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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE FIRST VISION OF EZEKIEL ?
HOW IS IT A MAJOR THRUST TO REPENTANCE, CLEANSING AND CONDUCT CONFORMABLE TO CHRIST ?
THE VISION OF EZEKIEL AND THE VICTORY TO HAND
1. A Preliminary Look at the Vision
Briefly, the vision of Ezekiel 1 is of the sovereign and majestic God, surrounded by the expressions of His creation. We know this because it is stated that "I saw visions of God", and Ezekiel constantly states the precise words which the Lord gives him, and dwells on the strictly inter-personal relationship between himself and God, including exhortation, command and encouragement from Him.
The fire as at Pentecost, and as in Hebrews, the CONSUMING FIRE, the OUTREACHING FIRE, involves the intense purity of God, the ultimate insistence on that purity or nothing, and the vast activity. Above this, we find at the end of the chapter 1, is a crystalline beauty, intense, beautiful, and there in control is one with resemblance to man. With this in turn is the rainbow, expressive by Biblical definition from Noah, of mercy and constancy of control. It is also stated that this is the appearance of the LIKENESS of the glory of the Lord.
It is in short a vision. As to that, it would not be possible for it to be clearer: HE SAW THE APPEARANCE OF THE LIKENESS OF THE GLORY OF THE LORD. The prophet is then addressed verbally in chapter 2.
The wheels express of course, symbolically, activity of a more instrumental kind, material and procedural and processive. They turn and proceed to an end. The 'wheels within wheels' phrase, by now a famous English idiomatic expression, expresses the intense system found in our life structure biologically, so brilliant that we can nowhere near match its creation: stunning! indicates Dr Michael Denton, non-Christian scientist who insists on a plan and action that specifically led to this amazingly ingenious and in his view, perfectly wonderful construction in the cells of life. Right down to the simplest cell, this complex ingenuity appears, he insists.
Complexity within complexity, wonder within wonder, action within action - this is the message. Nor is it limited to our cells, for our very minds which use these things are likewise so astute and acute that psychiatrists all but wither in their endeavours to repair them. Our spirits too have amazing involvements and subtleties, as well as capacities to appreciate and respond to the other wonders the Lord has made. There in itself is a wheel within a wheel: our MINDS a re created, and WITH these we can SEE within some the OTHER creations... while our spirits assess and assay implicit perspectives, and so on. (See SMR pp. 348ff..)
The wheels here however do not turn as they go. Now of course this is the whole point. Normally turning is PRECISELY what you expect of wheels. These do not do it. This obviously then is meant to be an expressive and impactive feature to make us think. Think what however?
In the light of the other extraordinary feature here, that there is the appearance of the glory of the Lord, we conclude that this feature of the wheels is expressive in some way of that glory. Which way? It seems apparent that it would signify that for ALL THEIR ACTIVITY, THERE IS YET A SOVEREIGN HAND WHICH HAS AN ULTIMATE DIRECTION. THIS is the area of our discourse, so THIS would appear the area of the intimation. That also is precisely what other Biblical doctrine states. Thus Ephesians tells us that GOD WORKS ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS WILL.
The varied living creatures are symbolically expressive of the BREADTH and variety of the living creation as it serves or impresses man, the ox, the lion, the eagle. Again, these represent features in life, quiet serviceability, strength and fearlessness and soaring coverage and perspective.
Further (1:13), far from being distanced from the Lord, they are full of coals and fire, and lightning dashes out of them, giving a testimony of enclosed dynamic within them, the dynamic of LIFE, from God. Again we find in that they "ran and returned", so that this is a picture, a portrayal of ACTION and the dynamic of life, not of departure FROM God on their part.
The RIMS () express that about which they turn, the indices of action. These are filled with eyes. This would seem to indicate the all-seeing character of the God who fashions history. Events are informed with sensors which are divinely read. It reminds one of battle field techniques in controlling surveillance with sophisticated airborne devices, manned and automatic, recording, reporting.
There is NO sense of leaving the Lord, but of action within His ambit.
What now happens however is both clear and crucial to the development of the point being made.
This GLORY of the Lord now - in the midst of instructions to the prophet to confront his sinning and rebellious nation, which is about to be invaded so that there will be divinely DETERMINED exile - MOVES. The movement is
· Slowly and by degrees (10:4, 11:22-23), as a father might leave a son now confined in prison, till the next visit, the glory moves FROM the glory place in the temple. It moves next to the side of the city. Nor are we left in any doubt as to the meaning of this, for in Chapter 11 the sins which are distancing God from protecting them are made all too clear! In terms of the vision. Some of the coals are taken from the midst of the dynamic and put into the hands of a man who therefore, being an agent of action, seems ready to release them with their scorching onto the city (10:7), and this being in the midst of many divine declaration of judgment upon them, seems interpreted by the context.
· Next THE GLORY OF THE LORD (10:4, ) moves to the gates, TOWARDS the plain where the preliminary exiles already are. This of course simply designates in terms of the cloud and fire that accompanied Moses as he led his people out of Egypt, that God is moving away from protecting and blessing in the temple which the people had so misused in such hypocrisy, as the word of God charged them: He is moving to accompany the exiles to their appointed trial in another country. HE is not going to leave THEM, even THOUGH they must leave the temple.
· Further, not only to the wheels GO WHERE THE SPIRIT IS TO GO (1:20), SIGNIFYING THAT THIS CREATION IS WHOLLY IN THE HAND OF GOD, these wheels are dependent on Him and His purposes, but more explicit yet is the treatment of this feature. In , we find a crying "Oh wheel!", signifying a verbal arrangement of impact on the creation from a VOICE with LANGUAGE over all the mechanisms and structures. In 10:4 we find the house filled with the brightness of the Lord's glory so that the supreme commander and centre of lustre is EXPLICITLY SPECIFIED in all this: it is the LORD. It is the LORD'S GLORY which moves, and all moves with it, the SPIRIT which is in the wheels moving them, and the Lord moving where He will, with the whole assemblage following.
THAT is the motion aspect, in the clear context of all the VERBALLY EXPLICIT instructions of the Lord to the prophet. He would be, He stated, a little sanctuary to the people, in the exile. Here He is moving to perform that, showing by didactic and instructive vision, just that.
2. Some Scriptures for this Exercise:
Then the Spirit lifts him up and takes him away, so that in spirit he visits the exiles to whom the Lord is moving.
Abominations are revealed in the temple, gross caricatures of the things of God, idols and images of human invention: Ezekiel 8. Ezekiel is likewise led in vision to behold these, one of the grounds of the Lord moving FROM the temple, and the Jews going to exile. In the context of the vision, this then relates to the Lord's glory first being shown IN VISION, and then being seen to move away from the land and the temple in particular.
This simply confirms the intimation of the vision already made: that it is a spiritually directed universe with which we have to do, for all its appearance of multitudes of designs and procedures. WHEELS are subject to the Lord. They turn at HIS pleasure. Our own wheels in an automobile, when it is in form, tend to do just the same, for all their mechanical niceties. THIS is their purpose, and as they handled right, this is what they do - go where our spirits direct them. With God , there is no weakness as with us, and the procedure is perfect.
· Ezekiel 3:8-9.
· "Behold I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead: do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house." Moreover He said to me:" Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. And go, get to he captives, to the children of your people and speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God,' whether they will hear , or whether they refuse."
Thus we are dealing with a precisely pronounced word from God Almighty, addressed with imagery and vision to a rebellious people in which He indicates His entire control, judicious decisions and coming requirements in the peregrinations of His people, in which however, He will neither leave them nor forsake them. Better to be disciplined by the Lord, than praised by this puny world, which so often has its hand in its pocket, and its philosophies bred with mice.
The lesson: REPENT and BELIEVE in the Lord, and be ESPECIALLY careful not to caricature Him by making Him up according to any philosophy. Find Him where He is, and be thankful, realising this same word tells us this:
That name? JESUS CHRIST OF
3. More on the Deliverer who Comes in the Glory of the Lord, God with us, for Offer to the Children of Men
Not merely does Ezekiel, in communion with that same One called the LORD in the vision, receive explanation and direction concerning what God is doing, in WORDS, explicit and direly related to the vision, but there is evidence of the ONLY SOURCE OF RELIEF from these fearful judgments spelled out in Chapters 2ff..
This is later wrought definitively for the final return in
Ezekiel 37, following the glorious events of Ezekiel 34, where it is to the
EVERLASTING COVENANT that they come, and to David their King.
The same thought is expressed by the prophet Jeremiah in 31:31, and he shows this, that it is going to be nothing less than a "NEW COVENANT". (For more on this, see Isaiah 52:!3-53:12; 55; 42, and The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Vol. 3, Ch.9). This verse needs attention, applicable to those whom He heals in spirit (Isaiah 53:5):
In Ezekiel 34, God also shows this: He is DISSATISFIED with the recklessly inadequate pastoral care shown by the often quite false pastors, and WILL COME HIMSELF PERSONALLY and do the work of the GOOD SHEPHERD, shaming the false, and doing the necessary spiritual work among the people (34:8-12). THEN the everlasting Kingdom of God is to arrive, so that this is the period of the rule of the Messiah or Christ (Isaiah 2:2-4, 4:6, 7:14, 9:1-7, 11:1-10 with many others). As shown in Isaiah, He is stated to be the son of Jesse - who as father of David indicates that he is the promised King of Kings to follow in the descendants of David. Though human in form and according to promise in the Davidic line, yet He is in the place of God - that is, He is the definitive incarnation of God which He purposed and performed: cf. Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 45, Psalm 110, 2.
In Ezekiel 34, God also shows this: He is DISSATISFIED with the recklessly inadequate pastoral care shown by the often quite false pastors, and WILL COME HIMSELF PERSONALLY and do the work of the GOOD SHEPHERD, shaming the false, and doing the necessary spiritual work among the people (34:8-12).
The overall message: REPENT of sin and BELIEVE the consuming purity of the Lord, and ACCEPT the regeneration of heart necessary to live in His presence, and the PASTORAL PROVISION of the Messiah, the Good Shepherd whose intimate, infinitely precious and utterly necessary provisions are made by His own incarnation as a man, doing personally the work that only He can do.
As a shepherd seeks out his flock in the day
that he is among his sheep that are scattered,
so will I seek out my sheep...
I will feed my flock and I will cause them to lie down,
says the Lord God."
If you are interested in the vision of Ezekiel, THIS is the teaching in the symbol and in the name of the Lord who is central in the vision, with explicit words and not with possibilities, with challenge and not for mere contemplation: that it is necessary
to REPENT and BELIEVE,
and that shepherd who was to come and came on time (Daniel 9:24-27, see my The Shadow of a Mighty Rock Vol. 3, pp. 886-899), dying around A.D. 30,
is now that ONLY way to the Father,
for whom are the wheels,
beyond which was the hand and the voice and the glory.
HE fulfilled it all, is the Good Shepherd,
is the answer of the prophets predictions in PERSON. To find God, you receive the way provided. (A free Copy of this book is available.)
· "HE WHO HAS THE SON HAS LIFE, AND HE WHO DOES NOT HAVE THE SON OFGOD DOES NOT HAVE LIFE" (I John ).
· NOT having life is often used as a springboard for cursing God, or reviling or despising Him. However it is a decision to avoid the only mode of knowing Him, generous enough when it is a gift, and is so acutely related to the offence which brought about the lostness which is the condition of this present world and most within it.
· HAVING life is a lookout for blessing God, for the gift is of such glory and joy, at once so natural and so necessary, that it is like awakening from a medical operation, yet without pangs. NOT to have the Son is NOT to accept His offer, which is NOT the work of the one who wants Him. If you do not want, so be it; there you are. If you do, so be it: there He is. Take Him!
· We turn now to the next vast vision of Ezekiel which has a message of such simplicity that it belies the confusion of this world.