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 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.
Over the past two studies we looked at the introduction to the book of the prophet Ezekiel (this is not separate from chapter 1, and I have met some who are confused by such things. But we need to realise that the chapters and verses do not appear in the original. These were added much later as a way of making it easier to refer to sections of scripture). We now look at the beginning of the first vision of Ezekiel.
Immediately one can see the attraction in thinking that the creatures were somehow mechanical, and that the ‘storm’ was the effect of retro rockets, and that the temperatures of atmospheric entry caused the glowing metal and fires. Yes, I can see how this, and many more things in this and the next chapter, are tempting to those looking for evidences of alien visitations in the ancient past. And of course this series of studies I have named after a well-received book by a NASA scientist and engineer who began to see these descriptions as being descriptions of high technology from a bronze-age priest, who would not even have the understanding, personally, of the technology to make bronze…
But, while that is all very interesting, this is not what the vision was. It was not the purpose of the recording in his book, now included in the canon of scripture. We were told back in verse 1 the purpose of this vision:
“The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.”
So there it is: the purpose here is to give Ezekiel a vision of God, some better understanding of God, and to report this to the people in exile.
And why? I think I already mentioned this in the previous studies. That Ezekiel saw himself as despised by God, and from among a people despised by God.
When you feel like that, you can feel as though you are abandoned, as though God is far away. You can feel that your prayers get no higher than the ceiling and the only one who hears them is yourself. And isn’t this so true of any of us, particularly when we know that we have done something bad? We can feel that this sin separates us from God.
Of course this is not true at all. The apostle Paul writes about how our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and how can the Holy Spirit be joined with prostitutes? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
So he is telling us that, in whatever circumstance we commit sin, and whatever that sin may be, then, as Christians, we take God with us right into that sin. We are not separated from God. And being saved and having forgiveness does not give permission for further sin.
Of course, if you are not the Lord’s, and if you are not clothed in the righteousness of Christ, then indeed there is a separation between you and God, and that this was caused by sins. But even in this case, the Lord is omnipresent. Therefore He is both at your side and even inside you. He is ready to hear the prayers of repentance, to take your soul to Himself.
So this feeling of separation from God is an illusion. It is a lie. And who is the father of lies? And why does the father of lies want to feed us with this particular lie?
I think the answer to that is obvious. The devil is in opposition to God, and he wishes all people to be deceived so that they are powerless. If people were to realise that God is with them, that he hears their prayers, that he loves them, that he works in power to those who are committed to the Kingdom, then the power of the evil one on earth will be very much less.
In the situation of the Hebrews in the time and place of Ezekiel, it is also evident about some of the purposes of the lies and the deceptions. I covered this to some degree in the previous study. If God seems far and unreachable, and that you feel that you are completely despised by Him. If you feel that there will be no love for you from Him, then you will not turn to Him. And if the Hebrews do not turn to God, they will not be empowered by God to do the marvellous exploits like they did in the past.
Even more so, because of their miserable existence, they may begin to believe that the gods of their conquerors have real power, and so be real gods. Maybe to align themselves with the Babylonians, maybe to submit to these gods, will provide relief and divine love and care. Honestly – the more you think about the situation, the more you can see exactly why this particular deception is so useful to the enemy, the devil.
God wanted clearly to break through that. He wanted to reveal Himself, to show He is real, to show He is powerful, and to show that He has not forgotten about His chosen people. He wanted to show that He is not far away, but right there, and that He is not weak, but very powerful.
In other words, there needs to be the “wow factor” when His people think about their God – something to break through all the patterns of thinking that began to be established because of the Exile. The Israelites needed to see and understand that there is none like Him in power and glory and magnificence.
The vision that began the ministry of Ezekiel as prophet certainly had “wow factor”! You can easily imagine him watching open-mouthed in amazement. Maybe trying to hide himself from the site of the four living creatures, scared to be seen by them. Maybe bowing down, yet with eyes up – because he understood that this was indeed something special and that he should not miss anything from what God was trying to show him.
And, as we will see in coming studies, so much about this vision reveals God for who He is, and what He is like. It reveals how everything is in order, working together, moving within His will. It reveals power, beauty, glory, holiness, and magnificence. This was unmistakably God!
That really is the main point I wish to make today. However you may be feeling, whether close to God or far from Him, whether happy or sad, whether saved or yet to know His saving grace, the chances are that you do not realise how close God is, or how much he wishes to reveal Himself to you, or to show how He can work in power in your life.
Right now, God Himself is right there with you in your room as you are reading this. Even if you have fallen to sin recently and feel a million miles away from Him. In fact, recognise that feeling for what it is: a lie from the father of lies. God was with you and in you while you were committing that sin, and so in one sense you certainly caused Him pain. But God is still with you and in you. He wants your confession, your admission of guilt, your repentance and request for forgiveness. He is ready right now to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. He is there for you right now.
And maybe there has been something bad happen in your life. The death of a loved one. The loss of employment, or loss of a business, or loss of your home. Satan will be whispering to you that this is because of sin in your life, because you are not good enough. He is saying these lies so that God will seem far from you. But our Lord God is right there with you right now. He is even in you – because God is always omnipresent. You can’t be anywhere where there is not god.
There will be those who maybe told you that God works all things together to good for those in Jesus. A poor quote of a mistranslated verse… But the truth is, and this is what God wants to reveal to you, that God is ready to work alongside those in Jesus to make all things good. Join with Him now in this work, and begin to see the power of God in your life. It is amazing! Maybe you will not see God reveal himself to you in quite the same spectacular way that Ezekiel saw, but He will reveal Himself for sure as you seek Him.