The Significance of the Cherubim

This Sunday (October 23), we are looking at the prophet Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 1:4-28. Reading this account for the first time, you might think of this as a sci-fi novel. Yet, it is much more than a Hollywood creation for it is the closest description of the appearance of God you’ll encounter. Ezekiel tells us: “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28b). In fact, the vision will haunt the prophet until the day he dies.

The vision is complicated because it involves four elements: (1) a storm (verse 4), (2) four living creatures (verses 5-14), (3) awesome wheels with eyes (verses 15-21), (4) and the throne of God Himself (verses 22-27). Ezekiel sees a bedazzling array of colors while the entire vision is a theophany. A theophany literally means “God appears.” This is where the very presence of God’s presence is made known.

As I have studied this passage for weeks, I have circled back to the four living creatures described in the prophet’s vision. Later on in Ezekiel, he tells us that the four living creatures are cherubim (Ezekiel 9:3, 10:20). No, angels are not overweight cupids that look like a chubby 3 year olds with a miniature bow and arrow. This idea came from the Renaissance. Instead, the cherubim were the heavenly guardians of the glory of God – they serve as bodyguards to God’s holiness if you will.

Just how significant where the cherubim?

  1. It is significant that cherubim were stationed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to guard against sinful humans gaining entry (Genesis 3:22-24).
  2. It is also significant that cherubim adorned the inner sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem. Remember this: it was this place – the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the holy of Holies – that was the very center of God’s presence on the earth.
  3. Cherubim were embroidered on the curtains of the tabernacle to guard the holy of holies (Exodus 26:31).
  4. Cherubim were carved on the walls, the stands, and lastly inside the inner sanctuary where they were some 14.5 feet in height and over 7 feet in width (1 Kings 6:23-28).
  5. Cherubim were on top of the Ark of the Covenant, sitting as bookends to the Mercy Seat itself (Exodus 25:18-22). On the Mercy Seat, their wings touched forming the very seat of God’s throne on earth (Exodus 37:9).
  6. Moses heard the voice of God from within the Cherubim (Numbers 7:89).
  7. Lastly, God Himself rides or sits atop the Cherubim (1 Samuel 4:4b; Psalm 18:10).

It seems wherever you see these four winged creatures, the presence of God is not far behind.

The prophet offers a picture of a door to heaven opening where we see the heavenly throne room of God. An invisible barrier has been opened between heaven and earth, allowing us to see what is going before the very presence of God.

Join me this Sunday and invite a friend.

Fires, Idolatry, and Moses’ Skills – Numbers 25-26

Read Numbers 25-26

Midianite women allure Israelite men into promiscuity and the worship of Baal. This act threatens the very existence of Israel and challenges the heart of their relationship with God. Someone must act to stop this national tragedy.

On June 17, 2002 Federal authorities arrested a United States Forest Service employee for starting the largest fire in Colorado’s history. Terry Barton was a 38-year-old woman and had worked every summer for the Forest Service for 18 or 19 years. She had ventured into the forest to burn a letter form her estranged husband. She had evidently become angry with him and burning the note was perhaps her emotional release. Yet, because of dry conditions in the Pike National Forest, she was unable to extinguish the fire as quickly as she had desired and the fire burned out of control.

At the time the fire began, Barton was under orders to patrol for fires in the vicinity where she had started the fire. This fire that was to be the largest in the state’s history burning over 130 homes with an estimated total cost of damage ranging anywhere from $27 million to almost $40 million dollars. In all, more than 137,000 acres burned causing Colorado Governor Bill Owens to say, “It looks as if all of Colorado is burning.”

In this strange juxtaposition of events, Terry Barton who was to prevent fires in the Colorado forest had now begun a fire. The irony of the one who protects instead causing destruction cannot be lost on us. In today’s reading, Phinehas, a priest, shows courage and does the exact opposite of Terry Barton, the forest service worker. Where she failed at her duty, Phinehas rose to the challenge to protect the worship of His God.

Be sure to see how skilled Moses is at composing this story for he tells this incident at Peor so that it mirrors the people’s sin at Sinai. In fact, it is obvious Moses wants us to compare the two incidents and see a pattern.

  • At both Sinai and Peor, the people worshipped false gods. At Sinai, the people worshiped the golden calf (Exodus 32) but at Peor, the people worship false god, called Baal (25:1-2).
  • At both places, the fierce anger of God called for drastic action and those guilty of breaking the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) were put to death (Compare Exodus 32:26-28 to Numbers 25:7-8).
  • The tribe of Levi was set aside to especially serve God after the golden calf debacle (Exodus 32:29) while Phinehas is promised his descendants will always be priests (25:11-13).

Centered on God – Numbers 1-2

Read Numbers 1-2

Interesting Fact: The book’s name, Numbers, comes from this portion where God instructs the people to take a census (1:1-3). Don’t quit reading simply because of all the weird names and all the numbers you encounter in the first four chapters of Numbers. Push through this section and you will see God instruct the leaders to divide the nation into clans and families. If you were to take the time to calculate the total number of “all in Israel who are able to go to war,” you would identify more than 600,000 fighting men (1:3). Here in the beginning, we already get the sense that military activity will be inevitable.

But notice carefully what God wants at the center of the people – the tent of meeting. The central piece of furniture in the tent of meeting was the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a wooden box overlaid with gold, approximately 4 feet long, 2.5 feet high, by 2.5 feet wide. It symbolized God’s presence with Israel. The tent of the meeting was to be at the center of Israel’s camp (2:17) and was, in essence, a mobile sanctuary. The people of Israel were to organize themselves around God; He was to be at their center wherever they camped. God was in the middle of His people, guiding them to the Promised Land.

God assigned specific areas to each tribe grouped around the center of the tent of meeting, also called the Tabernacle (Numbers 2:1-34). But, there was one group that was not to be counted – the Levites. Rather than serve in the military, the Levites had three duties: set-up, dismantle and transport the tabernacle (Numbers 1:50-51). Lest you think they were wimps, God instructed them to “put to death” anyone unauthorized to come near the tent. God is holy and pure. Get the picture in your mind, between the people and the tent, the Levites surrounded all four sides of the Tabernacle to serve as a go-between. The Levites served as priests and they acted both as a buffer and a go-between uniting God and the people.

Three Take-Aways

  1. Just as God was central to Israel, God is to be equally central to your life. He promises to protect you and to guide you. Every day you take the Word of God into your hands, and you fight to get God back to the center of your life. You must continually recenter your life around the truth of God.
  1. From the moment Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, humanity’s one desire has been to get back to the Garden and enjoy the presence of God. The tent of the meeting was God’s way of placing Himself back with His people as He was in the Garden of Eden. But the presence of God can be fatal. We cannot simply approach God haphazardly for He is holy and we are not. Pay close and careful attention to God’s instructions on how to worship Him for your own safety. Yes, God is loving, but His is also holy. You must take care of your sin problem before you can enjoy God again.
  2. At the conclusion of your Bible, the book of Revelation portrays heaven as a perfected-cubed city where there is no temple, church, or sanctuary. The reason is that God Himself is eternally at the center of the city (Revelation 19:11f). Heaven is pictured as a place where God will always be central to your life where you will enjoy Him for eternity.