I looked, and I saw a violent storm coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, 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 human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
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. Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upwards, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 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.
In this study I want to look at the way that the creatures in this vision moved.
This is hard to describe, although Ezekiel does quite a good job of it. Despite this, it is still not easy to imagine what was going on and what he actually saw. If you were all in a bible study group with me, I would place you in groups of four so that you could try to move in the same manner that the four living creatures of the vision were moving. In some ways, it is only possible to fully understand it if you have experienced it yourself.
I will try to explain it in a different way. Imagine that you were in a very large room, maybe at least 20 metres on each side, and that the walls were facing the cardinal points. So a north wall, east wall, south wall and west wall. Now imagine that you are in a group of four people, and that you are holding hands with arms stretched out. You face outwards from the circle that is formed. But here is the thing: each of the four of you must, at all times, face only in the direction of one of the four walls. So one of you always faces north, another east, another south, and the fourth west. This means that the circle that you have made will never turn, and that you will be moving straight and without turning.
Now you need a fifth person to play the part of the Holy Spirit. We are told that, wherever the spirit would go, the living creatures would go. So the person playing the part of the Spirit can move freely around the room. The circle of four must follow the spirit. But all the time, each person in the circle must remain facing in the direction that they began – north, east, south and west. So the circle never turns, but moves straight as it follows the spirit.
The resulting motion requires both trust and sensitivity. Sometimes you will need to be moving backwards for the circle to move with the spirit. Sometimes you will need to move sideways, or at an angle. Or, if the spirit is in front of you, you can move forwards. The main rule is that you do not turn and the circle does not turn.
In order to move backwards without turning to look, you will need to apply trust to the situation. Of course, the same degree of trust was not required of the living creatures in the vision. Why? Because they literally had eyes in the back of their heads – maybe the sharpest eyes of all, because it was the face of an eagle at the back.
But yet, doing this movement as an ordinary human, without eyes in the back of your head, you need to trust both that the Spirit will lead you without bringing you into danger, and that your brothers and sisters in Jesus who are at your side will also be as sensitive to the movement of the Spirit as you are.
This, in itself, is a lesson about the spiritual, or Christian, life. Are you keeping your spiritual eyes open? Do you know how the Spirit is moving? Where he is moving to? What he wants for you? And do you feel that the direction is taking you in an unexpected direction sometimes? Almost as if you have to walk backwards?
And how about your brothers and sisters in Christ? When you are moving in the direction that the Holy Spirit wishes to move in, are your brothers and sisters in Christ moving with you? Notice the outstretched wings of the creatures that were touching the wings of the creatures either side. So how close are you with your brothers and sisters?
Are you proud of your independence? Like to be a ‘lone ranger’? That’s not how this works! When the spirit moves in the body of Christ, the nose does not go off in one direction, and the ears in another, and the chin in yet another – that is how the body becomes divided and weakened.
It is very likely that only one brother or sister notices a movement of the spirit first – just like with the circle of 4 that I was describing earlier, maybe the spirit is between the south wall and the person who has to face only south. When the spirit moves, only the one of the four knows it and begins to move. But, because of the holding hands, those on either side of the southern person – the east and west – can sense the movement and go with it, continuing to face in the direction that they are supposed to face. And this movement will be sensed by the one whose back is to the movement, and who is facing north, and so even this person can move with the spirit.
So here is a good example – that the movement of the spirit can be sensed even third hand, but because of the trust in the brothers and sisters there is no problem to move in the same direction.
It reminds me of the scripture: not by strength, nor by might, but by my Spirit says the Lord. Maybe, if I may take the artistic license, it could even read: not by strength, nor by sight… And I think that I have scriptural authority for this, because we are told:
faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance for what we do not see.
This is a whole area that can be completely ruined by pride – because you need to be willing to accept that your brother or sister can be shown something before you. You need that outstretched hand (wing) to keep you sensitive to the spirit. So you also need to keep your relationship with god and your brothers and sisters in a good way. It is no good wanting to be ‘first’, wanting to be ‘the leader.’ Sometimes you need also to be led.
Many in the faith are more than ready to understand and agree about maintaining a good and close relationship with the Lord. But, for a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, you need to also maintain good relationships in the body of Christ. And this needs to be done without exception – even with the one who, in the natural, would never be ‘popular’ or ‘the life of the party.’ Yes, even with that spotty geek that you have been avoiding!
The love of Christ is universal, and so should your love be in the body. What are you going to do if the movement of the Holy Spirit is revealed first to that person you have been avoiding? So for all your pride in the fact that you have your daily ‘quiet time’ and that you avoid all sin, and that you have been regular in attendance at church and the prayer meetings, yet you can completely miss the movement of the spirit because it was revealed first to the least popular person in the congregation.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that whole churches may have missed out on the blessing that was prepared for them for the same reason.
Yes, this is serious! And yes, revival can be missed because of such things!