At church we're starting a Bible study in the book of Ezekiel. We discussed chapter 1 last night, where Ezekiel describes his vision of the four beings with four faces, and God seated upon the throne above them. Before we started, I asked our pastor if he was going to explain what the four faces (man, lion, ox, and eagle) meant. He laughed, but in the end he did. He showed how so often in chapter 1 Ezekiel used the phrases "looked like," "something like," or "the appearance like." He said this showed how Ezekiel was seeing something he didn't have words to describe really. He had to make analogies and comparisons. And ultimately, that is the real explanation -- when Ezekiel saw the glory of the presence of God, it was literally indescribable. He had to use a variety of analogies and comparisons to try to capture it. "It was kind of like this, and at the same time like this." We don't understand, but that is the point. The fullness of God is something we cannot understand, at least not in this life.
Another thing that impressed me was the complexity of the vision. Most of the description has to do with the four beings, which I assume are archangels. God is the one seated on the throne, the brilliant figure like glowing metal or like light. Why did Ezekiel spend more time describing the archangels than God? Another aspect of asserting the reality of God's presence is indescribable, I'm sure. But also, it shows that God's vision or presence is more complicated than we often give credit for. The four archangels are there, not because God needs their help to move his throne around, but because he graciously has given them a role to play in participating with and enjoying his glory. The glory of the presence of God is not God in splendid isolation because no one else can compare with Him, but God surrounded by a worshipping community. God the One and Only, yes. But God the One and Only who brings His creation into community and graciously gives them roles in celebrating who He is.
Ezekiel Chapter 1