Text: Ezekiel 1:1-4, Ezekiel 1:24-28
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I read the Scriptures and just fundamentally go, “huh?!?! What the Heck do I do with that?” It is not just the OT either, but some scenes in the NT like this one – Luke 22:36-38. No other gospel writer records the talk about swords although they do mention the cutting off and healing of the ear of one of those arresting Jesus. Ezekiel can be the OT version of Revelation – apocalyptic literature filled with figures and strange signs. In the texts above we have the 4 living creatures with four faces around the the throne. I’m not kidding here, in trying to interpret passages like this one I’ve seen everything from very elaborte allegories (four levels of meaning for each face and everything in the passage) to just dismissal as not God’s Word to claims that this “vision” is proof of UFOs.
If you spend any amount of time reading the Church Fathers which the easiest place to do so is through these books you eventually pick up on the fact that they liked allegory, but that allegory had a consistent interpretation key – Jesus Christ. The world is full of a lot of “isms” and each one wants to look at and interpret the world through a particular starting point. If you were a Marxist it is the dialectic or the class struggle. If you are a feminist is it gender. If you are a capitalist it is the dollar (or yen, or pound…). You get the point. There is some point in existence that is taken as constant, unmoving or of supreme importance. For most of us, we are really just hedonists or narcissists and that point is our own gut.
Here is Irenaeus of Lyon, a second century bishop, on the living creatures.
…For the cherubim have four faces, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God…the lion, signifying His active and princely and royal character; the ox, showing His sacrifical and priestly order, the human face, indicating very clearly His coming in human guise, and the eagle making plain the giving of the Spirit who broods over the Church. Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these…
For the Christian that reference point is Jesus Christ. The question that all people must eventually ask themselves is – “Do you have the unmoving reference point?” The confession of the church in all times and places has been that the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is that true point. Everything else will melt away, but the Word of the Lord stand forever.