What Can We Learn From Ezekiel?

“When the creatures stopped, they lowered their wings …”

CHAPTER 1 – SYMBOLS

During the 30th year of the Babylonian captivity of Israel, God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision, which he describes in Ezekiel, Chapter 1. You are personally invited to dive deep with me into the powerful meaning behind some of his words, filled with intriguing symbols, revelation and ancient wisdom.

Symbol: Stormy Wind

In the midst of a stormy wind, Ezekiel saw a cloud with flashes of fire and seemingly glowing metal, surrounded by bright light.

Lessons

Sometimes, our circumstances seem like a storm with no end in sight and that all is lost, as if burned up by fire. What we don’t see is that the storm is surrounded by God’s light, for He sees all. If we look intently within, we’ll catch a glimpse of His throne in the middle of the storm.

Symbol: Four Creatures

Ezekiel saw four living creatures. Each creature had four wings, two of which were used to cover the creature, and the remaining two touched one of the other creatures.

Lessons

The fact that two of the creatures’ wings covered themselves is symbolic of us covering ourselves spiritually: by believing in God, receiving his son Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and having an intentional relationship with Him.

The other set of wings touching another creature signifies us touching other people, not only physically but spiritually. We are to have relationships with others and to encourage one another. God has something very specific to say on the subject: “When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Symbol: Sparkling Wheels

In Ezekiel’s vision there were wheels beside each creature. In each wheel he saw a second wheel crossways inside the first. All wheels sparkled, appearing as beryl gems, and the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures moved, the wheels moved; when they stopped, the wheels stopped; and when they were lifted up, the wheels were lifted up!

Lessons

I believe these creatures were following in whatever direction their spirit heard, and wherever they went, their spirit went. Likewise, we also should follow wherever God leads us. We are body, soul and spirit, and God’s Holy Spirit speaks to us through our spirit. When He says “jump,” we need to say, “How high?!” The benefits are plenty when we tune our spirit to God’s Spirit — and then follow where He leads.

You will notice in Ezekiel’s vision that the wheels were beside, not attached, to the creatures. They were high, frightening and sparkled like beryl, a gem that forms many of the precious gemstones we know. In other words, the wheels commanded attention. These characteristics remind me of someone I know: He has promised to never leave nor forsake us; He is definitely ‘high’ in every way; reverently speaking, He is ‘frightening’; and He “sees everything you do,” and “watches where you go” (Proverbs 5:21).

Symbol: Roaring Seas

The wings of the creatures had a sound as a roaring sea and was compared to an army, as well as the voice of God. I believe this represents the collective praise of the people of God. He is a God worthy of worship and praise 24 hours a day, not only with our lips, but in everything we do. Imagine if every child of God around this world praised Him at the same time … can you hear a sound, both pleasant and powerful, like the roaring waves of the sea?

Lessons

When the creatures stopped, they lowered their wings. Why? I believe they needed to quiet their sound in order to hear clearly from the One who sits on the throne. While praise to God should always be on our lips (Psalm 34:1) — audibly or in spirit — there are also times when we should stop, become quiet … and listen.

Symbol: The Throne

Ezekiel ends this first chapter by describing a throne that looked like sapphire, the stone associated with wisdom, royalty, prophecy and divine favor. Upon the throne sat a figure that appeared human, glowing like metal on top and fire on the bottom. Furthermore, a bright light surrounded the throne and reminded him of a rainbow on a rainy day.

Lessons

Details often reveal keys that open the doors we need to walk through. Ezekiel obviously paid attention to the details. This simple practice ensures we understand the messages we are given that set us on the right path, less we miss them altogether, travel down the wrong path and waste precious time in our lives.

The splendor of the throne compelled Ezekiel to bow face down on the ground, since, for him, it represented the glory of God. And then he heard God’s voice speaking. We can see the glory of God every day of our lives if we are humble enough to look. He created everything, and He is everywhere. If we search for Him, He is easily found. Selah.

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Question for You

Do any of these symbols in Ezekiel’s vision stand out to you? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments. Grace & peace.

Listen: A Lion, A Girl & Oppression

” … all the people looked disheveled and/or sad, oppressed. So, I walked in and asked what happened to the place. No one gave me an answer …”

A Dream, A Prophetic Interpretation and a Word

The Dream

Scene 1 – Sudden Darkness

I was walking down a road near where I grew up in Tennessee. Except it was now a dirt road, with very light dirt. I was going to visit the area where I was raised. I don’t remember if in the dream my mom still lived there or not. As I was walking down the street, which is pretty barren on both sides for a long stretch—no homes, only corn fields, as it is in the country—all of a sudden there was a boom sound and everything went completely black, no lights anywhere. Before there were street lights and it was about dusk. After the blackout the only light was the moonlight. And that was really dim. It felt as if the entire geographical region of Tennessee and beyond, maybe the world, was suddenly dark. I speeded up walking to get to the neighborhood quicker, where I figured they were other people and I would be safe.

Scene 2 – A Lion and a Little Girl

No cars came by, but I did pass a few people walking briskly on the other side in the opposite direction. So this one lady passed by; we didn’t speak and then I noticed a little girl following her. The lady was walking very fast and seemed completely focused where she was going, not glancing over at me or even looking back to check on the child. I believe she was Caucasian or maybe Hispanic. I know her skin color was pretty light. After passing me, all of a sudden, the little girl turned back and started following me. I urged her to go and catch up with her mother. She tried to do so but her mother had gone so far and she really couldn’t see her. The next thing I know the little girl was stuck in the ditch and crying out for help. She was literally hanging on something by her dress, head downwards into the ditch. I started walking over to help her, and before I could reach the ditch, I noticed what looked like a lion slowly going down toward her. It seemed young but large enough to do damage to any human. I froze and was really scared. I turned back because I reasoned that both of us would be killed by the lion. So in fear I kept going. I heard the little girl scream, and then I didn’t hear her anymore. I felt extremely bad. I kept going in the direction of the community. At that point I realized that I had somehow veered off the actual road and was about to walk straight into a swamp. So I doubled back and got back on the road. I was worried that I had to go back in the direction of the lion, thinking surely, he would get me too. But he was nowhere in sight, so once I found the road I headed back toward the community, as fast as I could.

Scene 3 – Shantytown

When I got to where our subdivision used to be, the streets and homes that should have been there were not. Instead, it seemed to be a huge camp of people like a refugee camp of sorts, with just little small pockets or rooms, like a shantytown, set up like a maze, seemingly with no streets. Chaotic and full of people. It was very dark and depressing, and all the people looked disheveled and/or sad, oppressed. So, I walked in and asked what happened to the place. No one gave me an answer. Most of them looked rather unapproachable, and I was a bit afraid so just kept moving through the maze hoping that soon I would break free of this and find my old neighborhood as it was. I came to this one door, and as I passed I looked in and it was full of foreigners, maybe 20 people or so. They appeared to be Indian or of some Asian country, all fairly dark skinned but with straight black hair. A man who seemed to be a leader (I think he was American but not sure) made them line up and begin marching out of the room single file. They were all men and were all with such a sad countenance. I caught one’s eye and gave him a smile to encourage him. The next guy in line looked at me and said, “It’s bad. It’s really bad.” I responded, “Are they abusing you?” And he answered, “Yes.” Then I told him I would try to help. And then they kept going. I had to stop to let them pass by. I followed behind them into the next room, namely because there was nowhere else to go, and heard the leader asking the guy I had spoken to what I had said. The guy told him that I would try to help them. Then the leader was very angry, and he grabbed my hand to try to twist it to frighten me. I became bold and looked at him right in the eye, and I grabbed his hand to try to loosen it from mine and said something like, “I’m not afraid of you, let go of my hand. You’re not the boss of me.”

The Prophetic Interpretation of This Dream

Some of the children in this world are in grave danger. We, as adults, are allowing this danger. How? From neglect. Being so concerned with our own safety, our busyness, our schedules, our safety, that we’ve forgotten about the children. There are so many being abused. ‘Hanging by a thread’—and headed in the wrong direction, even the opposite one they should be going in. Once they realize they are in trouble, they cry for help, but in fear, or disinterest, many ignore their cries. And so the ‘lions’ of this world—sex traffickers, abusers, pedophiles, child soldier ‘recruiters,’ kidnappers and other evildoers—easily devour them. They become ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and I would add, ‘out of hearing range, out of thought.’ We sympathize with their issues, but how often, do we actually do anything about them?

There are also adults being abused and oppressed around the world. No one can deny this truth. There were people of all kinds of nationalities in that ‘shantytown.’ Oppression is an international issue. Many nations are in turmoil as a result. God is shaking things up, majorly. He is showing us these things in our dreams for a reason.

A Word

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we pray! It is also necessary for us to get involved in standing up for children, rather, to their abusers. The children cannot do it themselves. The enemy is behind all evil, which is why, when we decide to fight him, it’s important that we wield a sword of great power: the word of God. Praying the word of God is powerful. And prayer changes things. This is a call to warfare prayer. And for those who are able, a call to action. For the children. And for those who are oppressed. Let’s press in to God, actually listen to Him, get insight on how we are to pray, and what we are to do.

Selah.

GIDEON – Man  of Valor

“OK, you brought me through the obstacles to get here, but now that the show is about to go down, will you be with me then, too?” 

 Gideon wasn’t afraid to ask questions or to confront, even an angel of the Lord. Although he didn’t know it, he was a man of valor. God did not give up on him but consistently led him so that eventually through his actions, Gideon blessed the people of Israel, delivering them out of oppression resulting from disobedience and back into God’s favor.

The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you.” Gideon’s immediate response was akin to a phrase we often say today, “Yeah, right,” meaning, I hear you, but I don’t really believe what you’re saying! Gideon was not afraid to confront even the angel of the Lord and ask, in so many words, if the Lord is with us, why are we in this condition, then? The Lord just kept going—He always knows He is right. He didn’t explain why they were in that position to Gideon just then—Gideon likely already knew, as this pattern of disobedience and punishment had gone on in Israel for quite some time. The angel simply urged Him to go, with his “might” (a declaration from God of what Gideon had, although he didn’t see it himself) and “save Israel from the hand of Midian.” Furthermore, he reminded Gideon that it was God Himself who was sending him to do such a thing. 

At this point, Gideon realized he was hearing from the Lord, but in his human weakness, he still protested, telling God he was in the weakest clan of Manasseh and the least within his own family. God, in His supreme patience, gave Gideon further encouragement and assured him that he would not be alone. God would be with Gideon, and when Gideon fought the Midianites, it would be as if he was fighting one man. Wow. Think about that … what if all the obstacles I think are in the way of me publishing my first book are all really as one thing?

Did Gideon jump up and down and say, “Yes! Let’s get ’em now”? Nope. He needed some everyday, concrete, bona fide proof that if he were to be bold enough to fight the Midianites, God would come through. He even went back into doubting it was God in the first place, and said, if this is really you show me a sign. 

Of course, God passed Gideon’s tests with brilliant colors and even allowed Gideon to see His angel vanish right in front of him! That, you might think, should have been more than enough! 

Then God had a test of his own, one of obedience, where he asked Gideon to tear down the altar of Baal that his people had been worshiping. Gideon knew this would anger the people but he did it anyway. Your decisions may not always be popular, but if God says do it, then do it. 

Now Gideon fully trusted that this was God; and God knew He could trust Gideon to be obedient, so “the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon,” and he gathered the warriors he needed. Before Gideon was bold enough to do the unthinkable and tear down their altar of Baal, the people weren’t even thinking of going against the enemy—the one whose gods had become theirs. But now they saw God’s hands upon Gideon and followed him, preparing for battle.

Even with troops backing him, Gideon had more tests for God! What does this mean? Could this have just been Gideon’s way of checking in and saying, “OK, you brought me through the obstacles to get here, but now that the show is about to go down, will you be with me then, too?” The strongest human would probably have been exacerbated by this time. God’s response? He simply did what Gideon asked, assuaging his unease about the upcoming battle and strengthening him to keep moving toward it. God is rooting for you. He knows that sometimes you need both spiritual and natural signs to forge ahead with what He’s told you to do—even if He’s already revealed to you that you are on the right path. That’s just our human nature. So don’t beat yourself up about it. Keep doing what Gideon did: check with God. You will need His detailed counsel, His wisdom and His strategy. God’s words do not lie; they do not return void. What has He told you lately? Are you still testing Him at His word? Or do you now believe it?

What could Gideon possibly say, after all his tests were met as yes and amen from God? I believe that God placed such detail of Gideon’s story in His word because He knew we would be able to relate to Gideon. In our human limitations and our doubt, fear and worry, sometimes we need more than just a word we think is from the Lord; we need to test it and make doubly sure. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. On the surface, a judgmental person might see this as, “You aren’t trusting God.” But think deeper. Perhaps Gideon just wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, and knowing the great feats the Lord had shown Israel in the past, if this same God was indeed the one running the show he was about to start, then who could stop Gideon? If you knew beyond a doubt that this same God, who parted the red sea for Moses and the Jordan River for Joshua, was going to be with you in all His power when you go to the battle—when you send your song demo to producers, or open your doors for business, or send your book manuscript to chosen agents—then there would be no hesitation and you would be, as my good friend Lisa always says, “All in!” 

So now Gideon has encamped his men, weeded down from 32,000 to 300. You can do the same: Just ask God and He will sort out the wheat from the chafe of all the choices you have to help get your assignment accomplished. So, now Gideon and his 300 warriors are ready for the showdown. Yet, Gideon is still a bit wary. God knows this, but this time, He offers Gideon assurance even before he can ask! He allows him to overhear what happens in a dream—by the enemy—as well as its interpretation, which points to Gideon’s victory, even naming him in the interpretation. Gideon worships God in thanksgiving and relief. Now he is as ready as he will ever be, and he moves that very night in obedience to God. 

Here’s one of my favorite parts about this moving story: When Gideon’s 300 men were obedient to him and followed his exact instructions, they didn’t even have to actually fight to win the war! God not only went with Gideon but fought for him! When the enemy heard the trumpets blow from Gideon’s men, they were afraid. Perhaps they thought to themselves that surely there must be a great number of Israelites about to attack if so many trumpets are summoning the men for battle! So afraid, that they were obviously bewildered, for they turned and fought each other! Those not killed from that melee turned and ran, and the Israelites were able to pursue, capture and subdue. 

Likewise, you can pursue your dream with confidence. Be sure to check with God at every step, listen for His specific instructions, and go! Step out there. And God will say to you, as he did to Gideon: “…but I will be with you … peace be to you … do not fear.” 

For the full story of Gideon, read Judges 6 and 7 in the Bible. 

 

Just Listen

“Some don’t even try to know Me. They think it’s too difficult because they are watching others.”

Be still … 

And listen … 

And know that I am God. 

Some praise Me but they do not know Me. Some worship Me but they do not study My word. Some study My word but they do not apply it to their entire life, only some of it. Some don’t even try to know Me. They think it’s too difficult because they are watching others. Some are strong but only within, not without, so that others might see My glory shine upon them and be saved. Some witnesses are devout, but only in public. Some pray daily to me, but hardly listen.  

If we sometimes find ourselves in these words, let’s correct the course. 

Selah. 

First Dust Then Life 

“… I’m at the bottom of the well with no rope, and no one can hear me. I feel awful and I’m mad at God. Thanks for asking. Bye.”

When you’re down in the dust of life, at your lowest point, in the dirt, a natural reaction is to feel as if there is no hope. You wonder why God is seemingly ignoring you. Your friends can’t help because the depth of the dirt clinging to their feet is just an inch lower than yours. Most of the people at church echo roughly the same thing: “Hello! I’m blessed and highly favored; how are you?” And as you consider your circumstance, truthfully, you should say, “Terrible. I’m at the bottom of the well with no rope, and no one can hear me. I feel awful and I’m mad at God. Thanks for asking. Bye.” But instead, you give the obligatory response: “Wonderful! Doing well. Be Blessed!” And you walk away, dirt cloud wafting up and up and up …

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground …” 

God began His creation of man in the dust. His work of art needed to begin at the root. Dust does not look appealing; consequently, we swish it away and are embarrassed when it’s seen in our homes. It belongs outside, and in fact, in “civilized” societies, most of it is covered by vast concrete jungles. There is a limited amount that remains, only to shelter the grass, herbs and trees. Although unpleasant and messy, dirt is a necessary growth stimulant. When the vegetation, the herbs and the fruit grow, we marvel at the natural beauty and the sweetness—and we eat it! We forget that before beauty, there was dirt, and even mud when mixed with water. When dirt gets in our way, we scoff and clean. If we’re in a big hurry, we may even sweep it under a rug, anything to keep the unsightly from being seen.

Most dust is under your feet. It’s on the ground, down low, constantly trod upon. Just like you may feel sometimes—smashed by humanity emotionally, financially, mentally, even physically. Furthermore, you may feel like God Himself turned His back and shook the dust off His feet, leaving you there to wallow in … the dust.

“… and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life …” 

Just as plants and trees grow and become useful, and therefore have value (that’s been there all along), so too, can you! First you have to be nourished in the dust. Something magical happens there. Perhaps it’s like wine in the fermenting process, clay in a potter’s hand, or a man when God decides to reveal his purpose. So, God singles you out, sees you in your dust—for you have claimed it personally by now—and breathes on you. He gives you favor with man, institutions, governments and kings. Now the dust rolls off effortlessly as you stand taller and your life welcomes increase once again. The breath of life deposited by God within your spirit dances freely,

 “… and man became a living soul.” 

If your current circumstance has you wallowing in the dust, take heart. For that’s where God plants, nourishes, builds, grows … life. Your life—the life you were meant to live—awaits. Be patient and allow this cycle of development, proof perfect since the dawn of creation, to run its course. No, it doesn’t matter what you did to get there, who or what caused your downfall, or under what societal conditions you landed in the dust. God is waiting for you to stop writhing, lest you shake off too much of His nourishment, His wisdom. Inhale slowly and steadily as He breathes into you, learning every nugget and lesson intended for this phase of your life. Do what He says, go where He says to go. And when God decides that His creation is ready, you shall burst forth anew, in full bloom and brilliance, as He intended.

Welcome the dust in your life, for in it, a glorious creation is underway. Selah.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7