Keeping the ‘Whirling Wheels’ Turning

The visions that Prophet Ezekiel see as described in the first few Chapters of the Book seem out of this world. If manuscripts of these Chapters were scattered, one would think they are part of a sci-fi movie script.  But Ezekiel opens by saying, ‘In the thirteenth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the captives by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God’ (Ezekiel 1:1). As surreal as the visions were, they were not a figment of the Prophet’s imagination, but originated from God revealing Himself. Throughout Scriptures, many Prophets have received visions from God. Most, however, record what they hear, and not what they actually see. But Ezekiel takes time to first describe what he sees. Others like Isaiah briefly describe when he ‘saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings’ (Isaiah 6:1-2). Daniel also takes note when he sees a vision ‘of a man dressed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude’ (Daniel 10:5-6). This is also the same Man who John sees in a vision and describes him ‘like a Son of God’ (Revelation 1:13). Paul also briefly touches on a vision when he ‘was caught up into paradise, and heard inexpressible things, which it is not lawful for a man to utter’ (2 Corinthians 12:4), but does not describe what he sees.

Ezekiel, however, goes at length to describe his visions in detail. One of the visions he describes twice is when he ‘looked and saw a whirlwind coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures’ (Ezekiel 1:4). He then proceeds to describe the creatures saying, ‘In appearance their form was that of man, 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 the hands of a man’ (v5-8). Each of the creatures had four faces: that of ‘a man’, ‘a lion’, ‘an ox’, and ‘an eagle’ (v10). ‘Their wings were spread out outwards; each had two wings, one touching the wings of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its bodies’ (v11). In addition, ‘fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning’ (v13-14). What really stuck out were the wheels ‘on the ground beside each creature’ (v15). The wheels ‘sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn aside as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around’ (v16-18).

In subsequent verses, we get to learn that the four living creatures that Ezekiel saw were actually ‘Cherubims’ (10:v15), angelic heavenly beings that minister before God. As we may know, Satan was once ‘a guardian cherub’ (28:v14). He was appointed to serve on ‘the holy mount of God’ (v14), ‘till wickedness was found in (him)’ (v15). The Cherubs served before God and acted as preludes to God’s glory. That is why for the Ark of the Covenant which carried God’s Word and glory, two Cherubims ‘had their wings spread upwards, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim faced each other, looking towards the cover’ (Exodus 37:9), watching over the Word to be fulfilled. The earthly tabernacle thus served as a copy and symbol of what is in heaven. The subject of the wheels next to them, however, is novel. Ezekiel says, ‘I heard the wheels being called ‘whirling wheels (Ezekiel 10:13). These spiritual wheels are powered by prayers. No wonder the rims were high and had eyes all around. This is because prayer accesses high things in the heavenlies, and is a very watchful activity described in the Bible as ‘keeping watch’. The wheels also signify the Word of God, because prayer cannot be separated from the Word- no wonder the wheels were intersecting.

Around the Cherubims was fire. They carried the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, ‘because the spirit of the living creatures was in them’ (v17). During the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down as ‘tongues of fire’ (Acts 2:3), which made people speak in ‘other tongues’ (v4). They received these utterances to give them power to spread the gospel. Jesus had already told them, ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (1:v8). This same power was what drove the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision. The Spirit in the four living creatures (Cherubims) caused them to be in motion, and so by extension the wheels moved along. ‘When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels’ (v19-20). In the same way, the Holy Spirit in us directs our course by directing our prayers. He ‘intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express’ (Romans 8:26), because ‘he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance to God’s will’ (v27). Thus, by praying in the Spirit, we keep the whirling wheels of the Spirit turning, because the Holy Spirit takes charge and steers us to God’s pleasing and perfect will.

Inside the wheels were coals of fire. Ezekiel hears the Lord instruct, ‘Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city’ (Ezekiel 10:2). These are probably the same coals that Isaiah sees when ‘one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand’ (Isaiah 6:5). The Seraph then touches Isaiah’s mouth with the coal and says, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for’ (v7). Isaiah then begins to prophesy, speaking the words of God. In the same way, the Word of God, which Jeremiah describes as being ‘a fire shut up in my bones’ (Jeremiah 20:9), once is digested in and then spoken, sanctifies one. That is why Jesus says, ‘Sanctify them by the truth, thy word is truth’ (John 17:17). It is only by the aid of the Holy Spirit that the Word can have a sanctifying effect. Jesus even clarifies that the Holy Spirit ‘will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’ (14:v26). It is only the Spirit that can bring proper intersection of the prayers we make with the Word of God. Paul seemed to understand this and so says, ‘I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you’ (1 Corinthians 14:18), because ‘For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit’ (v2).

Speaking in tongues and knowledge of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit is needed to keep a Believer’s wheels whirling. Just like the Cherubims serve before God, Believers who have been appointed ‘kings and priests unto God and his Father’ (Revelation 1:6) must ensure that their whirling wheels are in check. We are ‘servants of the Lord who minister by night (and day) in the house of the Lord’ (Psalm 134:1). The angels who are considered by God as ‘his mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word’ (103:v20), are always in spirit- for they are spirit beings. We Believers are also spiritual beings since we obey and believe in Jesus. Our flesh is considered dead, and our spirits alive. We are also those who God says has purified ‘the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder’ (Zephaniah 3:9). Thus, a Believer should ‘always pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’ (Ephesians 6:18).

Being in Spirit is a must for every Believer, because just as the Cherubims usher in God’s glory, we usher in God’s glory wherever we go, and so need to keep the ‘whirling wheels’ turning. Failure to pray in the Spirit and obey the Word will render any Believer powerless, and thus God’s glory cannot be ushered in wherever they are. That is why Jesus stated that ‘this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come’ (Matthew 24:14). Until powerful Christians who are led by the Spirit and not by religion arise and spread the gospel of the kingdom in power (not merely words), then Jesus simply cannot come ‘in his glory, and all the angels with him’ (25:v31). ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20). That is why it is important for Christians to keep their whirling wheels going, and scatter the hot coals that are in them. In other words, we should ‘build yourselves up in the most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit’ (Jude 1:20), and spread the good news of the ‘gospel of peace’ (Ephesians 6:15), the gospel of Jesus Christ, who ‘reconciled’ (2 Corinthians 5:18) man to God. Just like the Spirit ensured that the four Cherubims were in harmony and acted in oneness, the work of the Holy Spirit should be completed in each Believer to ensure that our wings are touching like the Cherubims – that there is unity in the Body of Christ.

You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth’ ~ Isaiah 62:6-7

Pray without ceasing’ ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man’ ~ Luke 21:36