Ezekiel is already in exile while Jerusalem still stands. He is taken to Jerusalem in the Spirit (by his hair! – 8:3) to see the abominations that are being done there (Ez. 8-11). But apparently he is carrying out most of his antics in exile. So for example, he returns to those in captivity (Ez. 11:25) from his vision of the glory of the Lord leaving Jerusalem in Ez. 11, and in Ez. 12, he does his theatrical rendition of the inhabitants of Jerusalem going into captivity. But apparently he’s doing this for those who are already in captivity.
He’s acting out what will happen to those are still back in Jerusalem. This seems to add another layer of embarrassment to Ezekiel’s calling. Poor guy has to do tons of weird and awkward stuff and it’s not actually for the audience he’s performing in front of. This underlines Jordan’s point that almost certainly the reports of Zeke’s antics are getting transmitted in some form back to Jerusalem. Given the limitations of sixth century technology, we know that the “signs” of Ezekiel would then have been delivered to the inhabitants of Jerusalem by word (written or spoken).
The purpose of Ezekiel’s charades would then have been an encouragement to those already in captivity. He’s saying in effect, you people in captivity should be thankful that you aren’t back there in Jerusalem.
This seems to suggest some place for prophetic preaching in the Christian Church which isn’t necessarily directly aimed at the congregation being preached to. A pastor who preaches against immorality, abuses, evil out in the world is carrying on a ministry like Ezekiel’s. And those who are gathered together in the congregation who aren’t perpetrating those particular evils can be encouraged that they have been delivered from the judgment of God sure to fall on the wicked. And of course it’s problematic if a preacher never addresses the sins of his own particular congregation.