In the realm of Biblical character study some individuals seem to receive their faith share of attention, while others, like Ezekiel, are somewhat rejected. The nature of the book that bears his name results in little attention being given to the man who wrote it. There are, however, many lessons to be learned in considering this remarkable servant of God.
The Exiles in Babylon
As his book opens we see Ezekiel as an exile away from home, in the midst of circumstances that would have made him far from happy. As he mingled with his fellow captives his thoughts would often be of his native land and of his home town. Alas, all this had changed and as he reflected on the past the tears would often flow. He knew well what the psalmist wrote of: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof” (Ps 137.1-2).
Things had seemingly all gone wrong for Ezekiel, the ambitions and hopes of his breast now extinguished. He had anticipated the day when he would serve the Lord and His people as a priest in the Temple, but there was no hope of that ever taking place. The Temple was destroyed; the glory had departed.
The Sovereignty of God
Today there are dear saints who feel that life has not gone in the way expected. Disappointment, sorrow, or what is perceived as failure has crossed their path. Why this? Why that?
Why, what we hope for most of all,
Eludes so oft our eager hand?
Why hopes are crushed and castles fall,
Up there, some time well understand.
God was about to show Ezekiel something of His sovereign ways to enable him in the present to understand the significance of his circumstances. So let us take down our harps from the willows as we recognise that God knows the way and guides us with a hand that never errs. No doubt when Ezekiel was musing in these things the heavens were opened and he saw visions of God. Without going into the details of the vision we note that it is about wings and wheels. These two things figure in everyday speech. As life becomes complicated, when time and circumstances seem to be completely out of gear, we sometimes speak of “wheels within wheels”. We have to learn, however, as Ezekiel was taught, that the wings and wheels are not out of control, they are not left to blind chance. They were attached to creatures of great intelligence, and therefore they were under control.
In the opening verse he gives us the date of the vision. God has His calendar and the history of individuals and nations fit into it, indeed are determined by it. In His book we see the revolving wheels that mark the overthrow of mighty empires. If we had not Ezekiels secret, if we had not the Word of God we might well ask, “Where will it all end?”. But here we find that all is under control. The wheels move with a purpose, they turn and overturn until Gods plan and purpose is worked out and His kingdom established. The book ends with the words, “The Lord is there”.
The question could be asked: How did these wings and wheels, and the living creatures to which they were attached, co-ordinate? The answer is that “the appearance of a man” (1.26) was above it all. This was “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (1.28). The wings and wheels are under the control of the Lord. At His command they fly and move the things of time onward. The wheels turn and proud men fall to their doom. Today there is a man on the throne, the Lord Jesus, and He has all authority.
The Lord is in control
But let us come back to our circumstances when we are next tempted to think that all is against us and out of time and tune. Let us look up and see that the Lord is in control. There is a man in the Glory above all the wings and wheels that perplex us. We are not forgotten! Paul wrote, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8.28). We can almost hear the sound of the wheels turning in that verse as they ring in harmony with “that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12.2).
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessing on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace.
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.