How many of you have ever found yourself at a loss for words? Perhaps you said enough on the matter. When words are not enough, we often use illustrations or visuals to get through to someone. Charades can be great fun as people try to get their team to guess what’s being depicted without words. Only with God’s prophets, there was no party and it certainly was not much fun.
Ezekiel was a one-man street theater with a powerful message in mime. In today’s world, we would have seen him set up his props on a street corner and then watch him create impressions with his hands and face. One thing’s for sure, Zeke was not playing a game. This was serious. It had only been a week since Ezekiel’s birthday encounter with the glory of God. Yet the hearts of God’s people were rock hard. Babylon was about to burn Jerusalem to the ground, so the Lord instructs Ezekiel to perform bold, provocative, unconventional mime “signs” to shake people out of their stupor.
Ezekiel had to stay home and be quiet while he built a wall, laid on his side, cooked lunch over excrement, and shaved his head (Ezek 3:24-4:17). His house was quite a tourist attraction! People walked past Ezekiel’s house just to see the show and laugh nervously. The more bizarre his mimes got, the more uncomfortable the entertainment became for them. However, for Ezekiel, every scene in his drama brought him deep anguish and tears.
Just think if Ezekiel were to live in our world of late-night talk shows and social media. His mimes would turn into memes on Twitter. He’d be ridiculed to no end. As the last scene played out, there was no applause. In chapters 5 through 7 Ezekiel opens his mouth to explain his actions. God set Jerusalem “in the center of the nations” to be a beacon of hope and righteousness (Ezek 5:5; Isa 42:6). Unfortunately, rather than being a light to the world, Jerusalem had turned into the world’s darkest blot (Ezek 5:6-7:27).
What can we learn from Ezekiel’s mime signs? We are constantly communicating with one another, if not verbally, then nonverbally. If we say nothing, our very silence communicates. Even if our persuasive words are muffled by our unpersuasive lives, Duane Litfin reminds us, “The gospel’s inherent power does not fluctuate with the strengths or weaknesses of its messengers. This truth is humbling, but also immensely liberating. In the end, my inability to answer objections, my lack of training or experience, even failures in my own faithfulness in living it out do not nullify the gospel’s power. Its potency is due to the working of God’s Spirit. Even when we are at our best, the gospel is powerful in spite of us, not because of us. Thanks be to God.”