9 I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like topaz. 10 As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 11 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about[b] as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. 12 Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. 13 I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” 14 Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. (Ezekiel 10:9-14)
I’ve always kind of written off the visions in Ezekiel as bizarre imagery that I would never understand. Especially the four creatures carrying the throne of God that are described in Chapters 1 and 10. (Side note: in the 70’s, there was a cultural obsession with UFO’s and extra-terrestrials, and I actually heard a Bible teacher argue that Ezekiel was describing flying saucers. If you are too young to remember the 70’s, you missed one funky decade!)
Anyway, on this read through, I’m seeing some meaning to the imagery that I have never seen before. I am not claiming any special knowledge that this is the definitive, be all and end all interpretation for Ezekiel’s vision. I’m just saying this made sense to me during this season of my life.
Ezekiel is sitting by a canal in Babylon when he first has his vision. I would imagine he’s having a moment. After all, it’s his 30th birthday, and he’s not supposed to be in Babylon. As a priest, he was supposed to be beginning his service in the Temple, instead of sitting by this smelly canal in downtown Babylon.
So maybe he’s in his feelings a little. Wondering where God is. Wondering what his purpose in life is, as a priest without a temple.
As a pastor, I had a lot of moments like this during the pandemic lockdown when we weren’t having worship services.
But then, Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord, represented by a throne sitting on the backs of four living creatures, each with four faces— angel, man, lion, eagle—balanced on wheels within wheels that go in all directions but never turn; which are covered with eyes.
But here’s the word God showed me this morning. I think every detail of this vision was intended to reassure Ezekiel in that season of Ezekiel’s life. For example:
God goes everywhere! Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord, in Babylon. Not in the temple. That’s what the wheels are for.
God sees everything! Even when we are far from home and wondering what our purpose is, there is nothing that escapes his notice. That’s what the eyes are for.
God’s glory is reflected in all creation. Over and over, the Psalms talk about how every creature in heaven (angels) and on earth (man and beasts) and the birds of the sky express God’s glory. See Psalm 8, 19, and 103 for example. That’s what the four faces are for.
God’s character never changes. The vision is specific in that regardless of which direction the throne is going, the wheels never turn. James describes God as “the Father of lights, in whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. No matter where we are or how long our exile might feel, God’s face will always be toward us.