The visionary descriptions of the heavenly creatures in Scripture are often neglected and overlooked, especially due to the strange and unearthly things being described. Creatures with wings and four faces, holding up a glassy expanse and flashing to and fro like fire and lightning? These images strike us as odd and impractical, and are therefore ignored by most believers. But no portion of Scripture is a mere happenstance, and no verse is the superfluous creation of some fictional writer.
Every portion is weighty and of great import for those who would pursue the intimate knowledge of God, and a life lived circumspectly before Him. Ezekiel 1 is one such passage. I have scarcely heard it preached from, yet it contains one of the most remarkable theophanic events ever recorded in the history of God’s people.
What can be gathered from this passage, aside from the wonder of the appearance of God in the vision, and the subsequent anointing and calling of the exilic prophet Ezekiel?
Herein lies one of the greatest devotional secrets, that should not be a secret to believers at all: Within the lofty and visionary descriptions of the heavenly atmosphere and the unusual creatures the prophet recounts, there are glimpses into the heavenly government; that is to say, we see the ways of God and the ways of His Kingdom. When you read these kinds of visionary descriptions, do not merely settle curiosities or memorize the external details of the story. Look past the ink and into the heart of the text, and the Spirit of God will enable you to catch something great regarding the character of God and the nature of His government.
The living creatures Ezekiel describes give us remarkable instruction in the life of faith.
1. “…. each went straight forward….”
When at once the Lord calls you to take up your cross and follow Him, you must go “straight forward.” The nature of heaven is totally hospitable to the reality of obedience, but the earth is still bucking His authority and rejecting His beauty. You have been redeemed, so then proceed “straight forward,” submitting your heart in trust to the One on the Throne, and turning from the false lights of this age to the true and majestic light of His countenance. You will not know what lies ahead, but you can be assured that He is ahead, and that is all the servant needs to know.
2. “…. wherever the Spirit was about to go, they would go….”
These creatures were so united with the Spirit of God that they would move, like flashes of lightning, in whatever direction the Spirit of God moved. Their will was perfectly united with the will of heaven, totally tender and wide open to every prompting and inclination.
We mustn’t allow the “old man” to enlarge and have sway in our lives. We must refuse to permit our soulish self-lives to take precedence over the will of the One on the Throne. If we allow hardness of soul, or settle for an inwardly stiff mode of being, we will not be tender enough to hear and follow the Lamb wheresoever He goes. Continually receiving the life and counsel of the Holy Spirit in all contexts of life is totally crucial for the soul who would live in a God-centered reality. Hence, secret prayer and abiding prayer are the great keys to this kind of tender following.
3. “…. without turning as they went….”
Lastly, we cannot allow the spirit of this age to draw us away from the glory of the One on the Throne. In all of our daily affairs and situations, we will be marked with the favor and light of God if we refuse to turn away from the Throne when the issues of life begin to move in unruly ways. These creatures did not turn as they went, they remained in that mode of “straight forward” unto the Throne of God, unto the glory of God, unto the honor of God.
We will necessarily be struck with distractions, shakings, and trials on this “straight forward” journey. But the key will ever and always be to keep our hearts fixed on the One who is faithful and true, loving and kind, holy and pure. He will take the clay vessels that we are, and make us into ministers of fire- weak humans who bear a seraphic glow in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.