Ezekiel 1:1-2:1 – A Vision of Glory

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was on him there.

As I looked, a stormy wind came out of the north: a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually, and in the middle of the fire, something like gleaming amber. In the middle of it was something like four living creatures. This was their appearance: they were of human form. Each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings, on their four sides, they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another; each of them moved straight ahead, without turning as they moved. As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle;such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. Each moved straight ahead; wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. In the middle of the living creatures there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving to and fro among the living creatures; the fire was bright, and lightning issued from the fire. The living creatures darted to and fro, like a flash of lightning.

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl; and the four had the same form, their construction being something like a wheel within a wheel.When they moved, they moved in any of the four directions without veering as they moved. Their rims were tall and awesome, for the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

Over the heads of the living creatures there was something like a dome, shining like crystal, spread out above their heads. Under the dome their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another; and each of the creatures had two wings covering its body. When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army; when they stopped, they let down their wings. And there came a voice from above the dome over their heads; when they stopped, they let down their wings.

And above the dome over their heads there was something like a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was something that seemed like a human form. Upward from what appeared like the loins I saw something like gleaming amber, something that looked like fire enclosed all around; and downward from what looked like the loins I saw something that looked like fire, and there was a splendor all around. Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.

He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. (New Revised Standard Version)

Stained glass window of Ezekiel’s vision, c.1246–48, Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (Bridgeman Images)

If anyone ever spouted these words on the behavioral health unit on which I work, they’d likely get diagnosed with psychosis. But the prophet Ezekiel was far from psychotic. Patients experiencing a psychotic break rarely talk about visions resembling Ezekiel’s. They’re more inclined to speak about their past trauma in very detached ways, or say things like, “Please pass the ketchup. I’d like to fly a kite and catch some of those butterflies.”

Ezekiel’s vision is also not some contrived experience due to imbibing hallucinogenic substances. The entire prophecy of Ezekiel, spanning a hefty forty-eight chapters, certainly evidences a unique person – yet one that is in control of his full faculties and has keen self-awareness.

If anyone ever tells you they are certain about everything in the book of Ezekiel, don’t believe them. Today’s Old Testament lesson of Ezekiel’s vision of God is an incredible view. It almost defies description. In fact, it does. It’s as if Ezekiel was trying to somehow to communicate with the limitation of words of what he saw. 

Even though we might not understand or comprehend everything in this vision, does not mean we can lose sight of the big picture of what was happening. 

Ezekiel got a glimpse of God’s glory. That, in and of itself, would explain why it is such a mysterious and incredible vision. 

Slowly reading Ezekiel’s vision, one gains the sense of immensity, hugeness, grandeur, and awesome glory. The Hebrew word “glory” literally means “heavy.”  In other words, God is large, bright, holy, carrying a great deal of weight. As we used to say back in the ‘70’s, “Heavy, man, heavy!”

This was much more than a unique experience for Ezekiel. It completely had him undone. Ezekiel fell on his face because that is about all one can do when encountering such an incredible appearance.  Sneaking a peek of God in glorious heavenly splendor is an awesome sight. So, when God speaks from the place of such awsome glory, there is nothing to do but listen and obey.

Meeting God, this same God whom Ezekiel encountered, is no small thing. Whenever we truly catch a glimpse of this holy God, it will forever change us – and this is a good thing, even if it seems to others that we must be smoking something. 

If we want to hear the call of God upon our lives, we need to see God’s glory. Otherwise, we can too quickly forget and neglect the Lord. 

May God be gracious in allowing you a glimpse into the Divine throne room – and may you never be the same again because of it.

Glorious God, you carry such great weight that all creation bows to your every word and each move. I, too, bow before you, and I will stand up so that I might hear what you have to say to me. Speak, Lord, for I am listening to you. Amen.

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