Ezekiel’s Visions Of God’s Omnipresence.
The Book of Ezekiel.
God proclaimed His eternal prohibition to Moses when he sought to see Him “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Exodus 33:20); His absolute holiness distancing us from His eternal Presence. Yet He appears to contradict Himself when Jesus promised “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” and “I shall never leave you, nor forsake you” (Matt 28:20; Heb 13:5). It is inevitable that Eternal Love can never completely distance Himself from those He deeply loves, and the Cross was part of His plan for the reconciliation of man to Himself. Through the ages, angelic hosts, the Lord Jesus Himself, and the improbable bizarre descriptions of Ezekiel’s visions represented this benign unapproachable Presence. Here, we attempt to delve into Ezekiel’s visions, if we may so describe them, of Yahweh in His imponderable Presence among men, over a twelve-year period, comprising four principal revelations.
Ezekiel’s initial vision (Ezek 1-7) placed him among the exiles in Chaldea, Mesopotamia, prior to the rise of the Babylonian Empire and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem. Magnificent self-driven and rapid-moving storm clouds; angelic beings with facial human-cum-creature representations moving at lightning speed throughout the world; darting burning coals and glaring lights; living wheels with a capacity for independent sight; and a human-like persona consumed by radiant fire and seated on a suspended gleaming throne. The fundamental overpowering message is God’s absolute mindfulness of all that goes on in His creation; His omnipresence ensures that nothing escapes His notice. This dazzling unearthly display belies the anguish and grief in Yahweh’s heart over the sins and rebelliousness of His people. And when Ezekiel imbibed the judgment scroll, God’s lament became his bitter medicine, qualifying him to become Yahweh’s mouthpiece and watchman.
Before the Holy City is destroyed, Ezekiel was spiritually transported for a glimpse of the future judgment of her political and religious leaders, replete with detailed evidence of their desecration of the Temple and disregard for human life (Ezek: 8-36). The clear missive is that we are not to presume that God’s Presence will continue in the face of dismal rebellion against His laws; not a single man or nation in all creation will escape His eventual justice. Men may have short memories, but the sampling of detailed indictment of the nations in the Near East is indicative of God’s impartial justice. In writhing pain, he watched, as Yahweh, in all His glory, together with His heavenly retinue, abandon the Temple. Holiness and sin do not mix!
The penultimate scenario took place in the infamous battleground of the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezek 37-39). Curiously, Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy over the skeletal remains, resurrecting and imbuing them with breath, creating an immediate standing army. If taken at face value, this transfer of power had enormous implication; but is it a one off display or can we read further into what being in Christ is all about? (c.f., John 14:12-14). God forthrightly interpreted its meaning: the skeletons represented His people, brought to life only by God’s prevailing Spirit, and following the expected judgment of Gog and Magog, He will unify and restore the glorious fortunes of His people, as He originally intended. The imperative focus of the message that all life comes from Yahweh is unmistakable, and our life has meaning only when it is found to be in His will. An alignment is urgently required if we are to be part of God’s grand plans in Christ Jesus (c.f., Col 1:15-20; Eph 1:3-14).
God brought Ezekiel back to Jerusalem for his final vision (Ezek 40-48), where he comes face-to-face with a mysterious burnished architect of the new Temple and City. With a restored priesthood and people as His inheritance, Ezekiel, who twelve years back saw in a similar vision, Yahweh leaving the Holy City, now watched with unqualified elation, as God returned with all His faithful entourage of enigmatic personages, filling the Temple with His glorious Presence. A city to be called “The Lord is There,” populated by those who possessed a new heart and a new spirit (from the Lord), and totally devoid of those with hearts of stone and flesh (Ezek 11:19; Ezek 36:26). Not unlike the Jews in Ezekiel’s days, it is of vital importance that we are being constantly reminded of our Christological root and narratives, as the hustle and bustle of worldly life attempt to divert and divest us from the Lord’s Presence, where the battle over our heart and mind is ongoing. Ezekiel could well have warned his fellow exiles what James had written, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).