26(Ezek 01,04-14) Vision of Glory
INTRO: Imagine for a moment that the year is 3005, one thousand years from now. You are an archaeologist and you have just unearthed a newspaper from 2005. In it you read a story about bulls and bears fighting on a street in New York. You find a drawing of a donkey laughing at an elephant. Are these odd, meaningless images, or did they communicate clearly to the people who first read them? Obviously, they communicated something to someone. We immediately recognize the symbols of Wall Street and our two political parties. As these images are familiar to us, so the bizarre, seemingly irrelevant images used by Ezekiel were familiar to the people of his day.
To understand Ezekiel’s images we must place ourselves in his position. Many of Ezekiel’s hearers were convinced God had abandoned them. They were defeated and alone. The Temple stood in Jerusalem; that’s where God was, not with them in Babylon. God was in the holy of holies, the central part of the Temple, not here in the midst of the city whose name stands for sin. The people were hopeless, helpless, and empty. They felt cut off from God and had no sense of His presence.
The images that Ezekiel saw: creatures with parts of many animals, clouds, storms with lightning these images spoke a distinct message to the Hebrews in exile with Ezekiel. They were familiar images that symbolized the presence and glory of God.
I. EZEKIEL’S VISION OF GLORY (1:4-14)
A vision of the awesome holiness of God allows us to understand the righteousness of his judgments. Ezekiel could better understand why God would judge rebellious Israel against this backdrop of pure holiness.
This was the same glorious God who revealed Himself on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19. This “theophany” led the children of Israel through the wilderness. It was the same glory that appeared to reside in the most holy place in the tabernacle.
II. EZEKIEL PROVED THAT GOD IS LIMITLESS.
To the exiles, what was odd about Ezekiel’s vision was not the images he used but he saw these images in Babylon not in Jerusalem. The wheel within a wheel was the way God revealed to Ezekiel His ability to move anywhere. He wasn’t limited by the geographic boundaries of Judah. He wasn’t prohibited in coming to His people by the sin and disbelief of the Babylonians. He wasn’t even hindered by the limited beliefs of the Hebrews who never expected to see Him there.
Ezekiel’s images told the exiles: "God is here! He is with us! He isn’t just the God of the Temple or Jerusalem or a small area of Palestine. He is the King of the universe and the Lord of creation. He is everywhere."
Imagine how narrow or limiting those Hebrews must have been. Imagine thinking God was shut up in the Temple. How could they have limited Him by stone walls or geography? What a pitiful understanding of God they had.
Yet how enlightened is our thinking? How sophisticated are we in the way we understand God’s presence and activity in our world? We may not like to admit it, but we aren’t much different from them. Our faulty expectations try to limit God.
How? We slyly limit Him with the calendar. We shut Him up on Sunday and think He can’t get into the rest of the week. Or we lock Him away in our sanctuaries, thinking the only place He touches our lives is in the church building.
How many times have you heard someone who has not attended church in a while say; "Why, if I walked in there, the ceiling would fall in" as if God were at a particular address waiting for them. Perhaps they think God doesn’t get out much any more.
III. HOW DO WE LIMIT GOD?
Those methods of limiting God are obvious. However, I want to describe a much more subtle way we limit God. It’s when we say, "He’s Lord of my heart." Don’t let that surprise you, but the greatest limitation we place on God is when we say, "He is Lord of my heart." What we intend to say is that He is my Lord. He is in control of my life.
Let me describe for you what often happens when we think of Him as "Lord of my heart." Our faith can become a small, little thing that fits into a cavity inside our chest. And that’s where it stays, inside us. We begin to talk about how it’s private, how it’s internal. Next we might decide we should keep it to ourselves.
Or we say to our children, "God lives in our hearts." And they grow up thinking He doesn’t live anywhere else. Often they fail to know He is also the King of Creation and the Lord of history.
His kingship extends to the entire world, whether the world knows it or not. He does not have to wait for some future date in another age to be King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus does not have to wait for a fiery Armageddon to begin His rule. He is already at the right hand of the Father.
The word Ezekiel spoke to the exiles is a word we need to hear. God is not shut up in a building, nor is He alive only in our hearts. He rules the entire world. No king reigns, no parliament governs without His permission. The grand sweep of eternity will end in His favor because He has been behind it all the time.
Do you see the importance of understanding fully the lordship of Christ? He won’t have much impact on this world if He is God only on Sunday. If He is the Lord of only the sanctuary, then He doesn’t have much to do with the workplace or marketplace or any other place. If He is only alive in my heart, when will those around me see Him at work in real life?
And what about us? How boldly will we venture forth for Him if our subconscious image of Him is weak and fifth-rate? Will we challenge sin? Will we challenge the principalities and powers of this world? The character of the church is clear evidence of the quality of its Lord. Where the church is a fifth-rate power, where your faith is a fifth-rate factor in your life, the Lord is a fifth-rate Lord. The church, your faith, is always like its Lord.
CONC: Ours is no fifth-rate God; He is King of kings. He is not in some distant land or holy place waiting for us to visit. His realm is not only our hearts but the world as well. He is in the world waiting for us to follow.