We have here a further account of the vision of God’s glory which Ezekiel saw, here intended to introduce that direful omen of the departure of that glory from them, which would open the door for ruin to break in.
I. Ezekiel sees the glory of God shining in the sanctuary, as he had seen it by the river of Chebar, and gives an account of it, that those who had by their wickedness provoked God to depart from them might know what they had lost and might lament after the Lord, groaning out their Ichabod, Where is the glory? Ezekiel here sees the operations of divine Providence in the government of the lower world, and the affairs of it, represented by the four wheels; and the perfections of the holy angels, the inhabitants of the upper world, and their ministrations, represented by the four living creatures, every one of which had four faces. The agency of the angels in directing the affairs of this world is represented by the close communication that was between the living creatures and the wheels, the wheels being guided by them in all their motions, as the chariot is by him that drives it. But the same Spirit being both in the living creatures and in the wheels denoted the infinite wisdom which serves its own purposes by the ministration of angels and all the occurrences of this lower world. So that this vision gives out faith a view of that throne which the Lord has prepared in the heavens, and that kingdom of which rules over all, Ps. 103:19. The prophet observes that this was the same vision with that he saw by the river of Chebar (Ezek. 10:15, 22), and yet in one thing there seems to be a material difference, that that which was there was the face of an ox, and was on the left side (Ezek. 1:10), is here the face of a cherub, and is the first face (Ezek. 10:14), whence some have concluded that the peculiar face of a cherub was that of an ox, which the Israelites had an eye to when they made the golden calf. I rather think that in this latter vision the first face was the proper appearance or figure of a cherub, which Ezekiel knew very well, being a priest, by what he had seen in the temple of the Lord (1 Kgs. 6:29), but which we now have no certainty of at all; and by this Ezekiel knew assuredly, whereas before he only conjectured it, that they were all cherubim, though putting on different faces, Ezek. 10:20. And this first appearing in the proper figure of a cherub, and yet it being proper to retain the number of four, that of the ox is left out and dropped, because the face of the cherub had been most abused by the worship of an ox. As sometimes when God appeared to deliver his people, so now when he appeared to depart from them, he rode on a cherub, and did fly. Now observe here, 1. That this world is subject to turns, and changes, and various revolutions. The course of affairs in it is represented by wheels (Ezek. 10:9); sometimes one spoke is uppermost and sometimes another; they are still ebbing and flowing like the sea, waxing and waning like the moon, 1 Sam. 2:4 Nay, their appearance is as if there were a wheel in the midst of a wheel (Ezek. 10:10), which intimates the mutual references of providence to each other, their dependences on each other, and the joint tendency of all to one common end, while their motions as to us are intricate, and perplexed, and seemingly contrary. 2. That there is an admirable harmony and uniformity in the various occurrences of providence (Ezek. 10:13): As for the wheels, though they moved several ways, yet it was cried to them, O wheel! they were all as one, being guided by one Spirit to one end; for God works all according to the counsel of his own will, which is one, for his own glory, which is one. And this makes the disposal of Providence truly admirable, and to be looked upon with wonder. As the works of his creation, considered separately, were good, but all together very good, so the wheels of Providence, considered by themselves, are wonderful, but put them together and they are very wonderful. O wheel! 3. That the motions of Providence are steady and regular, and whatever the Lord pleases that he does and is never put upon new counsels. The wheels turned not as they went (Ezek. 10:11), and the living creatures went every one straight forward, Ezek. 10:22. Whatever difficulties lay in their way, they were sure to get over them, and were never obliged to stand still, turn aside, or go back. So perfectly known to God are all his works that he never put upon to new counsels. 4. That God make more use of the ministration of angels in the government of this lower world than we are aware of: The four wheels were by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by another cherub, Ezek. 10:9. What has been imagined by some concerning the spheres above, that every orb has its intelligence to guide it, is here intimated concerning the wheels below, that every wheel has its cherub to guide it. We think it a satisfaction to us if under the wise God there are wise men employed in managing the affairs of the kingdoms and churches; whether there be so or no, it appears by this that there are wise angels employed, a cherub to every wheel. 5. That all the motions of Providence and all the ministrations of angels are under the government of the great God. They are all full of eyes, those eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the earth and which the angels have always an eye to, Ezek. 10:12. The living creatures and the wheels concur in their motions and rests (Ezek. 10:17); for the Spirit of life, as it may be read, or the Spirit of the living creatures, is in the wheels. The Spirit of God directs all the creatures, both upper and lower, so as to make them serve the divine purpose. Events are not determined by the wheel of fortune, which is blind, but by the wheels of Providence, which are full of eyes.
II. Ezekiel sees the glory of God removing out of the sanctuary, the place where God’s honour had long dwelt, and this sight is as sad as the other was grateful. It was pleasant to see that God had not forsaken the earth (as the idolaters suggested, Ezek. 9:9), but sad to see that he was forsaking his sanctuary. The glory of the Lord stood over the threshold, having thence given the necessary orders for the destruction of the city, and it stood over the cherubim, not those in the most holy place, but those that Ezekiel now saw in vision, Ezek. 10:18. It ascended that stately chariot, as the judge, when he comes off the bench, goes into his coach and is gone. And immediately the cherubim lifted up their wings (Ezek. 10:19), as they were directed, and they mounted up from the earth, as birds upon the wing; and, when they went out, the wheels of this chariot were not drawn, but went by instinct, beside them, by which it appeared that the Spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. Thus, when God is leaving a people in displeasure, angels above, and all events here below, shall concur to further his departure. But observe here, In the courts of the temple where the people of Israel had dishonoured their God, had cast off his yoke and withdrawn the shoulder from it, blessed angels appear very ready to serve him, to draw in his chariot, and to mount upwards with it. God has shown the prophet how the will of God was disobeyed by men on earth (Ezek. 8:1-18); here he shows him how readily it is obeyed by angels and inferior creatures; and it is a comfort to us, when we grieve for the wickedness of the wicked, to think how his angels do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word, Ps. 103:20. Let us now, 1. Take a view of this chariot in which the glory of the God of Israel rides triumphantly. He that is the God of Israel is the God of heaven and earth, and has the command of all the powers of both. Let the faithful Israelites comfort themselves with this, that he who is their God is above the cherubim; their Redeemer is so (1 Pet. 3:22) and has the sole and sovereign disposal of all events; the living creatures and the wheels agree to serve him, so that he is head over all things to the church. The rabbin call this vision that Ezekiel had Mercabah—the vision of the chariot; and thence they call the more abstruse part of divinity, which treats concerning God and spirits, Opus currus—The work of the chariot, as they do the other part, that is more plain and familiar, Opus bereshith—The work of the creation.-- 2. Let us attend the motions of this chariot: The cherubim, and the glory of God above them, stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, Ezek. 10:19. But observe with how many stops and pauses God departs, as loth to go, as if to see if there be any that will intercede with him to return. None of the priests in the inner court, between the temple and the altar, would court his stay; therefore he leaves their court, and stands at the east gate, which led into the court of the people, to see if any of them would yet at length stand in the gap. Note, God removes by degrees from a provoking people; and, when he is ready to depart in displeasure, would return to them in mercy if they were but a repenting praying people.