A couple of months ago, I taught my classes about Ezekiel. Four years ago I skipped Ezekiel completely. I think I did not understand him well or I did not have time. But I will never skip Ezekiel again. He is one of my mortal heroes. And his heroism is precisely in his mortality, in his humanity. God calls him over and over again "son of man." Most commentators see this as a humbling appellation, the Hebrew word for “man”—“adam”—meaning also dirt or earth. But it can also be seen as affectionate. Either way, Ezekiel is very earthy, and that may be the source of God’s affection. I imagine He has great tenderness for this earth.
Well, I love Ezekiel because of his unorthodox (but not all that uncommon among Old Testament prophets) mode of teaching. At the beginning of the book, Ezekiel is given a scroll to eat, God’s message. It seems that God wants Ezekiel to internalize the message in a very real way, to make the message a part of himself, deep in his bowels. And if you really are what you eat, Ezekiel is supposed to become the message. And he does. God asks him to enact several prophecies—to do strange acts in the presence of his people in order to teach them about some forthcoming destruction or hope. After making a tile on which he portrays Jerusalem, he is asked to lie on his side for 390 days next to the tile to represent the siege of Israel, and then to switch sides and lay another 40 days to symbolize the burden of Jerusalem, all the while eating defiled bread (see Ezekiel 4). Then he shaves his head and beard and divides the hair into three piles before burning one, chopping one up with a knife, and scattering the last one (Ezekiel 5). This is supposed to show the fate of the then-rebellious covenant people. He is asked to move and to eat his bread quaking and drink his water astonished (Ezekiel 12), to sigh (Ezekiel 21), to not mourn his wife’s death (Ezekiel 24), and to write on sticks and pick them up (Ezekiel 37), among other things. Can you imagine this? It heartbreakingly funny and wonderfully lonesome.
So I wanted to make a movie of it to make it real for my students. So on a whim the day before I taught it I bought a beard from a party store and got Julie to film me enacting a few of his dramatic prophecies (while holding the camera in one hand and Eleanor in the other. Who is this girl? Pretty cool, I say). When Oliver saw me with the beard, he said, “Take it off, daddy. You a bad guy. Take it off. It creepy. Take it off.” By the end of the filming, Lydia and Emerson loved Ezekiel. “Ezekiel’s funny,” they said. If that’s the only thing that came of the movie making, it is worth it to me, that they sense the humanity and humor of a prophet. Tonight I was singing “Ezekiel saw the wheel,” and Lyd asked what wheel he saw. I briefly explained the vision in Ezekiel 1, and she said, “That’s a cool vision, dad.” At dinner she tried to tell Emerson about it. You try telling someone about that vision. Ezekiel evidently had a hard time: “round about within it,” “the likeness of the appearance of the glory of the Lord,” etc.
But I digress, I wanted to tell you about the message of Ezekiel. His name means “God is strong,” and the whole book seems to support that thesis. Well, okay, let me tell you about His strength of goodness and mercy. This was Tuesday night, and I got the kids tucked in about nine o’clock (have I mentioned yet that we have missed Nana and Papa for myriad reasons—bless them for all the help they are). I came downstairs to do a (hopefully) quick editing job on my little video so it would be ready for the next day. My video editing software on my computer was damaged and would not work. It took me about an hour to figure this out. By then it was ten and I was thinking I should go to bed in case Ellie woke up for hours in the middle of the night. So I went to pray. I told Heavenly Father that my computer was broken, but I had shaved my head and cut up a really great fake beard, and well, I really wanted it to be worth something. “Go to bed,” He said. “I want to,” I told Him, “but I can’t sleep.” Okay, He relented.
Cue Allie and Alex, my sister- and brother-in-law. While I am praying, I hear a key turn and the front door open. I come downstairs to find Allie and Alex, whom we had invited to stay with us until they move, but I didn’t know where that had ended up. And Alex had just made a movie for his History of Creativity class and happened to have his laptop. Well, God is strong. Alex and I sat up for an hour or so editing and went to bed tired and happy with the result. Their arrival certainly felt like a tender mercy. Perfectly timed. Perfectly orchestrated. God is strong and God is good. He is smooth, I say.
Well, so the next day, first period kids are laughing and they clap at the end of the movie (they had complimented me on my haircut as they came into class). My next period, just as we are getting into the lesson, my computer crashes. Just stops working. I try rebooting it four times. Nothing. It comes up with a diagnostic thing. I try it. Nothing. My students can tell I’m a little disconcerted. So I set them to studying chapters two and three of Ezekiel, which they do very diligently and sweetly. I run to the office of my co-worker who has a little experience with computers. It is his prep period. God is strong. He tries a couple of things. Nothing. I need to get back to class. So I leave the computer with him, call Alex and ask if, maybe, he could bring his laptop down to the seminary. Luckily I had made it on his computer, so that it didn’t crash with mine. He is so good. So willing. I ask another co-worker if by chance I emailed him my Ezekiel powerpoint. It would make some of the teaching smoother. He finds it and lends me his computer. I get back to class. Students are very engaged and sensitive. We get past the point for the video and move on with the lesson.
Just then Alex shows up. I grab his laptop and am about to set it up when my co-worker with my computer comes it. It’s fixed. And my other co-worker is back for his computer. I look at these three men in my classroom, all sacrificing for me, for this lesson, and I feel like crying. God is strong. So strong. And He gives strength, which is an alternate reading of the meaning of Ezekiel. We watch the video and the kids laugh and tell me they are touched that I would shave my head for them. And then we look into Ezekiel’s testimony of the majesty, grace, power, and goodness of God. And I get to tell them that they have witnessed it that day. Prophetic object lesson. Acted out. As if on purpose. Oh, children, God is strong.
Here’s the video:
(the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3MX9arWxGo )