I am overwhelmed by the complexity of God and his written word to us. I pause even to write this because the task of trying to explain and understand this complexity feels beyond me in every way. Don’t get me wrong I know that God desires that we know Him that we have intimacy in him as a child looks up to his father or as the beloved disciple was able to recline and lay his head against Jesus. What a sweet intimacy that is and what a privilege to share in it!
But if you may, can we look at another facet of God’s character? While he is near, he is also far. While we are made in his image, he is vastly other. He walks with us in time, but yet he supersedes time. We understand that he is eternal but we can’t begin to fathom an existence that has no beginning and one that lives outside of time itself.
It seems to me that God wants to communicate his vast “otherness” to us at times and Ezekiel is quite the display of weird stuff! If you are like me and grew up in a predominately black Baptist church you know that the saints of old have passed down traditional sayings that describe how we talk about God whether biblical or not. You know he is the “rose of Sharon” the “prince of peace” the “rock of ages” and finally the “wheel in the middle of the wheel.” It was always that last one that I had no clue what it meant. There was even a song about Jesus. “He’s my rock, my rock, my sword, my shield, he is the wheel in the middle of the wheel.” Why is there a wheel in the middle of a wheel? What use is a wheel intersecting with another wheel?
Well this strange contraption is a part of Ezekiel’s inaugural Vision in Ezekiel 1& 2. Ezekiel, I imagine, was a fairly normal priest and then he is whisked away to get a glimpse at the complexity of our Lord. ” In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heaves were opened and I saw visions of God.” (Ezekiel 1:1)
Here we are introduced to these winged creatures with four faces and four wings and human arms under said wings. They had feet like calf and shined in brilliance and beside each one was a wheel in the middle of a wheel. A wheel of equal shinning brilliance that intersected with another wheel and the wheel was covered in eyes! Of all things yes the wheel had eyes! The wheel moved about with the creatures going where they went without even turning as it is said the spirit of those creatures was in the the wheel. (Ezekiel 1:20)
And get this, there is more! There was some sort of vault over the heads of the creatures and and image like a man was atop this thing. And its appearance was “like glowing metal, as if full of fire…” it is said there was radiance around him like the “appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day.” (Ezekiel 1:27-28)
This figure in all its might and majesty is the Lord God Almighty sitting upon his throne. Can we take a break from the strangeness of it all and consider the beauty of it? Rather can we accept that the strangeness of it, is in fact its beauty.
This sweet image that the Lord allowed Ezekiel to see is like pulling back the curtain so we can see even the slightest sliver of God’s mystery. And a beautiful mystery it is. We have to remember that God’s inspired word is ordained by the Holy Spirit so when Ezekiel pinned this, the Lord wanted to specifically highlight some of these things for the immediate audience as well as the eternal audience which we are a part of. That means that what this image displays is something important to God to communicate to his people so we need to take notice.
I don’t pretend that I speak on God’s behalf or anything, however there is an overarching message we find in Ezekiel’s vision and I think it may be this… The Almighty God, who was and is and is to come, the maker of the heavens and the earth, the giver of every good and perfect gift, the alpha and omega, the one who is the judge and the justifier, has an existence that is so powerful and more grand that we can wrap our minds around.
I am not the first person to shudder in the face of our Lord’s grandeur. History has shown us that theologians either decide to use this understanding of the mystery of God to drive us further from him and some allow it to drive us nearer.
So what is the correct response to all of this otherness? Reverence is the first thing that comes to mind but maybe even something deeper than that. Could it be that we can find comfort in the vast separation between the glory of the shinning image sitting above the vault, instead of dread and fear? Could it be that in God’s infinite power and grandeur we find our champion? Who better to have your back then the one whose Glory is so powerful it cannot be looked upon? I find peace, safety and a sense of victory knowing that God is not like you and I in this way. I have enough people like me standing for me, But if God is for us, Who can be against us?