Scripture reading – Ezekiel 1

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, and having concluded our study of the prophecies and lamentations of Jeremiah, we move to “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Jeremiah served the LORD as prophet to Judah, and his ministry had spanned the reigns of the last five kings of that nation. Jeremiah was the elder statesman of God’s prophets, and Ezekiel would have known of the old prophet. At the age of 25, Ezekiel had been taken from Judah to Babylon, and was numbered among the first captives (he and Daniel were contemporaries, but there is no record the two men knew one another).

The end of Jeremiah’s ministry, which came to a close with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity, marked the beginning of Ezekiel’s ministry. His ministry began in Babylon with him foretelling the imminent judgment of God and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He would spend his life in Babylon, calling the Jews to repent of their sins and turn to God. His task was to remind the people the LORD would keep covenant with Israel, and when 70 years were accomplished, they would be restored to their homeland.

Ezekiel’s Calling (1:1-3)

Being a man of priestly stock (for his father was a priest), Ezekiel was 30 years old when the LORD called him to serve as both priest and prophet (30 years old being the age men were ordained to the priesthood, 1:1-2). With knowledge of the Law and Commandments, trained for the Temple and its rituals, and knowledge of the office and work of the priesthood, Ezekiel was eminently qualified to serve his people as a spiritual leader. Ordained a priest, and called to be a prophet, Ezekiel would minister to a discouraged people who were living in the shadow of God’s judgment, and serving a heathen people.

A Heavenly Vision (1:3-28)

Like the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6), who preceded him more than a century (760-681 BC), Ezekiel’s calling was a vision of God’s glory with the Lord sitting on the throne of heaven (1:1). Describing the vision, Ezekiel testified, “I was among the captives by the river of Chebar [Kedar], that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (1:1b).  Seeing the heavens rolled back as a scroll, we read, “3The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest…and the hand of the Lord was there upon him” (1:3). Ezekiel 1 records three visions that together gave Ezekiel an appreciation of “the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (1:28b).

Humbled by the majesty of the LORD, Ezekiel writes, “I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28c). You will notice that fire has a prominent place in Ezekiel’s visions (in the Scripture, fire is indicative of holiness, as well as, the judgment of God). Ezekiel testified, “I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a [burning] fire infolding itself [revolving circle of fire], and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber [i.e. molten bronze], out of the midst of the fire” (1:4).

Vision of Cherubim (1:5)

Ezekiel had a vision of four “living creatures” (1:5), that are later identified in Ezekiel 10 as cherubim, that attended the throne of God (1:5-14; 10:1-22). What are cherubim? They are “living creatures [beings]” (1:5, 14, 15; 10:15). Ezekiel described them as having “the likeness of a man” (1:5).

Cherubim were angels who were guardians of the Tree of Life and stood guard at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:24). Two golden cherubim were on the top of the Ark of the Covenant facing one another on the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:18-20). David said of the LORD, “He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10). We also find cherubim are stationed at the base of the throne of God (Ezekiel 10:1, 20).

Physical Appearance of Cherubim (1:5-9)

The cherubim were described as having four faces, like that “of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle” (1:6, 10; 10:13). (Scholars suggest the faces represent various attributes of the cherubim. The face of the man symbolizes intelligence, the lion physical strength, the ox a service animal, and the eagle swiftness.) Briefly, notice the cherubim were described as having legs with “a calf’s foot” (1:7), the “hands of a man” (1:8), and wings (1:9).

What purpose did Cherubim serve? (1:12-14)

The cherubim were to serve the LORD wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:12). They were described as going “straight forward” and never turning aside from their ministry (1:12). Their movement was as a fiery torch, and as swift as bright flashes of lightning (1:13-14).

A Symbolic Picture of God’s Heavenly Throne Upon Four Wheels (1:15-21; 10:9)

The cherubim were described as each having a wheel that supported God’s throne. I suggest the wheels represented God’s readiness to move swiftly to meet the needs of His people. It was by means of the wheels that the cherubim moved to accomplish their tasks, wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:19-20). Implying the omniscience and omnipresence of God, the wheels of the cherubim are described as having an inner rim, like an inner circle “full of eyes (1:18).

The Sound of Cherubim’s Wings (1:22-25)

Above the heads of the cherubim was an expanse Ezekiel described as the color of “crystal” (i.e., like sparkling ice, 1:22). The movement of the cherubim wings was so loud, Ezekiel writes, “…I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host [a great army]: when they stood, they let down their wings” (1:24). When God spoke, the wings of the cherubim were suddenly stilled (1:25).

The Glory of God Sitting on His Sapphire Throne (1:26-28)

Ezekiel portrays God in the likeness of a man, sitting on a throne of “sapphire stone” (1:26). From his waist up, God’s appearance was like a fiery molten metal (1:27a). From his waist down, He had the “appearance of fire” (1:27b). The brightness of God’s glory appeared as a brilliant rainbow in the sky (1:28a).

Closing thought – How did Ezekiel respond when he gazed upon the heavenly glory of God, and heard Him speak? Ezekiel testified, “When I saw it, I fell upon my face.” (1:28).

Tomorrow’s devotional will continue our study of Ezekiel’s divine calling and commission.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith