On Ezekiel’s thirtieth birthday, the year he should have entered the priesthood in Jerusalem, he found himself “among the exiles by the Chebar canal” in the land of Babylon (Ezek 1:1). Everything he had worked for, his schooling, his plans, were gone. And to top it off, no birthday cake.
But it’s in this place of shattered dreams that God breaks into Ezekiel’s life. In his moment of despair, “The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel … and the hand of the Lord was upon him,” along with “the glory of the Lord” (1:3-28). God draws near to us through his word, with his helping hand, and with his radiant glory.
You get the feeling that Zeke is struggling to find the words to describe the heavens opening up to him. It’s indescribable, so he keeps using “likeness.” As a cloud overshadows a windstorm, four Spirit-propelled, four-faced, four-winged creatures emerge (1:4-6). They are not space aliens; they’re cherubim (10:15, 20). And they don’t look like chubby babies either.
In fact, these bizarre looking creatures have their own set of wheels. Well, it’s not really their wheels. Cherubim are more like Motaur (the half-motorcycle guy commercials)—only with gyroscope wheels that can move in any direction. The cherubim and the wheels within the wheels move together “for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels” (1:19-20; cf. 10:17).
Over their heads was “the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire” (1:26). What Ezekiel describes is not a stationary throne on its own, but a four-wheeled-gyroscope chariot-throne (1:15-26). Wait a minute! God’s throne is like a chariot? “There is none like God … who rides through the heavens to your help” (Deut 33:26). He doesn’t just sit on his throne all day, every day, for eternity. His throne moves! Cool.
“And seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance” (1:26). Ezekiel’s description of the Man-God is a lot like John’s description of the fiery radiance of Jesus (Rev 1). No wonder Ezekiel does a face plant. The Lord’s chariot-throne draws near to his people at the gloomiest times and darkest places. Thank goodness.
Hardships are hard. Like Ezekiel, in our moments of despair, God draws near to us through his word to guide us and give us hope. He draws near to us with his hand to strengthen us so that we can take the next step. Jesus draws near to us with his glory to transform us into his likeness “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18).
Hardships prepare us for an eternal weight of glory. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). We will glisten with the blazing brilliance of God’s glory. The “sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).