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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 GOD
This is taken
in part from Biblical Blessings Ch. 4
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, intriguing, inviting and majestic with a solemn power. Impenetrable to presumption, it is declarative to eyes that see. Here, there is seen in control of events 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
ˇ 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.
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.
Notice that the glory of the Lord is seen to pause over the temple threshold, is fills the holy place.
ˇ 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. Here is the divine language of control, as for example in DNA, but it may be beyond even this, in creative power having the most intimate correlation with the creation, yet entirely over it.
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 (Ezekiel 1:20) moving them, and the Lord moving where He will, with the whole assemblage following.
Thus in stages, as if love is drawing back to the last the hand of destiny for chronic misdeeds and miscreancy, the glory of the Lord moves, and even at that, amidst the dire consequences of their spiritual oblivion, there is the divine provision for the 'little sanctuary' as which the Lord Himself will serve those who seek in Him, in the exile (11:16).
It is only then that the cherubim lift their wings, with the wheels of implementation, with the glory of the Lord high above them, the Lord of Israel and none other, and it moved to stand on the mountain. Now as the Temple indeed forsaken, a mere emblem without the realities it signified, a site without the significance it was supposed to show, misused, abused and ... abandoned for the time. Its coming destruction was not therefore of anything holy, for the One whose it was, had ... left it till His people returned in a different frame, then to be their Feature, their Focus and their God, so that temple once more became not an object for their aid, but a symbol of it.
The glory had departed, moving with temperance, moving after much patience, many warning, vivid, some in parables (Hosea 12:10), with many sufferings to make the warnings the more palpable. Now, it was gone. How lamentable when this occurs in a church or a nation! What had been explicit in glory, apt in wonder, sound in doctrine, diligent in discipline, outstanding in love becomes a residue, like a burnt-out piece of wood, the morning after the blazing fire. It is then bitter to the nostril, dusty to the lung, inept for comfort or use. So too is the body from which the glory has departed, apt for rebellion, keen on innovation, relinquishing the scriptural standards without which the 'church' is a society of rampancy, and a neighbourhood for tragedy.
In just such a way, many modern
denominations and churches have so offended in Pentecostal
multiple tongues, fake healings, false doctrines,
intimidatory tactics to subvert believers, as in the
New Zealand debacle of
1966-1967, when the body of the Lord was sold from the FAITH, and ways almost
too numerous even to list, that the glory of the Lord, Himself grieved and
offended, moves out from them. It may pause on the threshold, giving them
opportunity to repent (as in the church at Thyatira, with their Jezebel false
prophetess, a veritable type of some modern sects). In that case,
"I have her time to repent" (Revelation 3:21), but this lacking, the Lord
gave her sickness, and will "kill her children with death",
which impactive phrase must mean that their spiritual death is sure, their
mortality is permanent and their end draws near.
How grievous to see what were once fine denominations, alight with love, moving first as in the PC of Australia, first to the shambles of false liberalism, as if passion were somehow diverted, and then to the excesses of avoiding the balance of their excellent constitution of 1901, and becoming crass in a Calvinism which is unallayed (The Biblical Workman Ch. 8 as marked).
The PC in America, this too has lapsed significantly, moving to more and more ecumenical laxity and now into the field of authorising what can in no circumstances be deduced by good and necessary consequence (as the Westminster Confession rightly affirms) as commendable, and proper and sound. How can it be, that it is ordained as sound in doctrine, which God has not authorised! So does tradition come as in Mark 7:7, and for this and that cultural idol, men bow, or move as drawn by magnetic influence.
In News 121, 122 we see some of these movements on a broader scale; and it is sad and grievous to behold it all, Billy Graham after preaching, admittedly a decisionism which the scripture did not support (John 15:16, John 1:12, Romans 9:16), nevertheless making a gospel focus and then making his peace with Romanism*1 in ways too unfortunate to detail at this point, but not excluding his doctorate at their hands, and his use of their counsellors in his crusades. Thus does the fine fall, and the foremost fail, as this parallel to the fall of Israel of old develops itself, many treading under foot the very blood of Christ, one a Baptist, even alleging himself in no need of the Saviour's death!
The glory departing is a signally sad affair, and God offers to His own people the modern equivalent of the 'little sanctuary' in the wilderness, which He undertook to be to Israel in its exile. Many now exiled from the fine denominations which once they knew, must continue in small groups as this new approach comes. It is not, this time, to the power of imperial Babylon that the movement is made, but to the spiritual Babylon of Revelation 13,17, where the evils lurk and the beast casting out Rome, is to continue with his own false prophet (Revelation 13:).
It is however a time to exult,
for as with Ezekiel, so is the Lord a fortress and a deliverer to His people,
and His church so far from failing, will continue though the gates of hell
contrive to fry it alive with social impositions, false accusations, détentes
with this world and evil morals such as found now in the Uniting Church in its
abrogation of the Bible on the topic of sexual perversion, and aggravation of
the same in having such pastors available to preach, as if I Corinthians 6 had
never been written and I Timothy 1 were a toy.
Let us however return to Ezekiel as our basis, moving back from applying it to our own times. Indeed, it is good to revisit the source of these things in Ezekiel 1, the first impact of the God whose appearance has been so expressively portrayed, as seen in Ezekiel 1:4.
Here comes the whirlwind which seems to bring Ezekiel near, as if one were to find oneself suddenly soaring next to a jet aircraft. "A great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself" is seen. The "raging fire" is like the "consuming fire" of Hebrews 11: Our God is a consuming fire. The appearance, taking this with such verses as Matthew 3:12. Here, wheat and chaff being in view, we find that the Lord will burn the latter with "unquenchable fire", and this in turn parallels closely Mark 9, where the fire is not quenched. In other words, there is no way in which refuse can imitate reality, when the test is over. The 'fire' cleanses, purges and consumes what is not protected by the purity and grace of the Lord Himself. Indeed, in Ezekiel 1-10, there is the sense of dismantling this very protection from a city, namely Jerusalem, to which we return shortly.
A Again, the fire is seen to be engulfing itself. This power and resurgence, so that it is not mere stillness, but massively energic and filled with research and knowledge, nothing bordering or marginal, all in the midst of brilliance itself, has for its creation what is revealed later in the vision.
B But let us now look toward the end of the revelation. There is the likeness of a man, who is above the exalted throne, and not in any way devolving upon it, but giving directions.
Thus, the voice over all "comes from above" (1:25), just as above the firmament and throne, there is one in the apparent form of a man, exalted greatly (cf. Isaiah 52:12-15). Fire impressing with power and purity, and amber are the exponents of His greatness, the fire so crystalline in its amber expression, giving a clear illumination that does not flicker. With this is the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, betokening mercy from the flood on, as guaranteed against further floods (cf. Genesis 9:11-12).
T Thus prodigious energy of awesome majesty, and immediate knowledge of all things, and power to dispose them, immensity of detail in the wheels and eyes and rings, so that knowledge, control and power move towards the furthermost and most intimate parts of the creation, the paraphernalia of the modes of creation, all this is indicated, the latter utterly distinct from the voice and the One above the throne, whose spirit moves the wheels, where they are to go.
THAT is the motion aspect, and the supra-creative power of the One above the throne, seen so that the creation is exhibited under His eye and majesty, with multiplicity in myriads of devices, all known as by eyes, to the Lord.
This vision is given 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 (Ezekiel 11:16), but there is in between this vision of Ch. 1 and that merciful provision, a series of orientations for Ezekiel, which show the blessedness of his having this vision, for his is a work of ardour and difficulty, in which what is normally called 'success' may seem systematically absent (as for Jeremiah, whose ministry, though great, brought contumely and rejection - cf. Jeremiah 15:15-21).
Thus in Ezekiel 2, the prophet is asked to stand on his feet, an index of being ready to be sent, and when he responds (the message of NOT being ready is clear to the non-diligent! cf. Matthew 24:45ff.), "the Spirit entered into me." Sent to a "rebellious nation" who are "impudent and stubborn children", he is to speak with divinely given authority the word the Lord gives him. Whether they refuse or accept, the word does not change (Ezekiel 2:3-5). Invited to eat from a scroll, Ezekiel is thus symbolically organised as recipient of the word of God. On the scroll ? fittingly for this difficult task assigned to the prophet, there are "lamentations and mourning and woe."
Not to the willing, but to the unwilling is Ezekiel sent (3:5), not to the distant who might listen, but to the near who will not. He is to be fearless, and even speak to those already captured in the forays of the increasingly forbidding enemy. The prophet is to be a watchman, and to be faithful in this task.
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.
As for the prophet, he is given divine support and power for the endurance of his mission, and its consummation.
" '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
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
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 (from Acts 4:11-12):
In Ezekiel 40ff., in the New
Temple vision, He is the Prince and His work is found especially in Chs. 41-45.
On this, see The Last Vast Vision of Ezekiel.
That name? JESUS CHRIST OF
In Ezekiel 40ff., in the New Temple vision, He is the Prince and His work is found especially in Chs. 41-45. On this, see The Last Vast Vision of Ezekiel.
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. Ezekiel 34 on the
way to this explicit Messianic word of Ch. 37, is as crisply revelatory as the
rest. Here God, seeing the fallacious pseudo-spirituality of false prophets,
whose real centre of attention is themselves (cf. Jeremiah 5:30ff.), and
depicting them as destroying the pasture where their mud creates havoc,
expresses His determination to come as the Good Shepherd Himself, and undertake
the so obvious work for the needs of the flock, which their destructive,
self-serving mentors fail to process. " 'I will feed
My flock, and I will make them lie down,' says the Lord God."
Thus the Messiah, the Deity Himself and a third aspect are all bound up in this expedition of the Lord to earth, as in Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 40:10, 48:16 and Chs. 7 and 9. That element is the everlasting covenant, brought into focus in Ezekiel 37:22-26. Its timeless quality is stressed in Jeremiah 31:31ff. as in Ezekiel 16:60-63. Then no more will Israel exalt itself, for in that day ONLY the Lord will be exalted (cf. Isaiah 2:17).
The same thought, then, as in Ezekiel, 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):
It is important to dwell on the fact that as shown in Ezekiel 34, God 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, 72, 52-53. Here is the Redeemer-Saviour, the One who by divine definition is therefore God Himself.
DISSATISFIED with the recklessly inadequate pastoral care shown by the often quite false pastors, and who 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 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 of Him in the likeness of the Son of Man (as in Daniel 7).
all cohesive these millenia in the word of God, in the workings of prophecy, in
the fulfillments of Christ, in the total inability then or since of ANYONE to
show ANYTHING amiss in Jesus the Christ, whose prophetic specifications were
such that ONLY GOD COULD do them!
HE fulfilled it all, is the Good Shepherd, and thus Christ's statement as seen in John 10, is the epitome of His claim to be deity, for which His power and actions, words and deeds, in grace and finality fulfilling all that was to be, is testimony (as in John 14), that none can deny except the obtrusively obstructive, the disingenuously disbelieving and the anti-empirical dissenters, for whom logic has no functional place left*2 .
Christ Jesus is the multiply validated and verified answer of the prophets predictions in PERSON. To find God, you receive the way provided.
ˇ "HE WHO HAS THE SON HAS LIFE,
AND HE WHO DOES NOT HAVE
THE SON O GOD DOES NOT HAVE LIFE"
(I John ).
ˇ 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.
ˇ 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!
See Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 1, It Bubbles ... Ch. 11.
The Meaning of Liberty and the Message of Remedy,
Reason, Revelation and the Redeemer,
TMR Ch. 5, SMR Ch. 3,
Barbs ... 6 -7).