Sunday, 25 October 2020

Prophetic Art - Ezekiel 4 & 5

Normally we think of a prophet as someone bursting into a room calling 'Thus says the Lord' and speaking their message. Yet in Ezekiel 4 he is called to deliver a message ... by way of making a clay model, complete with props like saucepans! He builds the model to deliver a warning of a siege of Jerusalem (which actually happens a few years later). For passers-by it was something that would be intriguing, something to stop and talk about. Hopefully for people to ponder, and understand for themselves the message God was trying to get through. Yet if you think that was weird, then read on!

For Ezekiel it moved beyond the weird to the embarrassing! He was called to lie on his side for 390 days, then turn over, and lie for another 40 days. The sense is that the number of days represents the years that Israel and Judah (respectively) have turned away from God and will suffer. During this time he is to survive on meagre rations of food and water (representing the poverty of those times for the two kingdoms).

Worse, God calls him to use his own pooh as fuel for cooking the rations. Ezekiel baulks at that and God lets him use cow dung! Seeing that Ezekiel is to be tied with ropes, we might also ask how is he able to go to the toilet anyway? Well whatever ... it is drastic stuff.

Then in chapter five he is to have his hair shaved publicly, and carefully divide it into 3 portions, one for burning, one for chopping and another to scatter to the wind. Yet he is to keep a remnant, and tuck it into his cloak for safe keeping. So what is going on? God is telling the people He is not pleased with them, and Jerusalem will see devastation, mass killing and scattering (though a remnant will be spared).

Yet the key thing for us is that God is getting Ezekiel to use Street Theatre to deliver the message. This is prophecy through the arts - clay models, exhibition pieces and dramatic behaviour. This makes sense to me: once in Zambia in a poor township a talented group came and delivered in the communal area a short drama play for all to see. The play demonstrated how HIV/AIDS is not transmitted, dispelling false myths, and making clear how it is transmitted. In other words it was a public health information play - that young & old, educated or non-educated could grasp and understand. The format and medium was very effective - far more effective than a pamphlet or lecture.

God is doing the same thing through Ezekiel, making the message accessible to all, regardless of education - causing people to stop, ponder and thing. It gives a chance for onlookers to either engage, or simply walk on.

Let us think about how we get the good news message across. Ezekiel chapters 16 & 17 have more prophetic art, this time using clear imagery and special story (allegory / parable). Taking all these chapters together we see the different mediums of communication, and we should conclude that God is a multimedia God!

God isn't into just giving information downloads, or dropping truth predicates onto us to take or leave, believe or not. Instead an art-form to communicate in a way that might speak into the core of our lives and hearts. Stuff for us to wrestle with. Of course with some it will land, but others it may not. When we talk with our friends, neighbours, colleagues, we are not simply trying to win arguments or score points - we are attempting to point to Jesus. So let us use multimedia, social media, story, art form, any medium that might help cause people to ponder and think!

Remember that Jesus used parables: stories that are accessible, that work on different levels ... to cause to think and ponder ... and to then step back and see who would get it? Some did and engaged, for others it bounced off.

In our restricted times we can't easily herd people into a big event for the professional evangelist to give a full gospel message. So we have to take the initiative out there, into the day by day. Lets use snippets of multi-media, i.e. different forms, in order to do that. It might be something that hints at a core concept of our faith, or quickly telling one of the stories of Jesus in a modern way. Let us point to Jesus in a way that causes people to ponder, to think ... and then let us see who engages!

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