Holy Fools: Ezekiel

Holy Fools: Ezekiel

Holy Fools: Ezekiel.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” (Flannery O’Connor).

If the biblical world was a classroom, God’s prophets were the visual aids. As God’s mouthpieces, they were often called upon to be symbols for His messages. Since they were instructed to be dramatic illustrations of the Word of the Lord, the people not only heard the Word, they literally saw the Word. So they were often asked to make spectacles of themselves. Every so often, they went from being God’s mouthpieces to God’s megaphones. They were thus often held up for ridicule, mockery and rejection. Because prophets were obedient to a fairly unpredictable God, they were often dismissed as eccentrics and not taken seriously. Prophets were often instructed to be living object lessons, so they had to learn how to swallow their pride and embrace public humiliation. Sometimes prophets did things that should be glossed over in Sunday School, if not totally ignored. At times we feel the need to wince when we read of a prophet’s antics, and we want to file it under “Do not try this at home.” We can often take a light-hearted approach to their street theater. In such cases we can take to heart G. K. Chesterton’s observation, “He who has the Faith has the fun.” But other times their performance art is not mere comic relief. It is difficult and serious, and definitely not fun. All this translates into God’s biblical prophets being spiritual live wires, engaging personalities, and real characters. The prophets may have struggled at times with God’s instructions. But in the end they settled into being fools for God.

Ezekiel. The first holy fool to highlight is Ezekiel. God really put him through the ringer. He was a Hebrew prophet, a priest and a street preacher in Babylon during the captivity of the Israelites. God appointed him at the tender age of 30 years old, and he continued in this role for 22 years. Time and again, God asked Ezekiel to demonstrate the Word of the Lord. Ezekiel tended to preach about Israel’s judgment as well as its salvation. He experienced many otherworldly visions, both apocalyptic and heavenly. He had a rich and lively imagination that was put to good use by the Lord. God showed a sense of humor when He told Ezekiel that He is going to make him just as stubborn as the Israelites in exile. “I have made you as obstinate as they are. I have made your forehead as hard as granite. So don’t be afraid of them.” (3:8). Here are some of the theatrics the Lord asked of Ezekiel. If you don’t believe me, which I understand, read his book of the same name.

  1. At the start of his ministry, God told Ezekiel to lock himself into his house and bind himself with ropes so he couldn’t move. Not only that, but God told Ezekiel that He will make him tongue-tied as well, and He would loosen his tongue only when He had a message to give to the people. Interestingly, this takes Ezekiel out of a public ministry while this was going on. According to Scripture, Ezekiel was out of circulation for about seven and a half years. So God chose him to be  public spokesman, then locks him in the house. The Lord works in mysterious ways. (chapter 3).
  2. This turns out to be a rather uncomfortable assignment from the Lord. God told Ezekiel to lie on his right side for 390 days. In this way, he was to illustrate the sins of Israel, one day for each year of Israel’s sinfulness. But he wasn’t done with this ministry of lying on his side. God then wanted him to lie on his left side for 40 days, representing Judah’s sinfulness, one day for each year. Ezekiel seemed to take this assignment in stride without an objection. (chapter 4).
  3. While lying on his side, Ezekiel was to bake a flat bread composed of God’s special recipe. He was to bake this bread over a fire fueled by human excrement. You heard me right, human waste. Ezekiel complained to the Lord that this would violate the priestly purity laws (that God made up in the first place), so God relented and said, okay, you can use cow dung for your fuel. That’s the Lord being flexible. (chapter 4).
  4. God then asked Ezekiel to take a sharpened sword and shave his head and his beard. Ezekiel wasn’t thrilled about this, because shaving in his culture represented grief and shame. It was humiliating for him to shave, but he did it anyway. I wonder if he had a tough time looking people in the eyes during this object lesson. (chapter 5).
  5. The Lord then asked Ezekiel to act out the movements of those going into exile. So Ezekiel had to pack up his bare necessities, whatever he could carry in a sack over his shoulder. He then was instructed to climb through a hole in a wall with his sack in the middle of the night, and walk away from home for parts unknown. All this was done in public so the people wouldn’t miss the point. (chapter 12).
  6. Later on Ezekiel was told to stand up in the middle of the street in a public setting and sing a long solo, a funeral song. The problem was that no one in particular had died. He might have looked a little foolish doing this. And then later, when he had a good reason to sing a funeral song, God told him not to mourn his wife’s death in public. She had just died, and he wanted to mourn properly, but he was told to refrain from all the funeral rituals, no grief, no tears. So when there was good reason to mourn with a funeral song, Ezekiel wasn’t allowed to do it. And when there was no reason whatsoever to sing a funeral song in public, there he was singing his solo on a street corner. All this is exactly the opposite of what the people were expecting, and they no doubt were all scratching their heads. (chapters 19 and 24).

Even with all these attention-grabbing theatrics, those Israelites in Babylon were stubborn and resistant to the Word of the Lord. For most of them, Ezekiel seemed to be no more than an interesting distraction. That’s highly unfortunate, because with every one of these prophetic visual aids, God was trying to make a serious point. Sometimes, that’s the problem with prophets and their demonstrations. One is tempted to see them as performers, not prophets of the Lord.

Ezechiel Saw the Wheel – YouTube