In our study, we will look at his vision of God's glory and try to explain it but we must accept the fact that it is hard to describe the presence of God. He was a prophet to the remnant of God's people that were in captivity in Babylon and this book contains the most spiritual message of all of the Old Testament prophets.
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.
He was in captivity for five years in what is now the modern country of Iraq before he saw these visions and began his ministry. The Kebar River was a major canal off of the Euphrates River that was used to irrigate the land in that area. The exiles were probably there to tend the fields for their captors. We notice that he saw "visions of God" but, as we shall see, he did not see the face of God as no man can do so and live.
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.
We see from this passage that he was a Levite and that God was with him. It must have been obvious to those around him as they mourned in their captivity while God showed up and gave him visions.
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,
Now, we begin to look at his description of the glory of God. He saw a whirlwind (windstorm) which reminds us of the way that the prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven (see 2 Kings 2). This whirlwind was coming out of the north and that direction was associated with the direction to heaven and the throne of God. The first thing that the prophet notices is the light both flashing and brilliant. God is light and so it is no mystery that when He is around there is bright light.
and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man,
In the center of the light were four living creatures. It is believed that these same creatures guarded the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3) and they also appear in Revelation 4 around the throne of God in heaven.
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.
I must admit that I don't have a clue about what these creatures look like as I find it hard to even picture what Ezekiel is saying. All we really know for sure is that they are always with the presence of God at His throne.
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.
The four sides of the creatures each had a different face. The face of a man was in the front and we remember, from Genesis chapter one, that man was created in the image of God. On the right side (the side of power) they have the face of a lion which is the king of the beasts. On the left side, was the face of an ox which represents a servant as an ox simply does the work that it is told to do. On the back side was the face of an eagle and we remember that, usually, when the Bible speaks of eagles it is talking about speed.
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 creature had four wings and two of them were pointed upward just as they were on the Ark of the Covenant (see Exodus 25). This ark was where God would meet with His high priest.
Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.
The creatures are in tune with the very Spirit of God and focus on going straight to where He desires. We, too, can follow the Spirit in such a manner if we choose to listen and obey.
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.
The creatures are like royal heralds who went before a king to announce his coming presence. Those heralds would blow trumpets but trumpets are not necessary because God is light and a consuming fire, that is what it looks like when He is around. Because God cannot be contained, the light flashes out like lightning. These creatures are so in tune with God that they immediately go in the direction of God's will and so it looks like flashes of lightning.
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.
Now, Ezekiel begins to describe the wheels but they are not your ordinary wheels. They looked like a wheel inside a wheel but we do not know why. Each creature had his own wheel but they all worked together.
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.
Eyes are a symbol of knowledge throughout the Bible and the eyes on the wheels remind us that they have an intelligent purpose. They do not swerve from that purpose but follow the direction of the creatures. God has a purpose for all things and, through the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can also be unswerving in our pursuit of what He has for us.
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.
The creatures were in tune with God and controlled the wheels. They had a spirit of complete obedience to God and that spirit was also in the wheels. The wheels knew their purpose, remained focused on that, and simply obeyed. We can learn much for our walk with the Lord from these wheels. God has given each of us a purpose and His presence will be there with us in the form of the Spirit. If we remain focused on our purpose and tuned in to the Spirit, He can and will work through us for His glory.
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.
This verse basically repeats the previous passage and anytime something is repeated in the Bible it reminds us that we really need to take notice. This verse reminds us that the wheels did not move first but waited on the movement of the creatures. That is a good lesson for us in our walk with the Lord. Many times we get ahead of God's timing and may be doing what God wants us to do but it may not yet be the appointed time. We must pray and wait for the guidance of the Spirit and only move when the Spirit moves us.
Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome.
This description is very similar to John's description of the throne in heaven (see Revelation 4) and the sea of glass. This is a reminder that they are sent from heaven by God.
Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body.
This description is a lot like the description of the cherubim that were a part of the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant (see Exodus 25). Their wings were stretched out to cover the ark and God would be in their presence.
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.
Ezekiel gives several examples of the noise that the creatures made with their wings. It reminds me of the heralds who used to travel before kings and blow the trumpet to announce the coming of the king. When they stop, they lower their wings just as the herald would lower the trumpet.
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.
Above their heads is the throne of heaven and Jesus sitting there. This is much like the experience that John had in Revelation and he gives us a description of Jesus there as well.
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.
The descriptions of Christ are consistent throughout the Bible as He is a consuming fire and the source of light. The rainbow was given to mankind as a reminder of God's promise not to destroy the earth by flood (see Genesis 9). Likewise, this vision is a reminder of the promise that we will be in His presence for eternity.
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.
Ezekiel did his best to describe the presence (glory) of God. His reaction was the same as everyone else throughout the Bible and that was that he fell on his face in worship. Then, he heard the voice of the Lord and we will see in the next chapter what God says to him.