Ezekiel

A Vision of God – Ezekiel 1:1-28

A VISION OF GOD.

 

Ezekiel 1v1-28

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Ever had the experience of well laid plans being scuttled by unforeseen events – working hard to achieve the goals you have set only to have circumstances to change and the rug is pulled out from under your feet. You have had great hopes and dreams for the days ahead but they have been overtaken by disillusionment – and your hopes and dreams are in ruins.

 

For some these disappointments may have been just that – disappointment, but not necessarily life-shattering events. For others it may have felt / or maybe still does feel that the world has crumbled around them.

Do you fit anywhere on this continuum? Maybe you one of those who has never had major disappointments or tragedies or shattered dreams – but life being what it is it is only a matter of time!!

Maybe you haven’t had personal troubles but you look at life in general or your own life in particular and you have become disillusioned and depressed.

 

If you fit into any of these categories = and if you don’t maybe you are super-human!! ?? – then this Message from Ezekiel is for you>

 

THIRTYSOMETHING

 

Recently I reached the grand age of 40!! Old to some / young to others! but a milestones – and often these milestones cause us to reflect and consider where we are and where we might have been if things were different. Where I am now is not where I envisaged I would be 20 years ago /or even 10 yrs ago!

 

Ez. had recently turned 30 -[at least that seems to be the case -v.1] – where he was is not where he had envisaged he would be. He was a political exile = living in a “refugee” camp outside Babylon. At age 20 had begun his 10 year period as a trainee priest – his father was a priest – half way through when he was 25 – 5 years short of his goal – the Babylonian armies had besieged and conquered Jerusalem (597 BC) – Jehoakim, king of Judah had rebelled against Babylon and the consequences were predictable.

 

In fact Jeremiah the prophet had warned of the impending judgement – but the people of Jerusalem thought they were safe because it was God’s city they told themselves – we are God’s chosen people

– BUT God’s judgement came on disobedient Jerusalem and the 25 years old Ezekiel found himself being charted off to Babylon as a political exile.

Tel-abib was an awful place – refugee camps usually are – He felt homesick, miserable, depressed and abandoned by God.

 

We see the mood of the exiles in Ps.137

Psalm 137:1-4

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,

3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy;        they said,          “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD

while in a foreign land? (NIV)

 

Ez. – the dream of a promising career in tatters – His beloved Jerusalem was in on the way down – This was supposed to be the centre of God dwelling and it was falling apart while Babylon, the centre of idolatry and sensual excess, was flourishing and beautiful. – It was bustling and prosperous, it boasted the magnificent hanging gardens, wonderful architecture, strong defences. BY comparison the City of God seemed weak, and run down and insignificant!

 

Is it any wonder the Ezek. was depressed? {But he was not forgotten ………….

Ezekiel 1:3 ……………… There the hand of the LORD was upon him. (NIV)

 

 

  1. THE STORM (v4-9)

 

To say that Ez. and his fellow Jews were depressed would be a gross understatement.

Tel-abib was built on ruins – that is what a Tell is – maybe a graphic illustration of their lives!!

Ez. sitting – looking out to the desert – a storm blew up – Dust storms were common – at first may have appeared like a threatening black cloud – then it dawned on Ez. that this was no ordinary storm. How this vision occurred we are not told BUT in the midst of the dark cloud Ez. saw light! — and around the cloud brightness ![a silver lining] [v.4]

While clouds may obscure the sun they can’t extinguish it – beyond the cloud the sun was at bright as it ever has been.

Maybe it began to dawn on Ez. that it takes more than personal, social or political crises to overcome God’s rule in his world!

 

Is it not true that often we behave as if the darkness has swallowed the light! The God has been overtaken by our circumstances.

The exiles needed a vision of God – we all do when our circumstances become all consuming. When society becomes obsessed with its own existence it is in deep trouble – when personal survival is our passion and personal comfort our life’s ambition then society is on the edge of disaster – when economics, politics and philosophies revolve around selfish desire — then what we need is a vision of God!

 

That is what the exiles needed!

Not only was there a silver lining – there was an intense burning in the middle of the cloud – a symbol of the holiness and purity of the God Ez. served. They had lost sight of the greatness and grandeur of God because of the circumstances they were going through – it is so easy for our circumstances to distort our view of who God is and what he is like>

 

This was a vision, not just about God, but about the servants of God — beginning with the threatening cloud God took Ez. through scenes of his angelic forces [the 4 living creature with their 4 wings and 4 faces], onto the great chariot of his mobility and then up to the throne of his transcendent glory.

ILLUS. Like a small boy seeing a giraffe for the first time – starting at ground level and going up and up until his neck is nearly breaking off –

SO Ez. tries to take in the whole incredible picture!!

 

Ez. was preoccupied with his problems – God begins with the darkness and then shows him that far from being far away and unconcerned he is he is in the middle of the cloud and intimately acquainted with the exiles situation!!

 

So often we want mountain top experiences of God – but it is often through the valley and the darkness that we come to see God and experience his intimacy –

WHAT are you going through today?? Is there a cloud threatening you? God is not far away – he is in the middle!!

 

Great difficulty in describing the vision – hence words = like = likeness = the appearance of = = he is struggling to describe the Divine/ spiritual in human language which is very limited!!

 

  1. THE CREATURES

         (angelic servants)

 

These creatures came from the burning fire of the holy presence of the living God.

They have human characteristics showing the high place given to humanity in the creation. They have wings to speed in the service of God and hands to serve. They are on constant touch with each other and they move with lightening speed in obedience to the direction of the Spirit.

The 4 faces – man – lion – ox – eagle – [ the rabbis saw this as – man the greatest created being – lion greatest wild beast – ox greatest domestic beast – eagle greatest bird] – some categories missed out BUT message is that all creatures are made to be subject to God control and to display his glory!

 

Mention the Lessons we can learn from these creatures [Stuart Briscoe ….. p.16]

  • ‘they had the likeness of a man’ [v5]- reminder that of all creation HUMANITY is the one the Lord uses primarily for his purposes.
  • ‘their feet were straight feet’ – [v7] – the necessity for STABILITY in the work of the Lord.
  • ‘they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass’ [v7] – ref. to their PURITY.
  • ‘they had the hands of a man under their wings’ -[v8] – points out that the Lord work needs people with a sense of PRACTICALLY to go with their wings.
  • ‘their wings were stretched upward’ [v11] – a great sense of urgency and MOBILITY.
  • ‘two wings covered their bodies’ [v11] – demonstrating their HUMILITY.
  • ‘ they went everyone straight forward’ [v12] – a sense of purpose and commitment and the moved with INTEGRITY.
  • ‘wherever the Spirit would go they would go’ [v12 – a great statement of their AVAILABILITY.
  • ‘their appearance was like burning coals of fire’ [v13] – describes their INTENSITY.
  • ‘they sped back and forth like flashes of lightening’ [v14] – tremendous sense of their ACTIVITY.

 

Ez. needed to realise the while on earth nothing seemed to be happening – in the councils of heaven God is fully active and executing his purposes for His world.

God’s servants are not inactive – God has not relinquished his power or his concern for the world – despite what may appear God is still in charge —

it may at times seem to us that God is inactive upon the earth – but God is never remote – never detached – if on the surface we can’t see God at work we must not assume that he has ceased to care.

 

 

 

  1. THE WHEELS (v.15-21)

 

Wheels within wheels with rims of eyes –

Strange things –

ILLUS> recently – Andrew to Farnham – small space for parallel parking – squeezed in with one wheel on curb – wished for wheels to go sideways as well as forward!!

Ez.’s wheels were like that!!

 

They could move in any direction at anytime

Ezekiel 1:17 17 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. (NIV)

God could get anywhere he wants at anytime – if necessary simultaneously!!

It is called OMNIPRESENCE – God can be everywhere at once!

 

NB the size of these wheels

Ezekiel 1:16 16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels …LIT. Height to them and Fear to them:

Ez. was overwhelmed by their sheer size and there incredible ability to move — at times touching the earth — at time lifting up like a helicopter with the power of a rocket. The power was awesome – OMNIPTENTENCE.

 

 

The rims of eyes [1v18] …

2 Chronicles 16:9 9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

Nothing is hidden from God — he know our thoughts and desires. OMNISCIENCE.

 

Ez. had experienced the invading Babylonian army – their great chariots – the tanks of the ancient world as the role across the Middle Eastern deserts – Judah had been subdued – he had been carried off to Babylon – amazed by the size of the city – the grandeur, the affluence — Jerusalem which in his youth he thought was the centre of the Universe and the dwelling place of Jehovah seemed rather pathetic by comparison!!

 

Was God so great after all? Maybe his insular upbringing in Judah had misled him — hadn’t the gods of Babylon proved more than a match for the Lord??

 

The vision answers all Ez. doubts and fears – the hosts of the Lord are more than a match for the armies of Babylon – but the are spiritual and not fleshly and MUST be seen by faith..

The message is loud and clear – the throne of God is above the chariots and Israel’s God is fully mobile and fully able to cope with any and every situation!!!

Even the loss of the temple and Jerusalem could have no real effect upon such a God as Ez. saw. He was as much the God of the Jews in exile as he had been in Jerusalem — nothing could happen without his knowledge or permission!!

 

  1. THE THRONE (v25-28)

 

As his eyes reach the top of the Vision there is the throne in all its brilliance!!

Words fail him!!

Trying to describe what he sees – is like trying to play Beethoven 5th on a penny-whistle to someone who has never heard it!!! [Briscoe]

 

Then the Voice – at the sound of the voice from the throne the creatures stood and lowered their wings – the noise stopped – these angelic servants did not suffer from any illusion that their activity kept God on that throne and that if they stopped the throne would come crashing down – God depends on no-one!!

 

The one on the throne was “like a man” – we unlike Ez. have the benefit of the NT and know that the risen ascended Lord Jesus has taken his humanity to the very throne of God from where he rules the universe!

 

This is no weakling God — “He looked like Fire” [v27].. the brilliance and majesty of God — “surrounded by the light of a rainbow” [v28]. A reminder of the covenant with Noah – of grace in the midst of judgement – of love at the centre of holiness and concern in the midst of tragedy.

 

“WHEN I SAW IT I FELL FACE DOWN …”

Could it be that our worship and service of God is dull and mundane because we haven’t seen the majesty and mystery and power of God??

 

CONCLUSION

 

Ez. had a fresh vision of God – intimately aquatinted with earthly events — permanently active on the earth — able to cope with any and every human crisis – wars come and go – there is economic collapse – there are personal tragedies and heartaches BUT God is still God – he is not an absentee Father!! — he cares and he is still in control.

 

 

 

The vision cause Ez. to fall on his face in wonder love and praise. This is precisely what modern man will not do – proud in their achievements, swept along by new discoveries and philosophies and economic success — this is the new Babylon where there is no room for God – We think we are masters of our own destiny!!

 

That is understandable in the World — but Christian too can be guilty of a very small view of God.

Ez. helps us to see God for who he is – the great, awesome, indescribable, holy God who knows you and me!

 

Ez. fell on his face when he saw the majesty of God – and anyone who is going to be used by God must begin there!!

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