Series on Ezekiel, I The Fall of Jerusalem, A Focus on God, Text: 1:1-28, Title: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord

Introduction

Daniel was carried to Babylon in the first wave of deportation of Judah and became a captive. Ezekiel was part of the second larger wave of captives. Although they were contemporaries, Ezekiel’s group was settled in Carcemish along the river Chebar about 200 miles north of Babylon. We know he was a priest beginning his service because the starting age was 30 and the information about his priesthood and the thirtieth year is recorded at the outset in verses 1-3, In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. On the fifth of the month-it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin- the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him. The New International Version notes suggest the translation “My thirtieth year.” Ezekiel’s priesthood was important because his people were separated not only from the land but from the temple. As a priest/prophet he is the perfect one to convey the great vision of the new temple in chapters 40-48. As a priest/prophet in exile Ezekiel applied the law to his people and in this he was different from Daniel whose prophecies are concerned primarily with the future fate of other nations. For this reason the Jews placed Daniel in the third section of their Bibles known as the Hagiographa, or the writings, rather than in the second division which was the former and latter prophets. As the exiles asked, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land,” Ezekiel was there to assure them that the God who inhabited Zion was in their midst and had not forsaken them  by the river Chebar. Thus the prophet begins with the vision of the glory of the Lord in the midst of the exiles. The symbols of his vision reveal two things: the righteousness and the redeeming love of God.


I The Righteousness of God

A The Conflagration

The vision is permeated in verse 4 with fire and lightening which is a symbolic reminder of the righteousness of God in judgment, I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north-an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal. This is reminiscent of Sinai as described in Hebrews 12:18-21, You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

B The Creatures

We see these creatures first guarding Eden after Adam’s expulsion in Genesis 3: 24, After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. We see the same exact configuration in Revelation 4: 6-8, In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Here they are guarding the holiness of God on His throne, as they guarded it at the gate of Eden. Sinful man cannot enter the presence of a holy God. These cherubim have sometimes been regarded as symbols of the four gospels, the highest attributes of creation, and as similar to the idols of Babylon, but these speculations are unimportant compared to the obvious fact that they are closest to the throne and are guarding the holiness of the one true God.

II Redeeming Love

God’s redeeming love is also manifested here in three ways.

A Cherubim of the Temple

The cherubim are further described in verses 9-14, I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north-an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it.The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning. These highest order of angels played a significant part in the worship of Israel. According to I Kings 6 they were much used in decorating the temple of Solomon, and in Ezekiel’s spiritual vision of the temple in chapter 40-48 they appear in profusion and especially on the entrance to the holiest place. In the original tabernacle of Moses in Exodus 25 there were two cherubim in the holiest place on either side of the ark of the covenant gazing down upon the mercy seat where atonement was made. The net effect of this vision for the captives was that God was present with the cherubim as He had been in the tabernacle and the temple, and He was here with them in captivity, and He was present in mercy with the promise of atonement as he had been in the mercy seat in the temple.


B The Chariots of Elijah and Elisha

The next part of the description in verses 15-21 introduces us to a picture of the chariot of God. As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went.Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around. When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. David describes his rescue by God in Psalm 18:10 with the words, He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. In Ezekiel God is at the center and the four cherubim are at the corners of the chariot with wheels that turn every which way and are guided by the spirit, being full of eyes. We remember that Elijah was carried to heaven on a chariot of fire. We remember, too, that Elisha saw the chariots of the angels surrounding him with protection against the army of Aram. The point of this vision is for the captives to see that although they have been carried to Babylon in  the chariots of their captors the chariot of their God has not deserted them. He is with them as he was with Elijah and Elisha.

C The Clouds of Noah

In the last part of the vision in verses 22-28 Ezekiel sees the Lord himself and he is surrounded by rain clouds as in a storm, and then a rainbow that signifies peace, Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings. Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. The human form of the Lord is to remind them of his redemptive love and the rainbow after the storm recalls the rainbow of Noah when God promised that he would maintain the natural order. The rainbow signified that God would preserve the earth so that He could carry out his redemptive purpose in Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

I do not know how much of this message the captives understood, but it is our message too. Like them we are exiles in this present evil age, strangers, and pilgrims whose citizenship is in heaven. Yet as He was in Babylon, so God is here with us in all His righteous judgment and in all His redeeming love and mercy.