Five years into the Babylonian invasion, Ezekiel, a priest, sat among the captives along the River Chebar. Suddenly, the heavens opened before his eyes and he saw visions of God.
Consider the state of this man, thrust out of Judah with the first wave of exiles, straining to hear news of Jerusalem as he labored under Babylonian occupation. Daniel, a prince of Judah, had already been forced into service as a eunuch in the king’s courts. Thousands of Jews were executed, others exiled and still greater grief was coming to the nation of Israel. In pain from inescapable captivity, God appears to Ezekiel with this vision:
Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings.Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning. ( Ezek 1:4-13)
A fire tornado appears in lightening, glory and power. Four heavenly four-faced creatures emerge from this whirlwind. They move straight forward as led by the spirit of God. The four creatures each have four different faces: a lion on the right side, an ox on the left side, a man’s face at the front and an eagle’s face at the back. Working together, the four creatures moved as one; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go and they did not turn when they went.
The vision seems o be as much about movement as it is about glory and power. These amber laden creatures, full of power, and magnificent in form, moved only according to the Spirit. They moved with speed, with power and with inflexibility, with no deviation from the direction which the spirit was leading. Nothing could cause these creatures to move away from their mandate and master design. They moved only where the Spirit was leading:
Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. (Ezek. 1:15-20)
The wheels touched our earth. Heaven had come down. Heaven’s chariot was full of eyes, for wisdom, revelation, the Spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. Ezekiel describes these wheels as ”so high, they were awesome”. They were probably gigantic, from heaven to earth in expanse.
Above the creatures, the voice of God was heard, like the thunder of many waters and above there, the throne of God was seen:
And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. (Ezek. 25-28)
This was no ordinary day of captivity. Like a numeric symbol, four is mentioned ten times in the vision. God had stepped from heaven to earth to establish order once again. As He had set the seasons into perpetual motion, so God would set Israel back into the flow and intention of God Almighty. We are part of this heavenly movement.
The inflexible united movement of these heavenly glory soaked creatures arrests me:
When the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them; and when the cherubim lifted their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also did not turn from beside them. When the cherubim stood still, the wheels stood still, and when one was lifted up, the other lifted itself up, for the spirit of the living creature was in them. Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
God gave Ezekiel an intimate view of the glory of heaven. Complete unity and submission to the spirit seemed to be the only mode of movement with these heavenly four-faced winged creatures.
Unfortunately, captivity for Israel did not cease once Ezekiel received that vision. After his heavenly vision, Ezekiel became a prophet for God, faithful to represent God’s agony that His beloved nation was destroyed by their own blindness and apostasy. Despite his witness, Jerusalem threw off the authority of the Babylonians, endured a brutal three year siege and was overtaken.
Ezekiel lived a dramatic prophetic life before his people, Judah. On one occasion, Ezekiel was commanded by God to lay on his right side for 390 days straight, and then on his left side for 40 more days as he prophesied God’s righteous judgment on Israel and Judah. Each day was a decree against his nation for the 450 years which Israel had turned in every direction to its own ways and sinned before God:
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!”
Despite Ezekiel’s faithfulness, moving exactly as the Lord commanded, Israel would not turn; repentance was refused.
Christ, with the same heartache, wept over Jerusalem centuries later:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Our Jesus, did what He saw His Father doing, as a good son, led by the Spirit of God.
Those creatures provoke wonder and awe in me for the greatness and power of God and makes me check, how inflexible am I to the leading of the spirit? Do I go when God says go? Do I obey Him without turning? What can my obedience do to bring heaven to earth? How does Love come Down when we move according to our Father’s lead? What glory is released when unity and submission bear fruit in our lives?
Let’s pray: Father, pour out Your Spirit, that we, like those creatures, would move, be led and respond with yes to the direction You are leading. Thank you Lord, that You come down in our captivity and proclaim freedom. Thank You Father, that You bring heaven to earth, set man in order, broaden our vision with Your great love. We submit to Your heart and bless You for Your faithfulness this day. Amen.
This Week’s Reading: Ezekiel 1 – 10
Next Week’s Reading: Ezekiel 11-20
1. Draw the vision or rewrite what Ezekiel saw.
2. Meditate on these first few chapters in Ezekiel. What is God speaking to you from, the whirlwind, the glory, the creatures, the heartache?
3. How do you see Love Come Down on earth, then and now, today?
4. Where do you find resistance in following the Spirit?
5. What is your biggest fear in obeying the Spirit?