they were symbolic representations of redeemed humanity. They were intended to inspire men with hope of redemption, from the day when the Lord placed them at the east of the garden of Eden, till the vision of John (Revelation 21.) is fulfilled in the "new heavens and new earth," wherein the cherubim are no longer seen, having vanished before the reality they symbolically represented. In the cherubim we are reminded of the following -
I. THE PERFECTING OF HUMANITY. Some obscurity lingers about the forms of these beings. They are introduced in Genesis without a word of description; and in Exodus (25 and 37.) little is said beyond this, that they had "wings and faces." Turning to their visionary appearances - to Ezekiel and to John - there is variety in form. But whatever latitude there may be in detail, the leading form was always that of a man - e.g., Ezekiel says (Ezekiel 1:5), "they had the likeness of a man." With this, other creature forms were combined, viz., the lion, the ox, and eagle. These were selected for special reasons. They belonged to the noblest kingdom, that of animal life, as distinguished from that which was vegetable or mineral. They were amongst the highest after man in the nature of their life; very different, for example, from sea anemones, etc. They had loftier attributes than those of other creatures; greater powers or wider usefulness. Hence, combined with the image of man to form the cherubim, they suggested the addition to him of the powers they specially represented. The lion, especially to the Hebrews, was a type of kingly majesty and glorious strength. Give quotations from Scripture. The eagle, with its keen vision and swift flight, was a type of rapidity of thought and movement (Deuteronomy 28:49; Job 9:26; Proverbs 23:5). The ox, used in ploughing, harrowing, carrying home the sheaves, and treading out the corn, represented patient and productive activity. In the cherubim all these were grafted on man - an ideal combination, to show that, though man was the highest creature of God (he alone having a moral and a rational nature), he could be, and would be, ennobled by having hereafter the powers bestowed, of which in creature life these animals were representatives. Show the Scripture evidence for expecting in heaven the faculties for knowing, for serving, for enjoying, which we have not here.
II. THE FULNESS OF LIFE. In Ezekiel and Revelation the cherubim are frequently spoken of as "the living ones" (animantia, ζωα). This expression is obscured in our translation by the unhappy rendering "beasts" (Revelation 4:6), etc. The expression denotes life in its highest and most active form. In harmony with this, Ezekiel speaks of their "running and returning." John says, "they rest not day nor night." Though the cherubim in the temple and tabernacle were of necessity stationary, the same idea was there expressed by the outspread wings. The cherubim pointed on to the plenitude of life, Divine and spiritual, over which weald. ness should have no power, and towards which death would never approach. "I give unto them eternal life," etc. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," etc.
III. THE DWELLING WITH GOD. The cherubim were always associated with the Divine Presence. After man was driven from Eden, the cherubim was placed there to occupy the place he had forfeited; where life was full, and where holiness was a necessity. When the tabernacle was constructed, all the inner curtains were inwoven with cherubic figures, and images of cherubim appeared on the sacred ark, which was the throne of Jehovah. This was repeated in the temple, as the passage before us shows; for the magnificent cherubim, each ten cubits high, were stationed in the "oracle," the place where the Shechinah proclaimed God's presence. We must add, therefore, to the ideas we have dwelt on - this thought, that the life represented was life essentially connected with God Himself. Not only will the life of the future be full, but it will be holy. Holiness will be its essence. "The pure in heart shall see God." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." "Neither shall there enter into it anything that defileth," etc.
IV. THE BLISS OF THE FUTURE. A careful reading of Genesis 3:24 shows that the "sword" and the "cherubim" were not only distinct, but had different functions. The sword "kept" the way to the tree of life, so that it was more accessible to fallen man. It was a symbol of repulsion and alarm. The cherubim "kept" the garden in a different sense. They did not defend it against man, but occupied it for man, and therefore gave to those who were shut out the hope of that which the promise of Jehovah had already announced. The presence of the cherubim said to fallen man: "This region of life is not destroyed, it is not given over to other creatures, but it is occupied and kept provisionally for you by a being in whom your nature predominates; and hereafter, you yourself changed, enriched with new powers, restored by redemptive love to holiness, shall share Paradise regained." The means of realizing this became more clear as the ages rolled by. The hope that ideal humanity would inherit bliss did not die out, but the method of its fulfilment was unfolded in the Mosaic institutions. Not only did the cherubim in the oracle witness, as the cherubim in Eden had done, but once a year the high priest, as the representative of the people, went in, and stood with the cherubim in the presence of Jehovah. He entered not "without blood," but after atonement had been made for the sins of the people. Apply this to the truth revealed in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Show how Christ, who has atoned for the world's sin, has entered as our High Priest into the holiest of all, and how He has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. No wonder that in the Revelation "the Lamb that was slain" is depicted as being the object of heaven's praise; the link between man's guilt and God's mercy. [For justification of this use of the cherubim, see Fairbairn's "Typology of Scripture."] - A.R.
Carved figures of cherubim and palm trees, and open flowers.
I. THE UNION OF THE EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY, THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL, IN WORSHIP AND RELIGION. The highest spiritual creatures and two of the most prominent natural objects were portrayed together in the house of God. The cherubim representing heaven, the highest grade of spiritual creation, and the palm tree and the open flower representatives of earth and nature in their finest and noblest shapes, were brought together on the walls of the house of God. And there was nothing else to be seen. The highest creature in the spiritual realm was here set alongside of natural objects known to all. Teaching that heaven's service, though higher, is of the same sort with the service on earth. Representatives from the temple of nature were there, and representatives from the heavenly temple. In the house of God and in worship heaven and earth are brought together. We represent in our worship all creatures that cannot worship. We are the priests of the whole visible creation, and our worship unites us with the highest intelligences. We link together the seraph and the flower. Both are represented and contained in us. In worship, space and time vanish. We are in the same company with those who are worshipping around the throne the unveiled glory.
II. LIFE THE GRAND SOURCE, MATERIAL, REALITY. There were three kinds of life portrayed on these walls. Of all the beautiful objects in nature they were living and only living things that were pictured there. Life was here in three stages: life rooted and growing, like the palm tree; life expanded, like the open flower; and life in its highest state, the life of the cherub. How plainly did the voice come from the innermost sanctuary: "Life is all." It is life that is the grand desideratum in the worship of God. It is life that gives value to all things. Nothing is valuable without life. The true life of the soul, then, what is it? The temple explains this. The worshippers were incessantly brought to this question: What is life which is thus so prominent? And they were evermore thrown back on the temple for the answer. In the temple was the answer found. What is life? Life is that which has fellowship with God, life is that which loves God, and longs after Him; life is that which feeds upon God's truth. We are no nearer answering the question precisely and definitely in words than they were. It is still the grand secret. One great lesson taught by this threefold exhibition of life in the temple was undoubtedly this, that all life has the same grand, general laws. How widely apart these different forms of life were — vegetable life and highest seraphic life; and yet widely apart as they are they have the same laws. God does all His work from the humblest to the highest according to the same principles. The life of the plant is sustained by the same laws as the spiritual life of the cherub. The seraph burns and sings by the same simple laws of being as the plant grows and the flower expands.
III. THE UNION OF THESE THREE THINGS IN SPIRITUAL LIFE — WORSHIP, FRUITFULNESS, AND BEAUTY. Worship represented by the cherub, fruitfulness by the palm tree, and beauty by the open flower. True spiritual life shows itself not in one of these but in all. Worship is the foundation and the nutriment of life. It is by the perception of the glory of God and by the adoration of it that the soul is sustained; and it is by fruitfulness that this food finds scope for its energy; for food that is taken into the spiritual nature, and that does not find outlet and space for its energy ceases to be food. Wherever there is true worship of God there is also the fruitfulness of the palm tree, and wherever there is true fruitfulness arising from the worship of God, there is beauty as the result of these. True spiritual beauty is the outcome of the union of these two things — worship and practical fruitfulness.
IV. THE UNION OF THESE THREE THINGS IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD — ASPIRATION, GROWTH, AND RECEPTIVITY. Aspiration was taught by the cherub. The highest form of spiritual life was presented continually before the worshipper in order that he might know what he had to aspire to; and the palm tree, the emblem of steady, straight, upward growth, was a constant lesson and reminder. Did the question rise, How shall I become like the cherub? Were there no hearts that could read the answer in the open flower? The open flower is the way to the cherub. One of the finest pictures of reception among all the objects that God has made is a flower that lies open to catch the sunshine, and to drink the rain and the dew, shuts up when the sun departs, but expands itself again when the sun's rays touch it. By reception the plant and the flower live; and by reception the soul of man lives and grows. Our life is that of a flower. Man cometh forth like a flower and is cut down. It is by aspiring to the cherub life that we gain the victory over that. We are no longer distressed with the thought of the brevity of the life when that of immortal beauty has dawned upon us, and when we firmly grasp the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son.
(T. Leckie, D. D.).
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