30 June 2011

"When he commanded the man clothed in linen, 'Take fire from within the wheel-work, from among the cherubim, he went in and stood beside a wheel." (v. 6)


This is a middle section of an extended vision (from chapter 8 to 11). In this chapter we see God's glory depart from the temple. The cherubim are not baby-faced angels as we understand the word in English. In the inner sanctuary of the temple there were huge (5 metre high) winged statues of cherubim (part human and part animal), carved from olive wood and covered with gold. Their spread wings touched and extended from wall to wall.

In his vision Ezekiel sees these come alive (see Psalm 18:10 and80:1 for some other examples) and move around the glory of the Lord (which is shrouded in cloud as is so often the case).

There is a great deal of overlap in this vision with the description of the temple in 1 Kings 6-8 (the wheels for example) so it seems the vision fits with the experience Ezekiel had of the temple.

In the vision the Lord commands a man dressed in linen to take burning coals from the centre of the temple. Maybe we can connect this with the fire in chapter 1 verse 4, so the fire is both from the incense altar and from the glory of God.

Interestingly the man is only described as taking the fire from the cherubim and then taking it out to the city. Ezekiel does not say what the results are of the fire the man takes out. There are two common interpretations of fire that be meant here: divine punishment or a refiner to purify. As the vision does not detail which of these happens perhaps the future is still open and not yet decided.

As we look to the future, I wonder which of these we focus on for our time. Maybe it is on God sending fire as destructive punishment or do we prefer to concentrate on God's use of fire for refining and purifying. Is the future still open? What is the Spirit saying to us today?

To Ponder

How does God speak to us today?

How does God view our society and communities today?

Do we relate more to fire as God's punishment or refining? Why?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dave Warnock

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