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BY REV. FREDERICK WHITFIELD, M.A.,
' ow it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth
month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the
captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were
opened, and I saw visions of God.
' In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of
king Jehoiachin's captivity, the word of the Lord came ex
pressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land
of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar ; and the hand of the
Lord was there upon him.' — Ezek. i. 1-3. Read also 4-28.
JEHOIAKIM, king of Judah, had transferred his
allegiance to ebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
To this allegiance he proved unfaithful, and, in
consequence, ebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem,
and among the captives carried away was Daniel
and other princes of the blood. Jehoiakim was
succeeded by his son Jehoiachin, who was a still
more worthless character than his father. ebu
chadnezzar again invaded the land, and among
his ten thousand captives, carried away to the
river Chebar, was Ezekiel the priest. This was in
the year 600 B.C. Zedekiah, who was then set up
as king, turned out no better, and broke the oath
170 WELL-SPRIGS OF LIFE.
which he had sworn to ebuchadnezzar, who
then marched against Jerusalem and destroyed
it. By this catastrophe the Old Testament theo
cracy lost its political existence.
The call of Ezekiel to the prophetic office was
in the fifth year of the reign of Zedekiah. In the
thirtieth year (verse 1) is supposed to be the
year of the Prophet's life — the year on which our
Lord, and John the Baptist, and the priests
generally, entered on their prophetic office.
' I was among the captives by the river of
Chebar ; the heavens were opened, and I saw
visions of God.' It is when earthly prospects are
covered with a cloud God opens the heavens and
speaks to us. John was a prisoner in the isle
called Patmos, when God revealed to him the
glorious visions of that Book. And in the same
way, when the cloud of trial and sorrow covers
the Christian's horizon, then it is God reveals
Himself the most blessedly to the soul.
' 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 as the colour
of amber out of the midst of the fire.' This
EZEKIEL'S VISIO. 171
'whirlwind,' or 'great cloud/ was the Chaldean
army, the great power ' out of the north,' which
God sent to punish Israel for their sin. It is aptly
described under the striking figure of a tempestuous
whirlwind. But God was in this cloud or whirl
wind, and the ' brightness ' of His presence shone
round about it. This is indicated by the fire in
the midst of it. ' He maketh the clouds His
chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind.'
'And out of the midst thereof came the like
ness of four living creatures. And this was their
appearance ; they had the likeness of a man.
There are three striking figures brought before us
in this chapter, which must be clearly understood
before we proceed : they are the living creatures
and their wings ; the wheels ; and the man on the
sapphire throne (see verses 5, 15, 26). The first
brings before us the Divine operations in all the
affairs of this world; the second, all the events
which happen in the world ; the third, that they
are all under the government of the Lord Jesus
Christ — the Man on the throne. A simple illustra
tion will best convey the meaning. War, famine,
and pestilence ; sickness, suffering, death — these
172 WELL-SPRIGS OF LIFE.
are constantly happening in the world, and are
therefore symbolized by the wheels. But these
are not blind forces ; there is Divine intelligence
permeating each one, from the falling of a sparrow
to the crushing of an empire. This intelli
gence is symbolized by the living creature and
the wings. But these earthly events, as well as
the divine intelligence permeating them, are all
under the higher government of the Man on the
throne. And as the appearance of this Man on
the throne was ' as the appearance of the bow that
is in the cloud in the day of rain,' we learn that all
the events of our world, guided by Divine in
telligence, are all hastening onwards to a merciful
and gracious and glorious consummation. The
bow is itself the symbol of mercy, and is seen in a
vision very closely corresponding to this (see Kev.
iv. 1-11), surrounding the throne on which the
Lord Jesus Christ is seated, with the 'living
creatures ' round about Him. This vision of
Ezekiel's was intended thus to convey to the
Prophet and the captives of Chebar that, though a
cloud rested upon them, there was no chance in it,
that God was in it all, and was overruling all for a
EZEKIEL'S VISIO. 373
blessed end, and that ' all things were working
together for good to them that love God.' If,
through the three symbols I have mentioned,
we grasp the meaning of this sublime vision, we
shall understand much more clearly all that follows
in the Book. Let us now look at some of the de
tails brought before us in this chapter.
Let us observe that the fire (vers. 4 and 27) is the
symbol of God's presence. The ' living creatures '
come out of this fire. The Divine intelligences,
which direct and guide all things on earth,
come from God. This is why it is said, ' When
the living creatures went, the wheels went by
them ; and when the living creatures were lifted
up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
Whithersoever the spirit was to go they went,
thither was their spirit to go, and the wheels were
lifted up over^against them : for the spirit of the
living creature was in the wheels ' (see verses
19-21). There was not a ' wheel,' or event on
earth, that a Divine intelligence was not filling
and directing. The ' wheel ' and the ' living
creature ' were inseparable.
But again, ' they four had the face of a man, and
174 WELL-SPRIGS OF LIFE.
the face of a lion on the right side ; and they four
had the face of an ox on the left side ; they four
also had the face of an eagle' (verse 10). These
four faces represent the head of each department
of 'creation— the man symbolizing intelligence,
wisdom, skill ; the lion, as the head of wild beasts,
symbolizing majesty, dignity, command; the ox,
the head of domestic animals, denoting labour,
patience, perseverance; the eagle, as the head of
birds, denoting heavenly energy, fire, devotion.
That is to say, that in this Divine intelligence
which guides every event on earth, there is com
bined the fulness of wisdom, intelligence, majesty,
patience, heavenly energy, and, in fine, all the
perfection and fulness of Him who sits upon the
Mark the recurrence of the expressions, their
' feet were straight ' : they ' turned not when they
went ' ; they ' went everyone straightforward.'
What do these expressions teach us ? There are
no regrets, no mistakes, in God's actings ; there are
no crookednesses : every movement is perfect. All
are moving onward, under the guidance of the Man
on the throne, to one blessed and glorious end.
EZEKIEL'S VISIO. 175
Again, it is said, they were ' full of eyes round
about them four': 'and their whole body, and their
backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the
wheels were full of eyes round about' (see chap. x.
12). All the movements of heaven, and the events
of earth, are permeated with Divine intelligence and
omniscience. God is working by all, and through
all, and in all. We seem to be surrounded on
every side by blind forces, second causes, mere laws
of nature. ot so. God lives and moves in every
thing. This is still further conveyed in the words
' as for the likeness of the living creatures their
appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like
the appearance of lamps ; it went up and down
among the living creatures ; and the fire was
bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning'
(verse 13). In the midst of these intelligences,
ordering and guiding all the events of this world,
there was the divine fire of God's most Holy
Presence constantly in action, and the going forth
of Almighty power, indicated by the lightning.
' Their wings were joined one to another.' There
was neither breach nor discordance; and thus
joined they supported the canopy on which was
176 WELL-SPRIGS OF LIFE.
seated the sapphire throne, with the Lord Jesus
One point more, and I close : ' and when they
went I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise
of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the
voice of speech, as the noise of an host : and there
was a voice from the firmament that was over their
heads when they stood and had let down their
wings' (verses 24-25). We remember that the
' wings ' and the ' wheels ' were inseparable ; and
here we observe how each one is under the direction
of the Voice from the throne. Every ' wing ' or
intelligence in heaven, and every ' wheel ' or provi
dence on earth, is ordered, directed, controlled, by
Him whose voice speaks with Almighty power, and
whose heart of wisdom and love is ordering all
things in heaven and earth for the good of the
weakest child of God that shelters beneath His
May every reader of these lines know Him, love
Him, follow Him, and put his trust beneath those
wings which no shaft can reach without piercing
His loving heart !
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