Meditations from Ezekiel: 5. Wheels within Wheels?
Ezek 1:15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces.
The Angelic Unity: If we thought the subject matter of the previous study strange, what is coming is even more so. We have observed, so far, these ‘four living creatures’ who are identified as cherubim, angels but who are portrayed in symbolic form to convey truths about them. There is one important thing about them we have not yet noted: “Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved,” (v.8,9) and “Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body.” (v.11) In other words, because each one touches two of the others, they move as a block of four. This suggests a unity in the angelic purpose.
Conveying the holy will of God: But we also read about them, “The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.” (v.13,14) i.e. the whole of this block was lit up by flames of fire that appeared to emanate from within the block. In the picture reiterated in chapter 10 we see reference to this fire and to their hands: “Then one of the cherubim reached out his hand to the fire that was among them. He took up some of it and put it into the hands of the man in linen, who took it and went out. (Under the wings of the cherubim could be seen what looked like the hands of a man.)” (10:7,8) Fire speaks of the holiness of God and so putting together these various things we can say that the angelic body moves with great haste to convey the will of the holy God.
The whirling wheels: And we come to verse 15 – “As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.” (v.15,16) In chapter 10 we find, “I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” (10:13). The description of intersection suggests what we see when we see a gyroscope, two wheels at ninety degrees to each other which allows total movement in any direction.
Here are told that the wheels went wherever the four living creatures went (v.17) and “Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around,” (v.18) In chapter 10 we are told of the four creatures, “Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels.” (10:12) Eyes of course speak of seeing and so these creatures and their wheels have total sight and see and know everything and in that respect reflect the nature of the Lord. Note also, in passing, that these wheels are described as “high and awesome”. They are big and scary!
But then we read something even more significant, speaking of the four living creatures: “Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.” (v.20) This unity is repeated to make the point: “When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.” (v.21) In other words the wheels were in total harmony with the four creatures. Wheels of course speak of transport and movement and if the presence of wings was not enough, the presence of these big wheels emphasises even more that the angelic presence is all about coming and going from heaven to earth and back again, conveying the will of God.
The Heavenly Platform: we now see a linkage with the very presence of God: “Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome.” (v.22) Sparkling like ice and awesome speaks of holy purity. This we will shortly see reveals the presence of a divine being (in the next study) This part concludes, “Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings.” (v.23,24) The sound of the movement of these four living creatures is awesome and it speaks of power. As they come to a halt they lower their wings.
Angelic Ministry: So, for those with eyes to see, we find the heavenly presence coming to Ezekiel’s awareness and as it comes he is first made aware of the presence of the angelic force that stands with God in heaven that moves instantly to convey His will. The whole emphasis on wings and wheels says to us that movement is at the heart of their role, movement to convey the will of God to mankind.
We see it numerous times in scripture, for example, an angel coming to Gideon with a message of encouragement (see Judg 6), to Zechariah with a message about a son (see Lk 1), and also to Mary for the same reason. What we don’t see in those instances is the might, majesty and power that accompanies these angelic messengers for in each case they don’t come to scare but to encourage, and so come in simple human form.
Reason? Perhaps we might suggest that this picture in chapter 1 comes in the form it does to convey might, power and purpose of an immense magnitude, to put Ezekiel’s understanding in perspective, for up until now he has only been aware of the might and power of Nebuchadnezzar and his army. This prophetic picture of these angelic beings is conveyed in such a manner that their significance and power and purpose will remain with him for the rest of his life and will put his ministry in perspective. He is about to join in the ministry of these angelic beings he has just been shown. They are divine messengers, and so now so will he be. They come with immense power and authority and he may take comfort that he speaks with that same power and authority backing him. They reveal divine purpose and that also is what he will be conveying in the years to come. Awesome!