The Glory of the Eternal
Ezekiel 1:4-25
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire enfolding itself…

This marvellous vision, which has correspondences with others to be found in Scripture, must be interpreted in the light of the prophet's peculiar genius and imagination, and in the light of the canons and customs of ancient and Oriental art. To find significance in every detail would be to indulge an idle curiosity; to dismiss the figures as the product of an imagination dissociated from truth would be irrational and irreverent. It is plain that Ezekiel was possessed, and all but overwhelmed, by a conviction of the glorious attributes and universal sway of God. The imagery under which he conceived and represented the Divine presence and government is altogether different from either classical or modern art; but it would be a narrow pedantry which on this account would repudiate it as valueless or ineffective. In fact, it is opulent, varied, and impressive. Everything earthly must come short of setting forth Divine glory; yet much is communicated or suggested by this vision of the majesty of the Eternal which may aid us to apprehend God's character, and reverently to study God's kingly operations carried on throughout the universe.

I. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN NATURAL FORCES. It was in these, as in a setting, that the more specific forms discerned by the prophet were enshrined. The stormy wind from the north, the great cloud with its flashing fire, the amber brightness gleaming about it, - all these are manifestations of an unseen but mighty power, recognized by the spirit as Divine. This is certainly a stroke of the true artist, first to portray the material, the vehicle, and then to proceed to paint in the more defined symbolic figures. The modern doctrine of the correlation and convertibility of forces points us to the unity which is at the heart of all things, and convinces us that we are in a universe, a cosmos, which, if it is to be explained by any rational and spiritual power behind it, must be explained by a power which is undivided and single. Poets and prophets alike find scope for their imagination in connecting all the phenomena and the forces of nature with the creative Spirit conceived as revealed by their means.

II. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN LIVING CREATURES. There is, of course, no intention to picture any actually existing animals under the imagery of the vers. 5-14. But we have a symbolic representation of life. Every observer is conscious that, in passing from mechanical and chemical forces to consider the manifold forms of life, he is climbing, so to speak, to a higher platform. Living beings, in all their wonderful and admirable variety of structure and of formation, are witnesses to the wisdom and the power of the Creator. Let Science tell us of the order and of the process of their appearing; the fact of their appearing, in whatever manner, is a welcome taken of the Divine interest in this earth and its population. If the poet delights to trace God's splendour in "the light of setting suns," the physicist may with equal justice investigate in organic nature the handiwork of the All-wise. Late is the work of the living God, in whom all creatures "live, and move, and have their being." A lifeless planet would lack, not only the interest with which our earth must be regarded, but something of the evidence which tells us God is here, and is ever carrying out his glorious plans.

III. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN HUMAN ATTRIBUTES. Each living one in the prophet's vision possessed a fourfold aspect or countenance; the combination being intended to enrich our conceptions of the handiwork of God, and the witness of that handiwork to him. Interpretations differ; but it is not uncommon to recognize in the ox the sacrificial, in the lion the powerful and regal, in the eagle the aspiring, elements, added to the true humanity, and combining with it to complete the representation. The four Gospels have been generally regarded as exhibiting severally these four characteristics; and accordingly the symbol of Matthew is the man, of Mark the lion, of Luke the ox, of John the eagle.

IV. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN ESPECIALLY IN INTELLIGENCE. The wheels had their rings or felloes "full of eyes round about." This is symbolical of understanding, because sight is the most intellectual of the senses, the eye being the medium of the greater part of our most valuable knowledge of the world without. Conscious intelligence can only arise through participation in the Divine nature; it is the subject, not the object, of knowledge. In an especial manner the intellect witnesses to the glory of God, for by it we have insight into the Divine reason. In the exercise of the prerogative of knowledge and judgment, in insight and intuition, we are putting forth powers which are in themselves among the most splendid and convincing testimonies to "the Father of lights."

V. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN ESPECIALLY IN UTTERANCE. The prophet in his vision heard the noise of the wings of the living ones, and the voice above the firmament - appealing to the sense, not of sight, but of hearing. It is perhaps not fanciful to discern here a conscious, voluntary witness to God borne by his creation, and especially by those endowed with the human prerogative of speech, as the utterance and expression of thought and reason. The music of the spheres, the voice of the stars, "the melody of woods and winds and waters," all testify to God. The poet represents the heavenly bodies as

"Forever singing as they shine,
'The hand that made us is Divine.'" Yet the articulate, definite, and intelligible utterances of beings endowed with intellect and with speech are necessary to enrich and to complete the chorus of adoration and praise offered by earth to heaven. The tongue, "the glory of the frame," has its place to fill, its witness to bear, in the service of the vast, illimitable temple.

VI. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN THE COMMUNITY AND HARMONY APPOINTED BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH. The living creatures had wings by which they soared into the sky; they reposed and ran, however, upon wheels, by which they maintained their connection with the solid ground. This remarkable combination of wings and wheels seems to point to the twofold aspect of all creation. All things have an earthly and a heavenly side. If wheels alone were provided, earth would seem cut off from heaven; if wings alone, the terrestrial element would be lacking, which would be a contradiction to obvious fact. Man has a body, and bodily needs and occupations, which link him to the earth; but he has also a spiritual nature and life which witness his relation to the ever-living God - the Spirit who seeketh such to worship him as worship in spirit and in truth. Yet his whole nature is created by God, and redeemed by Christ; and his service and sacrifice, in order to being acceptable, must be undivided and complete. Whether we regard the nature of the individual man, or regard the Church which is the body of Christ, we are constrained to acknowledge that all parts of the living nature - body, soul, and spirit - are summoned to unite in revealing to the universe the incomparable majesty and glory of God. - T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

WEB: I 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.

Early Symbols of Jehovah's Presence
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