That Ezekiel saw the Lord on the throne focused attention to God’s absolute authority. The throne is a symbol of dominion, power, and the right to rule. On that heavenly throne, God does whatever He pleases to do (Ps. 115:3; Dan. 4:34–35). It is a most assuring and comforting truth to know that God is not sitting on bleachers as a spectator of what is happening to us, but rather He is on a throne directing all the affairs of time and circumstance according to His eternal purpose. There would be little comfort in times of darkness if all that we could say is that God knows about our trouble. The perplexing question would always be that if God is as great as He is, why, then, the difficulty and darkness? God certainly knows about our troubles, but that knowledge is not just sympathetic awareness. On His eternal and uncontested throne, God rules. He orchestrates even the hard providences for His glory and our good. Indeed, God has juxtaposed days of adversity with days of prosperity to teach us to depend on Him every day and in every circumstance (Eccl. 7:14).
Ezekiel’s attention was also attracted to God’s majesty. The references to sapphire, amber, fire, and brightness are meager descriptions pointing to the Lord’s incomparable glory. The sight was dazzling. In dark Babylon, the unemployed priest and soon-to-be prophet was seeing something of the honor, majesty, strength, and beauty that was normally associated with the sanctuary (Ps. 96:6; 63:2). This was yet another assurance to Ezekiel that God had not forsaken him in this trial. The brightness of God’s majesty is able to blind those who see it to the encompassing darkness. The supremacy of God is the ultimate reality.
Most encouraging is the attention to God’s mercy. Encircling, not just arching, the throne was the rainbow. The bow is the symbol of peace. God is not the enemy of His people. The rainbow is the token sign of covenant faithfulness, mercy, and grace. What a comforting assurance it is to know that circumscribing the operations of providence is the covenant faithfulness of God. No matter where the wheels roll, the chariot of providence displays God’s constant fidelity to His word and His people. When the days are dark, remember the bow.
Finally, Ezekiel’s attention climaxes in God’s Son. The One seated on the throne was in the likeness of a man. The vision began with a theophany (an appearance of God); it ends with a Christophany (an appearance of the preincarnate Christ). Significantly, Ezekiel says that the appearance of what he saw was the likeness of the glory of God (Ezek. 1:28). Paul declares that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). To see God is to see Christ; to see Christ is to see God. That was true in the Old Testament era as well. Technically, a Christophany was an actual preincarnate appearance of Christ in the sphere of time and circumstance. Ezekiel saw Him in vision, an internal experience, but the point of significance is the same. Ultimately, it is as we see the Lord revealed in Christ that darkness is expelled. He is the light that shines in the darkness and brings life (Isa. 9:2–7; John 1:4–5). Today we see Him not in visible manifestations or in visions but in and through the written Word. Significantly, the Apostle Peter says that the written Word is surer than an eyewitness experience and that this Word is a light shining in the darkness (2 Peter 1:19). Reading the Bible with an eye for Christ is the best way to cope with the darkness and to see the light. In times of crisis and darkness, our blessed assurance is that Christ is on the throne as the mediatorial King who rules unfailingly for the welfare of His people (Col. 1:18).
In response to his encouraging and assuring vision, Ezekiel fell on his face in submissive and reverent worship. Ezekiel was not alone in this response; Isaiah (Isa. 6), Daniel (Dan. 9), and John (Rev. 1) all did the same when they saw the Lord. Worship is always the right response to seeing God as He reveals Himself. But worship does not breed passivity. Those who have a vision of the Lord always have a telling message for others. In chapter 2, God commands and enables Ezekiel to stand up, and He calls the unemployed priest to be a prophet. Ezekiel’s circumstances did not change as he lived and preached God’s Word throughout the dark days of Babylonian captivity. On earth, it appeared that pagans ruled. But God assured Ezekiel that He rules in heaven and determines all the events on earth. It is for us to know that God is on the same throne that Ezekiel saw and is ordering His cherubim and chariots to accomplish His will and purpose as much now as then. So, in the light of God’s assuring Word, let’s return to the initial question: How goes the world? It goes exactly as God has purposed, and nothing can frustrate that unfailing purpose.