Meditations from Ezekiel: 17. The Heavenly Vision Again
Ezek 10:2 The LORD said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And as I watched, he went in.
Recap Overview: Although we are not covering every verse in this book, it is important, I think, to catch the overall structure of the early chapters or the early structure of the book, at least. So far we have seen the following chapter contents:
1 – The heavenly vision of the four creatures (cherubim)
2 – The Divine call of Ezekiel
3 – Further instructions and Ezekiel taken to his people
4 – Picture models & actions of the siege and famine of Jerusalem
5 – Hair scattered to portray fire, death and scattering of the people
6 – Prophecy against the whole country for its idolatry
7 – The immediacy of the destruction to come
8 – The four horrors within Jerusalem
9 – A marking out for destruction of the apostates of Jerusalem.
Heavenly Vision Again: When we come to Chapter 10 our initial impression may be that we are seeing a repeat of chapter 1 but in fact it is the vision now applied to the present prophecies. Verse 1 takes us back to the original vision but verse 2 brings it into the immediate context: “The LORD said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And as I watched, he went in.” The man in linen is the recorder of the previous part of the vision that marked the separating out of the righteous from the unrighteous in Jerusalem.
The Glory of God: We have commented before on the two aspects of the glory of the Lord – that in heaven and that residing in the innermost part of the Temple. Now watch: “Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court.” (v.3) The heavenly glory comes with the moving cherubim on the south side of the temple in the inner court. Now the references to inner and outer courts indicate areas outside the main Temple structure and so the moving glory together with the creatures appears outside the main Temple building. But then we read, “Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD.” (v.4) The moving presence of the Lord from heaven moves first to the door threshold of the temple and then fills the very main part of the temple.
Coals of Purging: The instructions to the man in linen are reiterated: “When the LORD commanded the man in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” the man went in and stood beside a wheel. 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.” (v.6,7) In Isa 6:6 the ‘coals’ were for purging and this, presumably, is what these coals will be for. The cherub takes the coals and hands them to the man. The following verses (v.9-17) reiterate the description of the wheels and the cherubim, the four living creatures’.
The Location of the Glory: Now the cherubim appear to still be outside on the south side of the Temple precincts (v.3) and the Lord’s glory had left them there when it moved into the inner court, then to the threshold and then inside the Temple itself (v.4), while they remained in the outer court (v.5). It is as if the Lord’s presence takes it’s rightful place in the Temple while still instructing the administration of the purging of Jerusalem that was going on outside. The Lord’s glory rejoins the cherubim (v.18) and together they move to the east gate of the temple precincts (v.19). It is at this point that Ezekiel realises that the four living creatures and the cherubim are one and the same (v.20).
Why? In chapter 11 we will see again straight forward revelation and prophecy against the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so why has there been this ‘interval’ of chapter 10? Well, we suggest, we started out in the book seeing this ‘heavenly vision’ and then we went on to hear words of challenge and judgment over Jerusalem. Having the vision reiterated and linked to the prophetic outworking of judgment suggests that the Lord wants us to realise that there is nothing abstract about prophecy, nothing abstract about the declarations of judgment. They all come about by the divine presence and instruction. God is there is Jerusalem. Yes, He will be moving out but the prophet is being made aware that at the heart of all that he is seeing about judgment is the very presence of the Lord. The Lord is not standing at a distance to bring this judgment. It is so important – unique in His dealings with His people – that He brings it from the heart of Jerusalem, from within the Temple itself.
You may feel that this has been a confusing chapter but the point that Lord is making is that it is His holy presence that is still there in the heart of Jerusalem, despite all the awful idolatrous things going on in Jerusalem. It is as if the Lord stands in the midst of the idolatrous city and declares His will over it. There can be no thought that God doesn’t understand and hasn’t full seen what is there – which is what the leaders had been saying – and so this whole chapter perhaps comes as a direct answer to the words they had been saying, “The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.” (9:9) Oh yes He does! He is there in your midst.
And Us? Perhaps the challenge that comes out of this for us is never to think the Lord is not with us, that He doesn’t see, that He doesn’t understand. Yes, He does! I often stand in church services and hear prayers read out or spoken out almost as if they are being read and it is like it is just words into the air. Perhaps every time we gather as church, we need to pause up and realise that the Lord IS there in that place with you, and pause and become conscious of His presence with us. It might change the way we speak out in prayer and what we do! Sometimes it is difficult to remember the reality that each one of us is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God. Perhaps it is easier to envisage the whole air of the room in which we are, saturated with the presence of God. He is here with me in this room, now this moment and He’s with you where you are. Excuse me, I must stop this writing and worship the One who is here. But, be ready, we are about to move on to something very different, very hopeful!