Now we enter upon the portion of inspired Scripture that was penned by the prophet Ezekiel. This Book very properly follows that of Jeremiah, for the weeping prophet predicted the captivity of the nation of Judah; and Ezekiel became a confirmation of it, for his ministry was fulfilled among the exiles in Babylon. The time of his ministry is specifically recorded as beginning in the fifth year of their captivity, around 592 BC. However, although it is easy to fix the date of Ezekiel’s ministry, we find that it is not so easy to unravel and explain the great message and meaning of his prophecies. In this Book, we shall encounter many dark, mysterious, and deep things of God! But every prophecy, in some way, points to the Lord Jesus. And it is unspeakably happy for the Church when – through the teaching of the Holy Spirit – the sons and daughters of God are led to discover that all the prophets testified of Christ, so that through His name, whoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins!
While Josiah’s grandson Jehoiachin was king in Jerusalem, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up and besieged the city (597 BC). Jehoiachin yielded himself up to the Babylonian king, and he was then taken to Babylon as a captive – along with his mother, his wives, and his princes. But Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Jerusalem at that time, nor take all the people away; he left some of them, and made Zedekiah their king. However, he did take many of the carpenters and soldiers of Jerusalem back to Babylon with him; and there he gave them a place to live, by the river of Chebar.
Among these Jewish captives, there was a priest named Ezekiel. And in the fifth year after they had been carried away (about 592 BC), Ezekiel received his first vision from the Lord. He beheld a whirlwind coming out of the north; and with the whirlwind, there came a cloud; and out of the midst of the cloud, there came four cherubim. Above the wings of these cherubim, there was a throne; and upon the throne, Ezekiel saw a Man Who seemed to be made of burning fire, and surrounded by bright colors like a rainbow. This Man was the Lord Jesus Himself! And when Ezekiel saw this glorious sight, he immediately turned away his eyes and fell flat on his face.
Let us endeavor to understand the leading features and symbolism of this wonderful vision. Here we behold the throne of the Divine Majesty, but not under the humble and attractive form of the mercy-seat; rather, it takes an appearance that reminds us of Mount Sinai – with its electric clouds, deafening sounds, and bursting effusions of living flame. Around this throne, the Lord was attended by His heavenly retinue – the cherubim, who are here called “living creatures” (verse 5). Each of these “living creatures” had four wings for motion, and four hands for action; thus they were enabled to go wherever the Lord sent them, and they had hands to do whatever duty He gave them. Each of them also had the four faces of a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man – thus representing the highest ideals in the Lord’s creation: land-dwelling beasts, flying creatures, domesticated animals, and mankind himself (the crowing jewel of God’s handiwork). The prophet saw these living creatures by their own light, for their appearance was like burning coals of fire – denoting the ardor of their love to God, and their fervent zeal in His service. These four angelic creatures are further represented as being full of life and motion. They did not turn away from their business to trifle with anything; they went wherever the Spirit of God directed them to go. And not only did they have wings for flight, but there were also wheels of gigantic size beside them – revolving with lightning-speed, and resplendent with the most intense brightness. These wheels were a representation of the Lord’s Providence, which produces change as it “moves” throughout this lower world. And these wheels were full of eyes, teaching us that the motions of Providence are all directed and determined by the eyes of the Lord, which behold all the evil and the good that is going on everywhere; there is no such thing as “chance,” “fortune,” or “good luck.”
When the living creatures had roused the attention of the careless world with the rushing sound of their wings, they let them down so that the Lord’s voice might now be plainly heard. Above the glorious cherubim and their wonderful wheel-work, the prophet beheld the throne of God – a throne of glory, grace, triumph, government, and judgment. Upon this throne sat a human form! It beamed with the splendor and grandeur of heavenly fire; but at the same time, it also had the inviting aspect of a fellow-man! This Man was none other than the eternal Son of God – the second Person of the Trinity, Who took upon Himself our human nature. It is good news indeed to the whole human race that the throne of heaven is occupied by One Who appears – even there – in the likeness of a Man! Surrounding the throne, the prophet beheld the beautiful halo of a rainbow. Thus the whole scene showed forth the mingled majesty and kindness of God – His over-awing authority on the one hand, and His gracious kindness and love in His Covenant of peace on the other!
Everything that the prophet saw in this chapter was intended to prepare him for what he was about to hear. As soon as he beheld the glorious Christ upon the heavenly throne, the sight so greatly overpowered him that he immediately fell flat on his face! And then he heard the voice of One speaking to Him.
Lord, as we study this chapter, help us to fall down on our faces and worship You with all the heavenly host – saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!” Amen.
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