Ezekiel 10:1-2 (NIV) 1 I looked, and I saw the likeness of a throne of sapphire above the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim. 2 The LORD said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And as I watched, he went in.
On verses 1-2: This part of Ezekiel’s vision reminds me of a scene from Isaiah 6. In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah sees a vision of God seated on his throne in the temple. In his vision, Isaiah is dismayed because he realizes that he is a sinner who cannot stand in the presence of a holy God. All of a sudden one of the angels takes a live coal from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips with it, and tells him that his guilt is taken away and his sin atoned for.
I believe a similar thing may be happening here in Ezekiel’s vision. God tells a man clothed in linen (the same man whom God instructed in Ezekiel 9 to mark those who did not worship idols) to fill his hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city (v2). What is God doing? Since all the idolaters in the city have been exterminated in Ezekiel 9, God is now sanctifying and purifying those who are left.
What can we learn from this? For those who have placed their faith in Jesus, not only does God mark us with a seal of protection so that we escape God’s wrath, but even more God sanctifies us (i.e. makes us holy and set apart like Christ) making us righteous and pure in God’s eyes. As 1 Corinthians 6:11b says, “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Ezekiel 10:3-5 (NIV) 3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. 4 Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD. 5 The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.
On verses 3-5: God’s presence and glory are often represented in the Old Testament by a cloud. Notice that the cloud first fills the inner court and then moves to the threshold (or entrance) of the temple, such that the entire temple, including the outer court and entrance, is filled with God’s presence. Here’s how I apply this part to my life:
I want my life to be that way too: filled from the inside out by God’s Spirit. I want those who get near me to feel God’s loving, joyful, holy presence.
I want my church to be that way too, with every part filled by God’s Spirit. I pray that when people get near us as a church, when they get close to our parking lot or close to any person who calls Thrive their home church, they can sense that there’s something different about us in a good way – a love, a joy, a passion, a purpose, a hope that the world cannot give.
In actuality, however, the presence of God was not so much filling the temple as it was making its way out of the temple. That is because God only goes and stays where He is wanted.
Ezekiel 10:6-7 (NIV) 6 When the LORD commanded the man in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” the man went in and stood beside a wheel. 7 Then one of the cherubim reached out his hand to the fire that was among them. He took up some of it and put it into the hands of the man in linen, who took it and went out.
On verses 6-7: In Ezekiel’s vision one of the cherubim takes some fire and places it in the hand of the man dressed in linen. Following the Lord’s command, the man in linen takes the fire and goes out, presumably into the city. The assumption some scholars make is that the man in linen would then go into the city and set it the city on fire, purging and purifying the city with fire. By the way, when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Jerusalem, guess what he did to the temple in real life? He set the temple on fire, along with every other important building in the city (see 2 Kings 25:8-9).
What can we learn from this? Part of the sanctification process that the Holy Spirit does in our lives is to purge from our lives those ways of thinking and living that do not please God.
Ezekiel 10:8-17 (NIV) 8 (Under the wings of the cherubim could be seen what looked like the hands of a man.) 9 I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like chrysolite. 10 As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 11 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. 12 Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. 13 I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” 14 Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. 15 Then the cherubim rose upward. These were the living creatures I had seen by the Kebar River. 16 When the cherubim moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the cherubim spread their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels did not leave their side. 17 When the cherubim stood still, they also stood still; and when the cherubim rose, they rose with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in them.
On verses 8-17: The same cherubim and whirling wheels that Ezekiel saw in chapter 1 reappear in his vision here, except that:
Before Ezekiel called them “living creatures” in chapter 1. It is not until verse 20 of this chapter that Ezekiel realizes that these living creatures are cherubim, a special order of angels.
Before Ezekiel observed that each cherubim had the four faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (1:1). Here in Ezekiel’s second description of the cherubim, the ox face of an ox seems to be replaced by a cherub face. It is unclear why, though some scholars surmise that perhaps in heaven cherubs’ faces look more like oxen than human.
This time Ezekiel points out that the living creatures, like the wheels in chapter 1 (see 1:18), the cherubim’s bodies are full of eyes.
Under each cherubim’s wings appears to be what looks like the hands of a man (v21), suggesting that the cherubim are in a way being carried as they fly.
Despite these subtle differences or additional details, Ezekiel confirms that these were the same creatures he had seen in chapter 1 by the Kebar River (v15, 20).
Ezekiel 10:18-22 (NIV) 18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. 19 While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. 20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces and four wings, and under their wings was what looked like the hands of a man. 22 Their faces had the same appearance as those I had seen by the Kebar River. Each one went straight ahead.
Here in Ezekiel’s vision, God’s presence is finally departing the temple because of all the idolatry that the Israelites had engaged in. The departure of God’s presence is as God had promised (8:6). The cherubim and the whirling wheels depart as well, going where God’s presence is going.
What can we learn from this? Notice how God’s presence, the cherubim, and the wheels stay close together. On one level, God’s presence keeps hovering over the cherubim. This teaches me that God would prefer to let His presence dwell in living things that worship Him than in buildings and objects that don’t. Praise God that as worshipers of Jesus, God’s presence covers us wherever we go.
At the same time, when I read this chapter, Ezekiel 1, and Revelation 4, I get the sense that it’s not just God’s presence that follows and hovers over the cherubim. It’s also that the cherubim follow and gravitate toward God’s presence. The cherubim love God’s presence and don’t want to be anywhere except in God’s presence. Thus the cherubim go wherever God’s presence leads them.
In my weird imagination, I could picture this: as the cherubim are departing from the temple together with the cloud of God’s presence, every single one of the eyes that covers the cherubim’s bodies is wearing Don Moen glasses while the four wheels whirl out 80s style worship music and the cherubim sing:
I just want to be where You are, dwelling daily in Your presence.
I don’t want to worship from afar. Draw me near to where You are.
I want to be where You are, dwelling in Your presence, feasting at Your table, surrounded by Your glory. In Your presence, that’s where I always want to be…
Just as the cherubim and whirling wheels follow God’s presence wherever God goes, I want to follow God where He goes. I want to be where His presence is. Like the cherubim and the wheels, it is in God’s presence that I come alive. It is God’s presence that I truly live. Just like the cherubim,may we long every day for God’s presence and follow Him where He leads.
Heavenly Father, the One who saves me and sanctifies me, there is nothing like Your presence. Just like Your glory filled the entire temple, I want to be filled by Your Holy Spirit inside and out. Just like the cherubim who went where Your presence went, I want to be where Your presence is at. Like a whirling wheel may I follow You wherever You lead me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!