“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself.”
In some grocery stores you can find “Ezekiel 4:9 Bread,” which contains the same ingredients God told Ezekiel to use here to make bread.
But the recipe God gave Ezekiel wasn’t intended to be an expensive specialty food. Although the combination of grains forms a complete protein and would have given Ezekiel a lot of important nutrients as he ate the small portions he was told to eat, the mixture of those ingredients was not part of his cultural tradition. It pointed to a pared-back diet for times of poverty and crisis. The wheat was to be mixed with grains and legumes that made for a scant vegetarian diet and weren’t very desirable. To make matters worse, Ezekiel had to cook the bread over manure!
This strange story is unsettling: Why would God ask Ezekiel to do this? And why did Ezekiel follow through even though it was awfully uncomfortable to do so?
There are no easy answers, but it seems that the message God intended here was that there would be harsh consequences for Israel’s disobedience, and yet this unusual bread would sustain people. A coming siege would bring horrible discomfort, but it would not completely obliterate God’s people. It would be a wake-up call to turn back to God. Many years later, Jesus would sound a similar call for the people to recognize God in their midst.
Lord, your ways puzzle us sometimes, and yet we trust you to turn us back to you. Amen.
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