“As I looked, I saw a storm coming from the north. There was an immense cloud with flashing lightning surrounded by a bright light. The middle of the lightning looked like glowing metal. In the center of the cloud I saw what looked like four living creatures. They were shaped like humans”. Ezekiel 1:4-5
Ezekiel was 30 years old and had trained his whole life for his upcoming position as a priest. He was to serve in his famous home town of Jerusalem where all of his father’s family had served as well. This was Ezekiel’s purpose for his life.. or so he thought. No position could possibly be closer to God than a priest. Though Ezekiel believed his purpose was priesthood, God purpose for Ezekiel was a prisoner. Suddenly, Ezekiel found his country taken captive by King Nebucadnezzer of Babylon. He then began a 700 mile journey to a foreign country as a captive by foreign forces.
Ezekiel may have been extremely discouraged and disappointed in this drastic turn of events. From freedom to captivity. From a honorable, trained priest to a foreigner prisoner in Babyloanian custody. Where did God go and why would God abandon him? These may have been the thoughts of Ezekiel during this time, but God had something greater in store than Ezekiel could have ever imagined.
In the first chapter of Ezekiel, God gives him a vision. Almost like a movie trailer of what was to come. Ezekiel saw “a great cloud with a raging fire engulfing itself” (vs 4) very similar to the cloud in Exodus that led the Israelites from captivity to the promised land. A cloud had significance to Ezekiel because it indicated that the Lord would lead Ezekiel and his people to freedom. He would not leave him and was very present even in prison. Sometimes, like Ezekiel, our emotions can cloud our knowledge that God has not forgotten us.
Inside the cloud in Ezekiel’s vision were 4 living creatures. Listen to this description. Just like trying to describe a beautiful place you have been to someone else that has not, this is the same problem Ezekiel has trying to picture for us what he saw without us having seen it for ourselves. The creatures were described as looking human, having 4 faces, and having 4 wings a piece. These creatures had straight legs, but the soles of their feet looked like calve’s hooves that were a glittery bronze. The creatures had human hands under their wings and all of their wings touched. Each creature had four faces. One side was a face similar to a mans, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. The creatures did not turn side to side, but only walked straight ahead. The creatures face was like fire and everywhere the spirit went, the creatures followed. These same creatures are mentioned in Isaiah and Revelation. In Revelation, these same creatures are seen at the throne of God. Each creature had a wheel with rims that had eyes in them. These wheels would follow the creatures and the Spirit everywhere.
In a vision, Ezekiel was given a sneak peek to the throne of God. Ezekiel had to go into captivity, in order to see this. Maybe, being engulfed as a full-time priest, Ezekiel would not have been open or had time for this vision. He would have missed this great opportunity. Sometimes God has to slow us down, and throw us into a “prison of sorts” to get our attention and to share with us our true purpose. It is rarely what we have determined it to be.