I Saw Visions of God

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Recently, my wife just ordered another magazine for our family. Interestingly, she doesn’t enjoy reading my Keil-Delitzsch commentary set or the History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff (she must have got burned out by the endless anthology of medical books she deciphered at Boise State); but she will gobble down Christian magazines like World, etc. (and to all the female readership of SI, my wife did tell me she would delightfully interact with you all from time to time if I washed the dishes, watched our four kids, and bought her a personal computer that actually did internet). I confess. I claim no technical wizardry living in the backwoods of Idaho but only stubborn pride in archaic ways. I tell my gorgeous babe, if we weren’t living in the best state of all, Idaho, we would be in Alaska preaching to the moose.

The latest magazine among our literary stacks stuffed around the house is Creation Illustrated. Of course, when I pick up anything new, I immediately try to sniff out all the theological orientations. Are they Calvinistic or Arminian? Dichotomists or Trichotomists? Textus Receptus or Eclectic Text (adding this one for fun)? Reformed or Dispensational? A-mill or Pre-mill? Presbyterian or Baptist? Historical interpretation or contemporary thought? Yet I do acknowledge that with all my detecting and pigeonholing literary sources and associations, it can drive my wife nuts. The only questions that she asks are 1) Does this material give a clear vision of God? 2) Does the material draw me closer to Him?

The first thing that I read in this crisp, untried magazine (Winter 2006 Vol. 12, No. 4) was the purpose statement. “Our purpose is to share the wonders of God’s creation. By revealing fresh insights of His infinite wisdom, gentle touch, undeniable justice, redeeming love, and flawless design, pure truth shall bring renewed peace. Each part of this publication is offered as a reprieve from the daily rigors of life so that all can look to the future with unbridled gratitude and hope.” I like it. Makes me want to head to the mountains with my Bible.

So in order to improve on my communication skills with my lovely wife, as I constantly need emendation in this department, I decided to peruse the first article in the magazine she read: “Hawk Tales” by Lisa Traughber. Here is a lovely excerpt from this physical therapist living in Mayville, Wisconsin. “Ultimately, Scripture sharply reminds us of God’s perfect vision. ‘He who formed the eye, shall He not see?’ (Psalm 94:9). The Psalmist lamented the fact that he was going through a trial, and God did not seem to be doing anything about it. The Psalmist’s enemies seemed to be prevailing unhindered, but God assured him that He, who formed the hawk’s powerful eyes, sees infinitely more than any hawk because He observes every individual as well as the depth of their complex circumstances. In fact, one of the names of God in the Bible is Elroi-the God who sees. The name Elroi comes from El, the Hebrew name for God, and roiy meaning sight, vision, to observe, perceive, understand, examine, and look after. Hagar used this name for God in Genesis 16:13 when she was fleeing from Sarah. In the midst of persecution, God gave her the promise of a son, and she recognized, “ … You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees.”

“Job also commented about a raptor’s vision in relationship to having wisdom. “That path [of wisdom] no bird knows, nor has the falcon’s eye seen it … It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air” (Job 28:7, 21). We can have eyes like a hawk and not see a thing if we don’t have wisdom and discernment. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding’ (Proverbs 9:10). Job gradually understood that even with exceptional sight, he grasped only what God revealed to him, and that vision without wisdom is spiritual blindness, while knowing God and His will creates true sight.”

Clearly any vision of God impressed upon the heart is favor undeserved. Knowing the foul attitudes and intentions of man, it is of utmost, ineffable agape that God would give sight to the blind unbeliever or light to the believer in a sinful burrow. These prayers are fundamental, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened … that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

And while Lisa saw eternal truth about God through the hawk, think now with me what glory Ezekiel at thirty years of age saw through the cherubim. Unbelievers label them whimsical, but these heavenly creatures make Walt Disney and Walden Media’s digitized Aslan look like a puny, purring kitty cat. Ezekiel saw each creature having “four faces” … “the face of a man” … “the face of a lion” … “the face of an ox” … and “the face of an eagle.” He noted, “straight feet” and that “their appearance was like burning coals of fire.” He observed how “the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.” Omni-direction, intelligence, fierceness, strength, swiftness, stability, purity, power, zeal, fire, unity, and obedience – all rolled into one.

He beheld “wheels” and “as for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.” It is a chariot that speaks of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. A wonder of wonders. Just try to imagine GM or Ford striving to match this one.

But here is the climax. “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.”

Ezekiel needed a vision of God before he could even begin to serve effectively. It is fundamental. Foundational. Essential. Worship drives the work. What does a man need when forcibly uprooted from his place of worship? When he is miles and miles away from his home? When he is living in a hostile, spiritually barren wasteland? When he is confused? Fearful? Hurting? I can guarantee Ezekiel didn’t need to hear about God that was only localized to a certain spiritual Mecca or connected with a political-national entity or bound only with the prosperous and successful (why do people go hear the Reverend Creflo A. Dollar, Jr.). Ezekiel needed God, Who is not limited, not distant, and not partial. He needed to see the mighty presence of God on the move!

And he needed remembrance of that vision of God to sustain him in the work. To “walk worthy” of one’s calling is one of the greatest battles that one faces from day to day. It is only the meditation of the God whom you have seen and known in His Word that will carry you through life’s splashovers from the fiery pit of hell.

Last week, I wept through the testimony of a south-central Idaho pastor serving in Mormon country, and then I wept again as I told the story to my local fellowship this past Lord’s Day. This pastor had shared with many the sudden, harrowing, agonizing experience of observing his sixteen year old son die of cancer. To top it off this past Christmas, he found out his wife has the insidious disease as well. The man opened up his heart to let us see the questions, the overwhelming grief, and the tempting choices of the will; but above all, this pastor whom many of you will never meet or know in this life gave me a vision of God, the El-Shaddai that makes the shaddu in the Rockies look like pimples on the face of a budding teenager.

What does a Christian dad or mom, who are active in ministry, need when they find their daughter now in young womanhood preaching Islam in Europe? They don’t need three-quarters of the books on Christian parenting that I have in my office. God and God alone is the only answer for the healing and sustaining of shattered hearts, and His gospel is the only message to cling to in hope.

Almost twenty years ago, Michael P. V. Barrett once wrote this about Ezekiel, “His seeing the likeness of a man above the throne taught him how God allows Himself to be seen. This vision is more than simply an anthropomorphic representation of the infinite Spirit; it is a preincarnate revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether in the Old or New Testament eras, Christ is the visible, personal manifestation of God. Ezekiel saw the same sovereign Lord that Isaiah had seen in his vision of the heavenly throne. Christ removed any speculation about whom Isaiah saw when He identified Himself as the glorious person (John 12:41). Ezekiel’s sight of Messiah was an appropriate conclusion to a vision designed to encourage him and prepare him for his ministry. Similarly, as Christians behold the sovereign glory of Christ in the pages of Scripture and become overwhelmed with Him by faith, they can face whatever challenge or circumstance is before them.”

What will you see?

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