7.11 Ezekiel -- His Vision of God
The book, like the prophet’s ministry, begins with the Lord revealing Himself. The description dwells much more on His attendants, the four living creatures (Eze 1:5-24) or cherubim (Eze 10:1, Eze 10:20), than on the person of God.
The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning (Eze 1:14).
Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man (Eze 1:26).
The NIV says, "In the book of Ezekiel God’s glory is always active" (p. 1288).
Many commentators get all wrapped up in descriptions of these heavenly beings: the eyes, the wheels, the faces. But to Ezekiel, the most remarkable aspect of the vision was not its content, but that the Lord was in Babylon, by the Kebar River (Eze 1:1-3). How could this be? -- since the Temple was destroyed, God had no resting place on earth. And even if He did, the last place He would manifest Himself was in the presence of His rejected people. Hadn't God abandoned them and cast Israel from His Presence? It must have been a real shock to the exiles to find that, in fact, He had come along with them into exile, and was present in their midst!
This was a major discovery in the evolution of revelation. Most other nations of the time believed in local deities: even Babylon, as we shall see in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, paid homage to Yahweh in Judah so as to pacify that region of their empire. Naaman, when healed of his skin disease, returned to Aram with two loads of dirt from Israel, so that he could worship Yahweh on the Jewish God's own soil. Israel had previously believed "in theory" that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the one true God of the whole earth. But it is one thing to say with the psalmist,
for all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens (Ps 96:5),
and another to be defeated, slaughtered, and exiled by the servants of these idols. The mindset of the defeated Jews, deprived of homeland and Temple, was that they had been exiled not just from the land, but from the very presence of God Himself. To rediscover Him in their midst over 500 miles from home must have amazed them. So Ezekiel addresses Him repeatedly as the "Sovereign Lord" (NIV; KJV "Lord God"), an acknowledgement of His universal authority.
This global aspect of Ezekiel's revelation is one of the key contributions of the book to Judaism.