What is the significance of Ezekiel 12:1–3?

The Lord has Ezekiel symbolically enact Israel’s exile as a warning and remarks, “Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house” (vs. 3).

Though Israel repeatedly surprised God by their persistent rebellion, he nevertheless continued to hold out hope and thus to strive with them to participate in a covenant relationship with him. He thus gives Ezekiel an object lesson to carry out, hoping that “perhaps” this approach might succeed.

If everything about the future is settled and thus all future free decisions are certain to God, however, neither the “perhaps” of this verse nor the hope it is predicated on makes sense. God would have been completely certain all along that this object lesson was going to fail (because it did). Indeed, one wonders why the Lord would even waste Ezekiel’s time (while telling him he thinks it might work!) if he was absolutely certain it didn’t stand a chance.

In the open view of creation the verse is allowed to say what it seems to plainly say. God had Ezekiel go through this dramatic sermon because God genuinely thought it might work in bringing the people around to God. People are free, however, and unfortunately they sometimes used their freedom to thwart God’s plan for them.

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