v1-3: The context; Ezekiel was in Chaldea, having been taken there along with the exiles from Jerusalem. It was the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity, some years before the city actually fell.
Ezekiel describes himself as one among the exiles; one who identified with his suffering people. The word of God came 'expressly' to Ezekiel, as it did to Daniel, Zechariah, and John (in Revelation), ie: in visions; something very clear, yet profound, and disturbing. The hand of God was upon Him; here is real, powerful, spiritual experience. The phrase recurs in the book.
v4-9: The vision begins with a whirlwind, but Ezekiel sees more and more detail;
- - a great cloud with lightning and brilliant light;
- - a fire in the cloud;
- - the four living creatures;
- - the form of the creatures, like men, with four faces and four wings.
There is a lesson here is our growth in spiritual understanding, the need to listen and observe, to wait the Lord's time. Throughout the chapter, Ezekiel sees more and more. Finally, in v28, He recognises the presence of the Lord, and falls before Him.
Jeremiah speaks of the whirlwind from the north, Jer 50.41, bringing death and destruction, but here is a vision of God, His self-revelation.
Jonathan Edwards comments that this section is an illustration of the providence of God: ‘the wheels of providence are not turned round by blind chance, but they are full of eyes round about … and they are guided by the Spirit of God: where the Spirit goes, they go: and all God’s works of providence through all ages meet in one at last, as so many lines meeting in one centre.’ (Jonathan Edwards, The History of Redemption)
v10: The four faces of the living creatures, pointing us to the four descriptions of Jesus Christ;
- - the man; Luke's description of the Son of Man;
- - the lion; Matthew's description of the King of the Jews;
- - the ox; Mark's description of the Servant of God;
- - the eagle; John's description of the Son of God.
According to Jewish rabbis, these represent the most powerful of each type of animal.
v11-14: The detail continues to grow; the creatures have two wings to cover themselves, and two wings spread out, touching those adjacent. Their 'bodies' were like fire, and fire and lightning flashed between them.
Ezekiel recognises the spirit of the creatures, directing them. Here is obedience, not turning aside from the spirit's direction. Like Christ, doing the Father's will, His face set as a flint.
v15-19: Ezekiel now sees wheels, perhaps like gyroscopes, enabling the creatures to move in any direction.
v19-21: Ezekiel observed the movement of creatures and wheels, in perfect harmony with the spirit in them.
v22-24: Ezekiel sees more, the expanses of sky, and hears more, the sound of rushing waters.
And then they stood still, movement and noise ceased. In this silence, the prophet saw something even greater and more glorious.
v25-28: The creatures lowered their wings, silent before their Creator. Above the sky was a throne, and what appeared to be a man upon it. Here is the Lord God Almighty, Creator of all things, who has a myriad of creatures at His command, and who rules over the nations. How appropriate for a people in exile.
Ezekiel sees an important truth; his description of the man on the throne points us forward to Christ, the man in the glory; the Son of God who became the Son of Man, now exalted to the throne of God, but still a man and, we understand, still bearing the scars of His sacrifice.
What else can Ezekiel do? He bows down.