The pages of the book of Ezekiel are full of strange and curious images. The first chapter begins with a vision given to the prophet that includes creatures with faces and wings. There were wheels and fire and many other bright and beautiful things.
All of it came out of storm of dust to a man anxious over his hometown Jerusalem and called to speak for God to the captives in Babylon. The long record of sin and rebellion finally caught up with the Chosen People of the Lord. Their years of idolatry brought disaster to their land. A heathen empire now occupied the promised place. Their holy city was in ruins; its Temple ransacked, emptied, and burned. Hundreds were rounded up and marched away to live and work in the midst of a heathen empire.
In Judges, we read four times this phrase: “There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Eventually, kings were set over Israel, just as the people had asked so that they might be like the other nations around them.
Some of these leaders, such as David, had hearts after God and did rule according to the law of the Lord. Others, however, did what was right in their own eyes. They were men who sought power and privilege by any means. The gods of other nations intrigued them and so their images and altars were imported and copied – some even wound up in the courtyard of the Temple.
By the time Ezekiel was born, God had weathered enough. The Lord was being ignored; His prophets spoke His words of warning, but these words went unheeded. He, thus, gave the people over to their lusts and passions. They sowed lives given over to the idols fashioned and served by other governments. The reaped the fruit of these practices. They bowed to foreign deities and so then were forced to bow before foreign armies as well. These armies carried the people away from their homes and fields. Prisoners of war, they were, living as strangers in a strange land because they had made themselves strangers to God.
And, yet, God was there – just as He is here and now. This was the essence of this initial vision delivered to Ezekiel.
At the close of Ezekiel 1, the prophet notices who and what sits above the creatures and the wheels. He saw a throne and One who looked like a man seated above it. Around all of this was a rainbow.
It was a powerful and amazing scene. What did it all mean? It was the manifestation of the glory of God. All Ezekiel could do fall on his face before the Lord. This picture revealed the glory of the Lord’s authority and of His mercy as being present no matter the times or the circumstances.
The wheels turn. Governments come and governments go. Kings are crowned and kings are put down. But the Lord is there.
The rainbow first appeared to Noah and his family. The Flood had washed clean an earth that had been corrupted through the evil imaginations and practices of those living on it. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He, His family, and a collection of animals were sealed into the Ark by God Himself.The wheels turn. Governments come and governments go. Kings are crowned and kings are put down. But the Lord is there. Click To Tweet
The rain fell, the waters rose; judgment came to a world rife with wickedness. After it was all over, God hung up his bow in the clouds for Noah to see. Mercy would now show itself in the midst of every storm thereafter.
Imagine the days Noah and his family spent in the Ark with all those creatures. The 40 days of rain were just the beginnings. For several more months, water covered the surface of the earth, over the highest of the mountains.
After emerging from the Ark, God gave Noah a message in the clouds.
Ezekiel and the people of Israel were held in Babylon for 70 years. I am sure the prophet wondered about the whereabouts of the Lord in relation to His covenant nation.
Psalm 137 says that life in Babylon was one where no one wanted to sing. The people hung up their harps on the weeping willow trees in a show of their grief. They were mocked by their captors, who demanded, “Sing us one of your songs.”
Israel was known for its victory anthems. Miriam, Moses’ sister, led one of these triumph songs after the chariots of Egypt were swallowed by the Red Sea: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:1).
Defeated and detached from their land, the people of Israel could only dream of what life back in Jerusalem. So God sent His man a vision. But that wasn’t the end of it – God also gave Ezekiel words to speak and things to do. More than 20 times, the prophet announced that Lord allowed these things to happen so that they would “know that I am the Lord.”
Revived and Restored
The Lord is there. The wheels are turning in life, but they are turning as the Spirit leads them to turn. Over all things, God stands. His throne and His mercy remain.
Ezekiel’s first messages were stern and forceful ones related to Israel and her sinful ways. God used other visions to unveil the hearts of darkness that had led the nation into her troubles. His prophecy describes how the glory of God moved out the Temple, out of Jerusalem, and up to the sky from the Mount of Olives.
But it doesn’t stop there. The closing pages of Ezekiel reveal that God will revive and restore His people. A new and marvelous Temple shall be constructed. A river of healing and life-giving water shall flow out through the land and into all the seas. Jerusalem shall be made again, a holy city with a transformed status, a city with a new title.
“And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord is There” (Ezekiel 48:35).