<< THE INFOLDING FIRE, THE LIVING CREATURES, >>
AND THEIR WHEELS, ETC.
And I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the North, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness about it; and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. And out of the midst thereof, the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And everyone had four faces, and everyone had four wings, And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides: and they. four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went ; they went. everyone straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side: they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces; and their wings were stretched upward ; two wings of everyone were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went everyone straight forward : whither the spirit was to go, they went: and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright; and out of the fire went forth lightning. Now, as I beheld the living creatures, behold, one wheel upon the earth, by the living creatures, with their four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl: and they four had one likeness; and their appearance and their work was, as it were, a wheel in the midst of a wheel.-EZEKIEL i. 4-16.
THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.
THE general theme is the presence of the Lord, which is constant with all men, and with each man; and always accommodated to each man’s individual needs.
The Lord is present in His Divine Word, in which He reveals Himself in many different aspects, so that each man, at each stage of his spiritual progress may have such mental light as he is then able to use, in his practical life.
A storm is a disturbance of the usual conditions of the atmosphere. And a spiritual storm is a disturbance of mental conditions. Such a storm may occur, for Instance, when the Lord manifests His presence in His Divine truth, among those who do not love Him, and who live in evil and in falsity. To such men, the Lord seems to come as a disturbing and destroying power, to interfere with their conditions.
The whirlwind is said to come out of the North. The points of the compass represent the different conditions of men’s minds, The North is the darkest quarter, opposite to the South, where the light is greatest at noon-time, And, as the light in the South represents the spiritual light of intelligence, so the North, as opposite, represents the least degree of spiritual intelligence, the natural-minded state, ignorant of spiritual truths, And the approach of the Lord, in His Divine Truth, makes a great disturbance in man’s natural mind, and tends to break up the usual conditions.
With the storm there is a great cloud. The spiritual meaning of the Divine Word is a bright light, warm and brilliant before the spiritual mind, But, in accommodating itself to natural-minded men, the Divine Word must come in the cloud of the literal meaning, which obscures spiritual truth to those who are not prepared to see it.
THE INFOLDING FIRE.
And yet, to those who are prepared to see, there is, within the cloud, a glowing fire of the Divine Love, giving life to all things. In our text this fire is said to be “infolding itself,” or receiving itself. The idea is that the fire streamed forth, in brilliant flashes of flame, which then folded themselves back into the central fire, or doubled in upon themselves; and again streamed forth, and returned. The effect would be an alternation of very brilliant light, and of light less brilliant, somewhat like the twinkling of a star. Thus, this fire constantly rekindled and sustained itself, as a source, as well as affording a perpetual supply. And, in these facts, is represented the Lord’s love, as the source of all things, whence there flows a perpetual supply of love and wisdom for men, that they may return to the Lord, in a loving acknowledgment.
And, around this great fire, there was a general brightness, a luminous halo of light, representing the Divine Truth manifested in the presence of the Lord, and flowing from His Love. And out of the midst of the brightness came the color of amber, Amber has been said to be of the color of gold and silver combined, having the warmth of the gold, and the brightness of the silver. This color of amber represents the presence and influence of the Divine Truth, in the letter of the Divine Word, shining, warmly from the inward, spiritual meaning.
And the three appearances, the fire, and the brightness, and the color of amber, represent the three aspects in which the Lord appears, in His Word, to men in the three discrete degrees, the celestial, the spiritual, and the natural; i.e., as seen from the different mental standpoints, the inmost love of goodness, the intelligence in spiritual truth, and the obedience to the rules of life.
THE LIVING CREATURES.
And out of the fire, etc., came the likeness of four living creatures. These different creatures represent the different aspects in which the Lord, in His Divine Word, impresses men in different degrees of intelligence, and on different planes, or levels, of human life. To one man, the Divine Word is full of the goodness of God’s love, for all the uses of human life. To another man, the Word is the repository of clear truths. To another, the Word is full of obscure truths, for men to study, and to apply to life. To another, the Word is a guide-book for rules of conduct.
These living creatures, or cherubim, externally represent the Word in its letter, which is a spiritual guard, surrounding the inward, spiritual Word of God, to protect it from profanation, in the mind of the natural man. For thus the providence of the Lord supplies every man with all that he can use; and also protects him from abusing that which he does not know how to use. Thus, in the profoundest sense, these living creatures represent the Lord, as Life, itself, flowing out to men, as receptacles of life.
The Lord is often represented, in the Scriptures, by living creatures, which, in each case, represent some particular phase of the Divine character, some aspect in which God is seen and known to men. To represent His power, He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, To express His gentleness, He is called a Lamb. And so, in the Scriptures, men are often represented. by animals, both good and evil, according to the characters of the men represented. The composite animals, such as mentioned in our text, and such as could not exist in the natural world, seem, to our minds, very grotesque. But they were familiar to Oriental minds, whose literature abounded in such symbolic representatives.
There were four of these living creatures. Two represents union, or conjunction, as with the co-operating of the heart and the lungs, or the spirit and the body, or the will and the understanding. And four represents a double union, as between both the natural will and understanding and the spiritual will and understanding. For there is this double and perfect union in all things which are from the Lord. And this union is reciprocal, as in the regenerate man, who understands what he loves, and also loves what he understands.
In general, these living creatures had the likeness of a man, because they represented the Lord, as the Divine Man, in His manifesting Himself to finite men. The face expresses the feelings and thoughts which are active in the mind. And so you look into a man’s face, to understand his real meaning. Each of these living creatures had four faces, of different kinds. These different faces represented the different aspects of spiritual truth in the Lord’s Word, as it affects the minds of men, in the internal will, and in the external will, and in the internal understanding, and in the external understanding. Thus,with its four faces, one turned in each direction, the Word of the Lord, like the four sides of the holy city, looks in every way, to all classes of men,spiritual and natural.
And each of these living creatures had four wings. Wings, like arms, are the means of exerting power;and so they represent power. The characteristic action of wings is to lift up the body, and to make rapid progress. So, mentally, the understanding, or intellect, has the power to elevate the thought, and to progress to different conditions of feeling. Wings operate in pairs, thus representing the co-operation of the heart and the intellect. The four wings, being two pairs, represent the power of thought, when both natural and spiritual. Natural thought and spiritual thought, when united in man, protect him from abusing the Word of the Lord. And, as these living creatures represent the Lord, as the Divine Man, they display the co-operation of the Divine Power, in the truth of the Divine Word, in both its letter and its spirit; for the truth is one, and united, although it has different aspects, in its letter and in its spirit.
The feet, as the lowest part of the body, represent the natural mind, as the lowest part of the mind. The sole of the foot represents the life of the senses, the corporeal plane of life, which is the lowest part of the natural mind, In these living creatures, the soles of the feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot.
Domestic cattle represent our natural affections. A calf, being young and harmless, represents the innocent state of the natural mind, in its affection for knowing the truths which sustain mental life. The passage in Malachi (iv. 2), “Ye shall go forth and grow up, as calves of the stall,” means that the regenerating natural man shall develop in knowledge of the Lord’s Word, and thus in the love of goodness. The fact that each of the living creatures had straight feet, like the feet of a calf, indicates that the Word of the Lord arouses and develops, in the natural man, a love of a good life, in simple obedience to the Divine laws of life.
These feet “sparkled· like the color of burnished brass.” Brass, as a base metal, represents the natural man, or the natural affections of man, as distinguished from gold, which represents celestial love, with the inmost affections of the spirit. When the natural affections are good and orderly, they sparkle, or shine, like polished brass; i.e., they reflect the images of the higher things of the mind, as a good natural affection represents a good interior and heavenly affection.
It is characteristic of the Lord’s Word, even in its outward letter, its feet, that it teaches a good and pure natural life.
The hands of a man, under the wings of these living-creatures, represent the higher power of spiritual truth, often concealed under, or within, the power of the letter of the Divine Word.
The four faces of these living creatures were those of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. The face of a man represents the Divine Truth, in its interior wisdom, as it is seen by the angelic man, to whom it gives power to become wise. The Lion represents strength. And the creature with the face of a lion represents the strength of the letter of the Divine Word, and thus, the strength of the Lord’s Love, as displayed in forming the letter of His Word, for the salvation of men.
The ox represents the natural affection, to which truth is comparatively obscure. The eagle, as a bird, represents the intellectual side of man’s mind, as distinguished from the beasts, which represent the affectional side. The eagle is a bird of very great powers of flight, and of sight; representing the soaring intelligence, and the extended thought, of the rational mind,
The living creatures, having faces of man, lion, ox, and eagle, thus represent the different aspects of the Divine Word, as the Lord’s methods of reaching men of different genius.
That the movements of these creatures was like lightning, in its flashes of light, represents that they revealed the Lord, in and by His truth, in His Word.
Each of the living creatures had a wheel, which went with the creature. Wheels are means of going, or progressing. They represent an intelligent knowledge of doctrine, by which a man’s mind can travel and progress. Intelligent knowledge of natural things (as, for instance, a good knowledge of the letter of the Divine Word), is an excellent means of carrying the mind to further progress.
But, in our text, it is said that there was, in each case, a wheel in the midst of a wheel. This represents a spiritual intelligence within the natural intelligence; as, in the knowledge of the Word of God, there may be an interior knowledge of spiritual principles, within the outward knowledge of the letter of the Word. Such intelligence makes a man a double scholar, learned in the facts and rules of the Divine Word, for natural life, and spiritually intelligent in the truths which relate to spiritual life.
All these living creatures are much like those seen by john, and mentioned in the Apocalypse.
All such scenes and visions are representative and correspondential of all the many forms in which our Lord of infinite Love reaches His human children, in all grades of their intelligence. And such representatives should teach us to look to our Lord, for light and life, and to cultivate, in ourselves, and to help others to develop and cultivate, the mental capacity to see, and to understand, all the various manifestations of His love, wisdom, and power, which our Lord displays before us, especially in His Word.
Only by drawing near to Him, in love, can we develop the highest human intelligence, the intuitive insight of the open spirit, ” the self-evidencing reason of love.
“O Lord, “with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm xxxvi. 9.)”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903