Friday

17 February 2017

“Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house and stopped above the cherubim.” (v. 18)

Psalm: Psalm 107:17-32


Background

Ezekiel states that he has seen the same living creatures (verses 15, 20, 22) that he saw in his first vision (Ezekiel 1). However on this occasion he clearly describes them as cherubim. The word itself has links with the words 'to bless', 'to intercede' and 'to be almighty', whilst their role is thought to be a combination of worship and protection of a place where God dwells. The cherubim also seem to be described as beings on which the throne of God sits and this is certainly the case in this passage.

We see again the strange imagery of four faces, although the fact that one face is a cherub rather than an ox is put down to scribal error rather than anything significant. We read once more about wheels within wheels which seem to suggest an ability to go in any direction. It is, however, difficult to imagine what this looked like and we have to remind ourselves that this is a vision of God.

The priestly man in linen has now been given another task which is to take burning coals from within the wheeled throne (verse 6). Previously (Ezekiel 10:3) he had been told to scatter them over Jerusalem, reminiscent of the burning coals that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24). We must assume this happened, although Ezekiel does not record it in his vision.

The final act in this great drama is that the glory of the Lord leaves the temple and rises up into the air, presumably because of the idolatry that has already been recorded. If the cherubim have a protective role over the dwelling place of God then this has been removed as well - a devastating turn of events for the national life and identity of Israel. But Ezekiel is at pains to tell us that the living creatures were the same as he saw in Babylon, perhaps offering hope that God's people have not been abandoned.


To Ponder

  • How do you respond to this image of a God of judgement?
  • The glory of the Lord left the temple. What modern parallels might there be?


Bible notes author: The Revd Jonathan Mead

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