The book of the prophet Ezekiel is probably one of the most complex in the Bible due to the many different writing styles used within it. Consequently many people don’t read it or delve too deeply into it. Over the last few weeks I have been going through the book due to the fact that I have tended to shy away from it from fear of resurrecting wrong teachings from my past (Schofield bible for example). Reading through it now I have tried to have an open mind and teachable spirit to the Holy Spirit, the inspiration and author of the Bible.
Ezekiel prophesised during a time of great confusion. In 597 B.C. the Babylonians had exiled Judah’s king Jehoiachin along with several thousand of its leading citizens and placed a puppet king on the throne in Jerusalem – Zedekiah. Ezekiel; who was a priest received his prophetic visions in 593 B.C. whilst in exile, so he was unable to carry out his priestly duties in the temple but received a call from God to be his prophet (v 1-3). As a priest Ezekiel was deeply concerned with the sins of the people, whilst also dwelling on the holiness of God, the reoccurring themes through this book.
The Glory of God.
Now we come to some of the most detailed and structured Biblical prophetic narratives. The word ‘like’ is used many times here as Ezekiel tries to convey in words to readers the awesome nature of the Glory of God.
V 4 a stormy wind from the north; describes the divine abode, such as Job 37:22 ‘Out of the north comes golden splendour; God is clothed with awesome majesty’. It also describes the source of divine judgement as in Jeremiah 1:13-15, bright fire like gleaming metal.
Out of this cloud comes the likeness of four living creatures, described in great detail and only later in Ch.10 v 20 identified as cherubim, creatures from the presence of God. The same four living creatures found around the throne of God in Revelation Ch.4 v 7. Here in Ezekiel they appear to be the support and driving mechanism of a heavenly chariot that supports the throne of God. Wheels within wheels are difficult to comprehend, but could be something akin to the workings of a gyroscope. At the end of the day it is a supernatural, heavenly chariot and that is often all we need to remember for understanding. Many suggestions have been made to explain the symbolism of the four faces; man, lion, ox and eagle. My understanding is that man is exalted above all creatures, the lion is exalted among wild beasts, the ox is exalted among domestic animals and the eagle is exalted above all birds. All have received dominion in God’s creation but they are all positioned below the chariot, the throne of God. Movement is unhindered across the face of the earth; there is no stopping God as he is sovereign over all. There then follows the description of the likeness of God on his throne in v 26. Who can fully describe in human words the Glory of the Lord?
The Glory of the Lord in v 27, is his manifested presence with his people – visible in the wilderness (Ex 16:7) and then in the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35) and then in the temple of Solomon. In Ezekiel the term ‘The Glory of the Lord’ appears in Ch.1 v28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23; 43:2-5; 44:4. This glory, Ezekiel will see leave the temple in Ch. 9-11 and return to the restored temple in Ch.43:2-5. In God’s manifested presence, Ezekiel prostrated himself face down to the ground, a similar experience of John in Revelation.
So how do we relate a passage like this to our experience today? Firstly we need not fear. God is on the Throne. We live on earth, but we have also been seated in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). Our worship should be as though we are in his presence; in fact as the Holy Spirit is within us, we are in his presence. From this we approach with confidence but with humility knowing that God is a Holy God. As we read recently in Ecclesiastes Ch.12:13-14 ‘The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil’.
The Glory of God still radiates because he is still in control and still on the Throne. That will never change despite what a sinful world may say. Hallelujah!