“And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.” — Ezekiel 1:26
What is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen? Take a moment to consider, and then try to describe its beauty. Do your words capture the awe you felt when you saw it?
Several years ago, my cousin and I became lost as we were hiking and realized we would have to climb a mountain to find our trail. Cold and tired after our full-day trek, we decided to rest a while before going on. We managed to sleep for a couple of hours by huddling together and covering ourselves with branches to stay warm, and then resumed our climb. Around midnight, we ascended above the timberline, and spread out before us was possibly the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
A full moon sat on the horizon, and from our vantage point, it appeared to be below us. It cast beams of light across the valley that lay at our feet and on the mountains surrounding us. Blanketing the valley was a fluffy cloud. In the distance, moonlight reflected off the snow on great peaks that were partially shrouded in deep purple shadows. It was breathtaking!
My efforts to paint with words the beauty I saw that night fall far short. I am sure that is how Ezekiel felt when he tried to describe the vision he saw of God’s power and majesty, as recorded in our text today. Still, a glimmer of the awe he must have experienced comes through.
Ezekiel saw a whirlwind with a great cloud and fire in the midst of it. He saw four living creatures with wings, who were guided by the Spirit of God. He saw wheels within wheels that were the color of gems and were also guided by the Spirit. Above all these things, he saw the likeness of a throne. Our key verse relates that the throne had the “likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.” This suggests that Ezekiel did not see a face and a form that he could have drawn, but rather a blazing brightness with a human shape. Without doubt, words must have failed him as he tried to portray the details. What he was witnessing simply defied description!
It is awe-inspiring to consider the sheer magnificence and splendor of Ezekiel’s vision. His attempt at a description should kindle overwhelming honor and respect for God in our hearts. Though we likely will never see a scene like Ezekiel saw while we live on this earth, God can and will make Himself real to each one of us. The same God who gave that amazing revelation to Ezekiel so long ago loves us! His love for us caused Him to send His Son to die for us so that we can forever be a part of His family.
Have you experienced the transforming power of God in your life? He has the ability to heal the sick, give hope to the hopeless, and transform a sinful soul. Words cannot adequately express what He is able to do, but you can experience Him for yourself.
Chapter 1 describes the place, manner, and purpose of Ezekiel’s call, and provides a summary of his first vision. God’s purpose in revealing His glory to Ezekiel was twofold. First, it would provide the prophet with spiritual strength to impart God’s judgments and prophecies. Secondly, it would give the prophet a vivid understanding of the magnificence of God’s glory and His great holiness, which would be in sharp contrast to how far from God the rebellion and disobedience of the Children of Israel had taken them.
In verse 1, the phrase “the heavens were opened” indicates that Ezekiel began to see visions of God’s glory — things not revealed to others. Ezekiel stated the precise date that this occurred: it was in the thirtieth year, the fourth month, and the fifth day of the month. Some Bible scholars suggest that the “thirty years” were a reference to Ezekiel’s age when God called him into service. Alternatively, it may refer to the thirty years that had passed since Josiah’s restoration of the Temple in 623 B.C. The Chebar River, where the revelation occurred, probably was nar Kabari (Great Canal), a canal that emptied into the Euphrates River. This was the largest canal in a manmade system that watered the plain and made possible the transport of grain and other produce to the capital.
Beginning with verse 4, Ezekiel first described a fierce wind coming from the north, the direction from which the Babylonian army would come against Jerusalem. A “great cloud” and the “fire infolding itself” were symbols of God’s presence, and the amber-colored radiating brightness was an expression of the glory of God.
The four living creatures described in verses 5-14 were identified as cherubim in Ezekiel 10:8-15. These bearers and guardians of God’s glory had feet like divided hoofs that were the color of polished brass. From Ezekiel’s description, it seems that each cherub’s head had four different faces looking in four directions. Each cherub had wings on each of its four sides — two that were lifted and spread, and two that covered its body. These wings allowed the cherubim to move as one unit in any direction at lightning speed, not needing to turn. Bright fire moved from within the midst of the wings; these flashes of lightning were a visible manifestation of the Spirit that directed them.
Verses 15-21 further describe how these cherubim moved. Each cherub had two wheels at its base, one within the other at right angles. These four spherical wheels appeared very tall to Ezekiel and were full of eyes; Bible scholars suggest they were emblematic of God’s omnipresence and omniscience. In verses 20 and 21, the words “spirit” and “living creature” both refer to the Holy Spirit. The wheels’ movements were directed by the Spirit from the midst of the fire, which in turn directed the movement of the cherubim.
Verses 22-28 describe what Ezekiel saw of God’s glory and the surrounding environment. The “terrible crystal” of verse 22 probably refers to prisms of light refracted through crystal, the area above the cherubim being like a rainbow in coloration. Above the wings of the cherubim was something resembling a sapphire throne and above that, a form with the appearance of a man. Ezekiel’s response to this vision was one of overwhelming awe — he fell on his face before God’s glory.
I. The call of the prophet
A. The identification of the prophet (1:1-3)
B. The vision of the prophet (1:4-28)
1. The four living creatures (1:4-14)
a. Their description (1:4-11)
b. Their actions (1:12-14)
2. The four wheels (1:15-21)
a. Their description (1:15-18)
b. Their actions (1:19-21)
3. The expanse (1:22-25)
a. The description (1:22-23)
b. The action (1:24-25)
4. The form of a man (1:26-28)
a. The appearance of God’s glory (1:26-27)
b. The action of Ezekiel (1:28)
God’s power and glory is beyond human description, but it can be personally experienced by each one of us.