AN AWESOME GOD
Lord, You are totally beyond our level of comprehension.
Read EZEKIEL 1
Ezekiel’s Inaugural Vision
1 In my 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.
2 On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin— 3 the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.[a] There the hand of the Lord was on him.
4 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, 5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, 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. 11 Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. 12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 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. 14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.
15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. 16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went. 18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.
19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. 20 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. 21 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.
22 Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome. 23 Under the vault their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. 24 When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty,[b] like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings.
25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. 26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 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. 28 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.
a Ezekiel 1:3 Or Chaldeans
b Ezekiel 1:24 Hebrew Shaddai
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; be all else but naught to me, save that thou art; be thou my best thought in the day and the night” (Eleanor Hull, 1860–1935).
From the outset of this book we are catapulted into a spectacular vision of God’s glory. Although Ezekiel’s experience is ﬁrmly located in time and place, the images he shares defy our human comprehension and point to the importance of the task before him. Notice his location when the vision comes to him— among the exiles (1), a place of close identiﬁcation with his people, the best position from which to bring a profoundly challenging message. Signiﬁcantly, it is during ordinary and everyday affairs that “there” the hand of the Lord was upon him (3) in a land of exile and despair, far from God’s official presence back in Jerusalem’s temple. God chooses to reveal himself to Ezekiel when all appears hopeless.
The vision begins with a storm (4), speaking of God’s dynamic movement and power (Deut. 33:26; Psa. 18:7–14; Job 38:1) and ends with a throne (26), pointing to his eternal authority (Isa. 6:1). This overwhelmingly awesome encounter with God’s majesty contains order and symmetry, with highly symbolic meanings. The repeated use of the number four speaks of completeness, i.e., the four quarters of the earth (Gen. 13:14; Isa. 11:12) and thus of God’s sovereignty over the world. Although it seems to us like something out of a fantasy movie, the four creatures could be found in religious art across the ancient world, so that Ezekiel is not unfamiliar with them.
Carrying the divine throne are the lion, king of the animal world; the ox, the most powerful of domesticated animals; the eagle, the mightiest bird; and a man, made in God’s image and the pinnacle of creation. God is exalted above all else, his presence and all-seeing eyes (18) everywhere at all times. Vivid images of ﬁre and lightning speak of God’s holiness and his judgment. Yet this awesome God chooses to be here with his people.
Read this chapter out loud, slowly and reflectively. What does this say to the temptation to treat God like an indulgent grandparent ﬁgure, only turning to him when we’re stuck?
Lord, thank You for gracing us with Your presence here on earth, even though in the other realm You are so high and lifted up.
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