4/24/2011

What is God like? (Ezekiel 1)

Ezekiel1
This chart of Ezekiel gives an overview. Check out this excellent computer graphics animation describing the incredible vision seen in Ezek 1:1-28.

Ezekial was 25 when taken into Babylonian captivity, and 30 when called into ministry (Ezek 1:1), the age when priests commenced their office. He was a captured Israelite in forced exile. He is unusual and strange, and so is his book, which we may often not read, or hear sermons on. Historically, young rabbis were encouraged not to read Ezekiel until age 30, lest they become discouraged as to how hard Scripture is.

The outline below is from a sermon by Mark Dever (Capitol Hill Baptist Church) entitled A Vision of God, or "What is God like?" One of the most vivid records in the Bible of a vision of God is in Ezek 1:1-28, where Dever explains 5 things we can learn about God.

1. God is not like us.

Ezek 1 is strange and unusual. It compels us to realize that God is not like us; he is vastly different from us. God is high, lifted up and holy. Satan's temptation is to make us think that God is like us (Gen 3:5; Ps 50:21), so that we make ourselves the measure of all things. We tend to make God in our image. But we should not assume what God is like. God is never quite like us, as we think. Thus, we need to come back to Scripture continually. Ezek 1:1-28 shows that God is so vastly different from the way we are. We each need a true vision of God like Ezekiel to overcome all of our own preconceptions about God. When we do, we need to show reverence to God (Ezek 1:28). When Job heard God's personal counsel, he said, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:5-6).

2. God is all powerful and all wise.

Ezek 1:1-28 is describing something. If we try to picture it, it is not easily pictured. The vision is of a creature with faces looking in all 4 directions. There are eyes on the wheel. God is all seeing. He is omniscient. He is all wise. He is all powerful. He can go anywhere and do anything as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). There is an inner longing within everyone of us for a parental figure, for authority, for approval, for meaning and purpose. They are put there for a reason. I can follow God better when I think of God with reverent humility and trust.

3. God is not limited and bound by circumstances.

The Israelites thought that God was limited to Jerusalem. They lost their temple, their country. But God is coming to God in Babylon, in their exile. God is all over the earth. God knows no limits. The vision includes great chariots. For some people, this is a troubling thought. Many try to run away from God. But no one can. God is not limited to a person, a friend, a church. There are no circumstances that go beyond the care of God. Sometimes we become dependent on a particular teacher, author, pastor, church, method. Learn from Paul (Rom 8:35,37).

4. God initiates.

Ezekiel was not out looking for God. He was not prying out the heavens. Ezek 1:3,4,25 – a voice came. What called his attention? Ezek 1:28 – one speaking. It's like Moses with the burning bush, Isaiah in the temple, Paul on the road to Damascus. When God initiates, we need to be responsive. We cannot assume that we can take it or leave it. There are seasons in our life when we are particularly open. We must listen – not to man, not to the church, but to God. Don’t be presumptuous. Jesus always calls us to follow him now.

5. God communicates.

The pattern here is sight, some sound, and then speech (Ezek 1:25). God is interested in personal relationships. God is interested in covenant love. God climaxes in some words. No movie producer wants to climax his movie in some words, rather than spectacular special effects. For a relationship, there must be verbal communication. God doesn’t simply want warm feelings in our heart toward him, sending money, having reverence, faithfulness and loyalty to the church, or to the Bible. God wants a personal relationship, not superstition. The climax is God speaking, it is the word of God coming.

Martin Luther explained how he did the Reformation. He simply read, wrote, taught, preached God’s word. Other than that, he did nothing. Then while he slept, the word worked. There is seminal power in the word. If word of God is put out well, people will grow. This is how we come to know God. This is how God makes himself known to us. We need to know this as Christians and as a church. The most important thing is the hearing of the word of God, and not how moved we are.

What difference does it make to me about what I think God is like? It makes all the difference in the world. A.W. Tozer said, "...the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God."

General References:
  1. ESV Study Bible, 2008
  2. Reformation Study Bible, 2005
  3. The MacArthur Study Bible, 2006