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 topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 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. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.
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. 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.
We have been studying the first part of the first vision of Ezekiel the prophet. In recent studies we have examined the strange four living creatures that he saw, and in particular the way that they moved and the four faces that each had.
There can be more to say about these creatures. For instance that they had calves feet, and that calves are young oxen. The oxen represented the strength, the tractor force used for cultivation, that enables the planting and tending of crops. It is part of the sign that god has plans to prosper his people, but as calves feet, this symbolized the beginning of such things – the first steps.
But now we will move onwards in this first vision.
One can begin to see, in this section, how the author of ‘The Spaceships of Ezekiel’ began to gain an interest in the descriptions here and so begin to interpret this as being technology. He began to understand the four creatures as landing struts, and the cloven calves feet like the forked strut that holds the axle of the landing wheel on most aircraft. Well, as interesting as that interpretation is, what was really going on was that god was revealing Himself to his people who were in captivity in a foreign land. He was doing so in a way that was designed to show that his thoughts are of them, that he had not forgotten them, and that he still has plans for them. And so this is the main key to understanding the things in this vision.
What is clear is that the wheels remained by the creatures all the time. It was as though the wheels were attached to the living creatures, even though we are not told this. We have the impression, from the opening of the description, that the wheels were below and to one side of each of the creatures – “on the ground beside each creature.”
Wheels are themselves a very ancient symbol used in nearly all ancient cultures. The meanings are surprisingly consistent, with nearly all these cultures using a variety of meanings and not just the one. For instance, the wheel represented cycles in life and nature. So it represented birth, life, death and rebirth. It represented the cycle of the seasons. It represented the lunar cycles. It represented the astrological cycles of the signs that the sun passes through during one year. It represented the great cycle of thousands of years, because even back then it was understood that there was something called the precession of the equinoxes, and that these give the astrological time periods.
If you do not quite understand that, you may have heard that we are on the cusp of and about to enter the age of Aquarius. We are currently in the age of Pisces, which began roughly at the time of the death of Christ. Previous to that was the age of Aries, symbolized by the ram, and before that the age of Taurus, which ended about 2000 BC.
People have tried to link this feature of nature to the history of religion. For instance, the symbol of Christianity is very often the fish, and this was used for the first time back in ancient Rome when the early Christians were suffering persecution and arranged meetings in secret. Perhaps you have visited the catacombs in Rome and saw when the guide pointed to fish symbols, used to help direct these early Christians to the secret meeting places.
The symbol of the Hebrews was the ram, and the start of each Jewish New Year is greeted with the blowing of a ram’s horn. So one can see how the ram has been superseded by the fish. And before this many of the great ancient religions included the cult of the bull, or the golden calf. Sounds familiar? Why was god angry with the Hebrews after taking them out of Egypt?
And as these changes happened in the world, in society and cultures, one thing was common and even, to some degree expected: that the new would be opposed by the old. This meant the kinds of things that we read of in the bible, and can see evidence of in architecture: the persecution, imprisonment, martyring of many, enslavements – all to preserve the old and suppress the new.
As interesting as all these things are, there is not much that is of practical value in terms of helping the exiled Hebrews in the land of the Babylonians. So it is none of the symbolic meanings discussed so far. But there was another cycle that was understood, that of spiritual separation and redemption. That mankind had been created perfect and was in fellowship with god, but that this was lost through the sin of the fall. But god works to redeem mankind to himself, and for the Hebrews this meant being part of the chosen people of god.
As Paul had to point out, though, this is not just genetics and inheritance. In Romans he pointed out that the true circumcision is of the heart and not of the flesh – so being allowed to be transformed inwardly and not only in the physical body. And this also means that there is more to the Old Covenant than that of going through the physical acts of obedience to the letters of the law. And of course, as I have revealed elsewhere, Jesus pointed out much the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount.
And so we have this idea that the Lord wishes to complete the spiritual cycle – of how man fell from paradise and entered death, and through death will enter into spiritual life and return back to be with the Lord again.
Understanding of this particular interpretation of the wheel symbol is what helps us to understand what and why Ezekiel is seeing these things. As with the astrological wheel, which has versions of differing time spans – from thousands of years to the lunar cycle of 28 days – the spiritual wheel also has versions for different time spans.
There is that of all history – because creation was cursed along with mankind, and creation is waiting also to be redeemed and made new. Then there is the cycle purely for the history of mankind. There appears to be the cycle to show the fall from blessing of a nation and the returning of acceptance with god (which is the particular cycle that is important in this particular vision). And then, of course, a very similar thing with reference to an individual and their relationship with god.
But there is also the force of gravity to consider, and how Satan considers this his ally. What I mean is this: that as you slide down one side of the circle, from the heaven to the earth, the process is assisted by gravity. In the same way, it can feel hard to climb up the other side, and even dangerous. There are whole books of spiritual lessons that have been written about this particular aspect of the wheel! There is just so much spiritual imagery that becomes familiar to all of us when we begin to examine this.
So we can see that, when we are at the top of the wheel and everything seems to be great, yet there is a battle to be fought – against our own tendency to want to give in to temptation. The particular areas of weakness are different for different people, and the strength of the temptation will also vary.
It is understood that, the more you open yourself to God and make yourself available for His power and authority to work through your life, the more Satan will be interested to stop you.
So what is your weakness? Sex and money are obvious ones in the world. But what about putting things off that you should be doing because you want to do ‘just another 15 minutes’ on that computer game? Or you miss that prayer meeting because you did not want to miss the next instalment of your favourite TV serial. Or the money that should have gone to help your brother/sister in need went on that beautiful new dress or pair of shoes that you have been eyeing in the shop for a few weeks. Or you thought it was OK to behave like a prima donna and refuse to speak to a brother/sister because of a slight, and so enjoy the division in the body.
There are many ways that Satan can bring a fall from those spiritual heights, and sooner or later you will know that you are at the bottom of the circle. But our tendency here is to feel far from God. He is at the top of the wheel isn’t he? (No!) And it is going to be such hard work to get off the ground and climb back up… (Also No!). Here we are far from God and there is no help (the most common lie from Satan). So I must do something to try to claw my way back up the other side (another lie from Satan, that usually results in the sin of legalism).
All of these things begin to be revealed as lies even in the things that happened and were observed by Ezekiel in this vision. Remember that he said, more than once, that the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels, and that when they moved off the ground, the wheels moved off the ground.
So, if you have allowed sin in your life, and feel that you have fallen flat on your face on the ground, it is NOT your efforts that are going to get you out of that position. It is the spirit working in you, with the power to lift you up and to take you off the ground. All you need to do is to confess your sin and your need, look to the Lord to help, and ask for restoration.
There are so many examples of the Lord doing exactly that in the scriptures. We have it with King David, and Solomon after him, With Elijah and Jonah, with Jacob and with Moses. These all either knew great sin or ran away or did both. God did not forget about them. He provided a way for each of them to be redeemed back to him.
And so it was for the exiled Hebrews in the land of the Babylonians. The Lord had not forgotten them, and he was going to provide a way out from exile and to be restored into their promises.
And so it is for us. If our lives have not remained where they should be, and if we feel that we are at the bottom, faces in the dirt, then we have the good news: God has not forgotten us and has plans to redeem us to himself and to prosper us.
And finally, a word for leaders here. I mean the leaders and the leadership teams in the churches. You have often prevented the cycle, represented by the wheels here, from being completed for many in your congregations. There have been those who were given gifts and talents by god, who were clearly also anointed by Him for ministry, but who, like those spiritual giants in the bible, fell and found their face in the dirt at the bottom of the wheel.
Yet, for all the repentance, for all the confessing of sins and asking of forgiveness, for all the willingness to walk hand in hand with the Lord, you leaders have prevented these anointed individuals from climbing up the other side of the wheel – the side of restoration. You have weighed them down with chains of legalism. You have held them away from that which they were anointed for. You have taken the thinking of the world and applied it to the body of Christ, where it does not belong, and so treat them with thoughts like ‘the leopard never changes its spots.’
These things deny the transformational work of the Holy Spirit. These things deny the redemptive work of our God, who is always interested to redeem His people. And these things deny what God did in the past with the mighty men of god that we read about in the bible.
Leaders: allow god to redeem his anointed and allow his ministers to be restored to their ministry. If it was OK for Moses and Jonah, then it is OK for all who are willing to walk with God today.