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The Cherubim (Ezekiel 1)

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The Cherubim

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CHAPTER 1 Sep. 5 
The Glory of God in the Living Creatures 
Now it happened in the thirtieth year in the fourth month in the fifth of the month, as I was among the captives by the river Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2In the fifth of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3the word of Yahweh came specifically to Ezekiel the priest the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of Yahweh was there on him. 4I looked, and behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with flashing lightning and a brightness around it; and out of its midst as it were glowing metal out of the midst of the fire. 5Out of its midst came the likeness of four living creatures. This was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6Each one had four faces, and each one of them had four wings. 7Their feet were straight feet; and the soles of their feet were like the soles of a calf’s feet; and they gleamed like burnished brass. 8They had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and the four of them had their faces and their wings like this: 9their wings were joined one to another; they didn’t turn when they went; each one went straight forward. 10As for the likeness of their faces, they each had the face 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; the four of them also had the face of an eagle. 11Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; two wings of each one touched another, and two covered their bodies. 12Each one went straight forward. Where the spirit was to go, they went; they didn’t turn when they went. 13As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches. The fire went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14The living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. 15Now as I saw the living creatures, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, for each of the four faces of it. 16The appearance of the wheels and their work was like a beryl: and the four of them had one likeness; and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel within a wheel. 17When they went, they went in their four directions. They didn’t turn when they went. 18As for their rims, they were high and dreadful; and the four of them had their rims full of eyes all around. 19When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20Wherever the spirit was to go, they went under the spirit’s control: and the wheels were lifted up beside them, for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 21When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up beside them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 22Over the head of the living creature there was the likeness of an expanse, like an awesome crystal to look on, stretched forth over their heads above. 23Under the expanse were their wings straight, the one toward the other: each one had two which covered their bodies on this side, and each one had two which covered their bodies on that side. 24When they went, I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a noise of tumult like the noise of an army. When they stood, they let down their wings. 25There was a voice above the expanse that was over their heads when they stood and let down their wings. 26Above the expanse that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and on the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man on it above. 27I saw as it were glowing metal, as the appearance of fire within it all around, from the appearance of his waist and upward. From the appearance of his waist and downward I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.


1:5 Ezekiel’s opening vision of the cherubim was surely to encourage the captives in Babylon that above them was an awesome Angelic system, that was able to carry them with it back to the land- if they were workers together with God. Although it seemed that they were sitting still, nothing was happening, they were just passing time by the rivers of Babylon, above them there was an intensely active system of Angels working for their good. Asaph, writing Psalms in the captivity, perceived this when [surely referring to Ezekiel’s recent vision] he speaks of how the God who dwells between the cherubim is in fact actively leading Judah somewhere (Ps. 80:1). Despite God’s apparent silence, there is likewise a huge Angelic system whirring away over our lives too.
1:7 Straight feet- The return of the exiles led by Ezra made the journey by a "right way" from Babylon to Zion (Ezra 8:21). Yet this is the very word used about the "straight" feet of the Cherubim Angels in Ez. 1:7,23. The return from Babylon involved following in the path of the Angels, walking in step with them. The restoration prophecy of Jer. 31:9 spoke of how the returnees would walk "in a straight way" (s.w.) "by the rivers of waters"- and surely Ezra consciously alluded to this when by the river Ahava he fasted for the exiles to return in a "right / straight way". He knew that these prophecies of restoration would not just automatically come true- they had to be fulfilled by much prayer, fasting and stepping out in faith. But so very few perceived that. And the challenge remains for us today- to walk in the way which God's Angels have potentially prepared for us, with prayer and boldness.
1:20 The wheels represented God’s people Israel on earth. If they had kept in step with the Spirit-Angel, following Him both to Babylon and back to Judah at His bidding, they would have been in step with God’s plan for them, and all would have prospered. This passage appears to be behind Paul’s appeal to us to walk in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).
1:25 There was a voice- The supreme exaltation of the voice / word of God. 
1:26 As the appearance of a man on it above- Ezekiel saw only likenesses and appearances, rather than God Himself. But the implication is surely that we are made in God’s image and likeness, and therefore we are invited to understand that God exists in a corporeal form, in which image our bodies appear. Understanding God as a personal being rather than intangible ‘spirit’ greatly enhances our relationship and prayer life with God.