In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin— the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the Lord was on him. I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. – Ezekiel 1:1-9
This passage marks my entry into the book of Ezekiel. I took the day yesterday to “eddy out” and learn about the book of Ezekiel and, to be honest, take a break after the book of Lamentations. Although there were a few hidden wells in Lamentations it felt a bit like attending an awkward funeral for someone you did not know well. The people seemed genuinely sad, but did not seem to know what they were sad about.
I have never spent much time reading Ezekiel so I am looking forward to floating this stretch of water. I have looked into the history and background of Ezekiel and he was a very interesting character. He was young, apparently around 30 years old, and he lived with the other exiles in Babylon in a Jewish colony on the banks of the Kebar (Chebar) River. I did a little research to try to determine where this site was geographically and ironically it may have been in the general region of Saddam Hussein’s summer palace in present-day Iraq.
The prophecies of Ezekiel were apparently given to a dejected group of exiles in Babylon living in what was essentially an internment camp. They seem to be coexisting with the Babylonians, the very people who destroyed their temple and the sacred City of David. I can understand why the people were sad and feeling abandoned by God. This is a desperate and depressing place for the people of Israel.
This passage contains Ezekiel’s first vision and prophecy — “the Hand of the Lord was upon him”. Ezekiel sees visions of God. It is not clear if these visions are tangible to Ezekiel or more like dreams, but they sound like tangible scenes that God is showing Ezekiel like a newsreel or movie. Interestingly, the description of the storm reminds me of the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the mother ship arrives, “I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal…”. I am not sure if Steven Spielberg was channeling this passage but this reads like a script for the special effect he produced.
The inference is that the arrival of the cloud is in some sense the arrival of God’s presence, or at least some aspect or appearance of His presence. The four living creatures that arrive in the cloud are decidedly odd. They have human form, but they have four faces and four wings. They have straight legs and feet like a calf. They seem to have an almost metallic look as they are described to have “gleamed like burnished bronze”. This passage is “funny water” to be sure.
I am hoping as I traverse this stretch of water that God will give me insights and help me “choose a line” to traverse the whitewater that I anticipate will be found here in Ezekiel.
Prayer: God give me understanding and insights into the meaning of these messages in Ezekiel and how they relate to those who are following You now.