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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ezekiel's Vision of Fire and Glory


Ezekiel’s Vision of Fire and Glory

Ezekiel 1




In 592 B.C. God called Ezekiel to be a prophet and bring God’s messages to the Jewish people.  Ezekiel was thirty years old at that time and he and all of his people from Jerusalem were living in Babylon as slaves.  Five years earlier the Babylonian army had destroyed Jerusalem and taken Ezekiel and all of his people away.  Ezekiel’s service as a prophet of God coincides with Jerusalem’s darkest hours!  


Ezekiel’s call to become a prophet was accompanied by his vision of God.  He saw God in all of his awesome majesty above and beyond the world of men, all-seeing and all-knowing.  Against this dazzling brilliance, Ezekiel saw his people’s sin in all its blackness.  And he saw how judgment would follow.  For some years after this all he preached was God’s judgment in hopes that some of the Israelites would repent and turn back to their God. 


Ezekiel’s vision is full of symbols and is believed to not only contain messages for the Israelites living in 592 B.C. but the vision jumps ahead and speaks to conditions during the end times also.  Many ancient Biblical prophecies do this – they speak of a problem happening at the time the prophecy is given and also the same prophecy speaks to the same problem that will manifest itself during the end times.  We who live inside of a time frame have a difficult time understanding words from our God who operates outside of time constraints.  There are mystical, apocalyptic (end time) messages in these visions and prophecies.


We will not be able to completely understand the mysteries and truths God is showing Ezekiel in this vision.  I am sure Ezekiel didn’t understand it all.  He was overpowered by the vision and fell on his face.  (Ezekiel 1:18b) There are hidden treasures - life and truth - in this vision and in everything that God shows or tells his children.  Scripture says that our faith grows by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17) and I believe that our faith can grow stronger and better when we discover some of the treasures buried in this glorious vision.    


Ezekiel’s symbolic vision from God can be divided into three parts.  The first part is a vision of the storm and the creatures! Ezekiel describes his vision this way:  “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 and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber out of the midst of the fire.  Also with it came the likeness of four living creatures.  …Each creature had four faces and each had four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like calves feet.  And they sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.” (Ezekiel 1:4-7) 


“Each had the face of a man, and each had the face of a lion on the right side, and the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle.  And their wings stretched upward, two wings touched one another, and two covered their bodies.  …and they went wherever the Spirit wanted to go ---and their appearance was like burning coals of bright fire and out of the fire went lightning.  And they flashed like lightning when they ran back and forth.” (Ezekiel 1:7-14)


Bible scholars believe that this vision is symbolic and apocalyptic (also speaks of the end times).  It is believed that the intent of the vision is to reveal that the sovereign Lord God Himself is about to intervene in history to judge the Jewish people – and also He will judge the whole world.  The whirlwind and fire is believed to symbolize the coming of God Himself because God comes and speaks at other times in Scripture out of storms or fire or whirlwinds.  (2Kings 2:1, 11; Job 38:1 Zech 9:14)  The four living creature’s four different faces perhaps symbolize God’s rule over all of creation.  And the number four is a number symbolizing completeness as in the four corners of the earth which God rules over. 


The second part of the vision is about the wheels and the glory of God.  Ezekiel describes what he sees this way:  “Now I looked at the living creatures, and a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces.  The wheels were like the color of beryl and all four wheels were the same.  They looked like they had a wheel within a wheel up in the air and when they moved they went toward any one of four directions, and as for their rims, they were so high and awesome and their rims were full of eyes, - eyes all around all four of them.”  (Ezekiel 1:15-18) 


Scholars believe that the wheels with the high rims that were full of eyes symbolize God’s all seeing nature.  The wheels and the eyes may represent the omnipresence of God.  The wheels may represent that God’s Spirit is capable of moving in any direction He wishes.  And even though sin causes deadly consequences, the eyes and wheels may represent that God sees and can move and work through this. The glory of God appears not only in the splendor of the upper world, but in the steadiness of his government in this lower world.  What God’s Spirit does, and how He moves are symbolized by the wheels. 


 There will be victory through Christ even if we do not see it until we reach heaven.  Things happen here on earth not by blind fortune, but by those “eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the earth, and are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3: 2 Chronicles 16:9)  It is comforting to believe that when troubles come that the wheels and eyes of the Spirit are there seeing and moving behind the scenes! 


And the third part of the vision is about the heavens and the throne of God. (Ezekiel 4:22-28)  Ezekiel describes it this way:  “The firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal.  And under the heavens their wings spread out straight, one toward another.  Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body.  When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, …, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army: and when they stood still, they let down their wings.”  (Ezekiel 1:22-25)


“And above the heavens 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 the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it: and from His waist and downward I saw 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.”  (Ezekiel 1:26-28) 


What truths can we glean from this last part of Ezekiel’s vision?  Bible scholars start out by noticing that the heavens in Ezekiel’s vision were situated over the heads of the living creatures.  They suggest that what is done on earth is done under the heavens and under its inspection and influence. 


It is believed that when Ezekiel sees the vision of the Man on the throne that that Man is Jesus Christ on the throne above the heavens.  His throne is a throne of glory, and a throne of grace, and one of triumph, and of government and of judgment. Jesus Christ sits on the throne having royal authority.  Scripture says that “All authority and power has been given to Christ” (Matthew 28:18) 


Ezekiel’s vision ends after he sees the throne of God surrounded with a rainbow.  (Ezekiel 1:18)  John also had a vision of the throne of God surrounded by a rainbow. (Revelation 4:3)  Bible scholars believe that the rainbow around God’s majestic throne is a pledge of mercy and a confirmation of the promise that God made long ago to Noah and his family when they left the arc after the flood.  (Genesis 9:11-17)


 God had promised that the rainbow in the sky would be a symbol of His promise or covenant with mankind to never bring a worldwide flood on the earth again.  God was angry with his rebellious people in Jerusalem because they were worshipping idols and forgetting the poor.  But God in his anger would look down on the rainbow and remember His promise of mercy, like He had done with Noah’s descendants after the flood.  God would measure out his judgment upon Israel during Ezekiel’s time but as a God of mercy He would follow it up with his abundant mercy.


The vision of God in all his awesome majesty on a throne above and beyond the world of men, all- seeing and all-knowing in fire and glory – this vision never left Ezekiel.  And Ezekiel never stopped describing his vision of God in all of His sovereignty to his rebellious countrymen.  We today in our materialistic, man centered world need to picture Ezekiel’s vision of the sovereign God enthroned in the heavens with the rainbows surrounding His throne.


 Ezekiel’s vision reminds us of our own accountability before almighty God.  We are not living our lives just for ourselves but there is a God surrounding us who sees and moves in our lives and cares how we live and what choices we make.  We need to remember that He is a God of judgment – but He is also a God of love and mercy.             


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