The job of the prophets was to speak the truth to the people and to represent the truth to them by their actions. They were given to do this from the divine. They were instructed to perform odd and irreligious actions (that are often little understood) that represented the life state of the people in relation to the church and the Word. Here are some examples of the things they were instructed to do: Isaiah was commanded to take the sackcloth below his waist off and the sandals off his feet and go naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a wonder (Isaiah 20:2, 3). Ezekiel was commanded to represent the state of the church by making travel bags, moving to another place before the eyes of the children of Israel, taking out his bags from time to time, going out in the evening through a hole in the wall, and covering his face so he could not see the ground. In this way he would be a wonder to the house of Israel. He was told to say, “Behold, I am your wonder. As I have done, so it will be for you” (Ezekiel 12:3-7, 11). Hosea the prophet was commanded to represent the church’s condition by marrying a prostitute, which he did. She bore him three sons, one of whom he called ‘Jezreel’, the second ‘No Mercy’, and the third ‘Not My People,’ which is a not very subtle commentary on the profane nature of the people in relation to the the divine word. At another point, he was commanded to go love the same woman who already had a lover and who was committing adultery and to buy her for himself (Hosea 1:2-9; 3:1, 2).
In the Bible, Ezekiel is told:
Lie on your left side and put the injustice done by the house of Israel on it. For the number of days during which you sleep on that side you will carry their injustice. For I will give you the years of their injustice according to the number of days, 390 days for you to carry the injustice done by the house of Israel. But when you have finished them, you will lie again on your right side to carry the injustice done by the house of Judah. (Ezekiel 4:1-15)
The prophets are representatives of the divine truth, and the divine truth can only correspond to the true state of things, so they were led to perform these actions that demonstrated the people’s and the church’s attitude toward God. As is true of all of the prophets, by doing these actions Ezekiel was not bearing or taking on the sins of Isreal – he was making visible the truth of their attitude toward God. As we discussed above, no one can remove the sins of another person. Not even God does this for it violates the sacred nature of freedom. It was necessary for the other prophets and Ezekiel to do these things for the sake of correspondence. The Lord does not deal in avoidance as humans do. The worst thing that can happen is that evil is covered over and unseen, and the Lord used the prophets to prevent this. If evil can not be seen, it can not be removed. As much as possible, the Lord providentially provides that evil not be completely hidden from sight. This is part of why the Lord allows terrible events in the world, such as 9/11. When these things happen, they reveal the kind of evil that is in humanity. The grief, anger, and herioc events that come about from them greatly deepen people’s relationship with God. People have to see evil to cooperate in changing their part in it and to fight against it in the world.
Jesus was the ultimate prophet, and more than any other prophet His life was a correspondence of Israel’s rejection of the Lord. Jesus was betrayed, falsely arrested, and beaten. He was spit on and whipped, mocked and forced to carry the cross with a crown of thorns on his head. He was crucified and killed. All of these things correspond to humanity’s attitude to the Word. The Jews wanted a worldly king, not the real king. He was crucified, buried, and rose again in three days. All of these things are life history, and it could not be otherwise but that when God entered the world every action He performed and the words that He spoke would manifest in correspondences. What proceeds from God is divine and eternal, and when it is performed in the material world becomes correspondences. This is why the Bible exists and why it will always exist. It is the material manifestation of divine truth, and the divine truth – in all its manifestations – is eternal by nature. The divine overcomes the world and all things bend to it in time. This is why Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) A sword represents the concise, revealing power of the truth, and destruction is its power to reveal and subjugate evil. Divine truth is the most powerful force in the universe. The divine does not avoid as humans, but addresses reality from the internal with love and without fail. In essence the Lord does not punish; He heals, but his healing certainly feels like punishment to humans, especially the evil minded. Humanity’s attitude toward the divine can remain hidden only for a time, so the truth was revealed through the prophets and, especially, Jesus. This is why in the Bible part of the message of each prophet was to severely reveal the disobedience of Israel. God is in no hurry, for He Knows the timing of all things. He knows the nature of humanity, and He is always working for the transformation of humanity. He is fully present in the moment to all of the past, present, and future. As the Bible says, every ‘Jot and tittle’ that His prophets spoke would come into existence in all particulars in the fullness of time, and it did so within the slow process of the natural world.