a pint and a half; you must drink it at fixed times. 12 And you must eat the food like you would a barley cake. You must bake it in front of them over a fire made with dried human excrement.” 13 And the Lord said, “This is how the people of Israel will eat their unclean food among the nations where I will banish them.” 14 And I said, “Ah, sovereign Lord, I have never been ceremonially defiled before. I have never eaten a carcass or an animal torn by wild beasts; from my youth up, unclean meat has never entered my mouth.”
15 So he said to me, “All right then, I will substitute cow’s manure instead of human excrement. You will cook your food over it.”
Isaiah walked around in his underwear barefoot for three years, John the Baptist ate locusts and honey. Ezekiel ate a scroll and laid on his side for 390 days, eating 8 ounces of food each day. Each considered themselves unworthy, just a tool, a forerunner to Christ.
God knows we don’t get it if we haven’t walked in those sandals. If we are going to be used by God to share with others, we don’t understand unless we have suffered similarly, the compassion gained in the lessons of suffering is priceless.
We think being a vessel for God can mean a position that is respected – the Israelites thought the Messiah would be a King, triumphing over all. He did. But not in the way they would have chosen. He served, laid down his life and bore our humiliation – embraced suffering instead of seeking to be elevated.
We all can think we want to be a man or woman of God, used for His kingdom, but are we willing to pay the price? Life’s lessons also teach us to refrain from judgment on others, for we begin to understand that the pain others walk through has a larger purpose than what is on the surface.
Some of the things God calls us to do or allows in our lives do not make sense. The compassion that Ezekiel had after enduring 390 days of punishment for Israel would cause him to passionately plea with Israel. He saw what was coming and was a watchman indeed. The hope was that Israel would turn away from their sin. One who had suffered could deliver God’s message with zeal and a fortitude that would hopefully turn God’s children back to Himself.
What are our hopes for ministry? Our aspirations? If we belong to the LORD, we are all in ministry. Will we be used as He wants to use us? I remember well when God first called me. Newly saved at the age of nineteen, my heart was full with a desire to minister for Him. I did not know or understand what that meant. I recall weeping as I would drive to D.C. to work every day. This was not God’s calling for me. I was supposed to be out on a mission field somewhere, or something that appeared more like ministry.
God began to give songs to me on the piano as a music major at the University of Maryland. It was not my instrument, but God clearly opened doors for me to serve Him in this way. Over time, songs were given with a desire to help others along in their walk with God. I began to notice a degree of suffering before a song was inspired and asked God if He could use me to encourage others without me having to suffer first. How foolish of me. Ministry was never intended to be a cushy experience.
Our calling is ultimately God’s calling. It is His life lived through us. He chose a path of humility and service. Will we?
Lord, help us to be yielded clay in Your hands. Your will, not ours. Whatever suffering we will walk through, we know You ordained and permitted it. Help us to trust You despite what is on the surface of this life.