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.

The Value of Rest – Exodus 35-37

Read Exodus 35-37

Exodus tells us of three defining moments for the nation of Israel: 1) God miraculously delivers His people; 2) God’s presence is with Israel and no other nation enjoys this distinction; 3) God gives the nation His own Law and establishes a covenant with Israel alone.

Inside God’s Law for His people, He makes to sure He tells them to rest. While the instructions for the Sabbath had been delivered earlier (Exodus 20:8-11), God repeats these valuable words.

The word Sabbath literally means, “stopping.” Instead of calling it a “Sabbath” day, you could call it a “stop-working” day. We remember to take one day off in seven in order to to keep the day holy. The word “holy” has to do with belonging to God. You can make your cell phone holy if you use your phone for the special purpose of God. You can make this day holy by setting it aside for God alone. God gives us this day as a blessing rather than a burden. It is a day for showing mercy and a day for doing good. It should not be governed rigidly by narrow definitions of what is work and what is not. But neither is it a day to focus on sports and gardening. Instead, it is a day to focus on the Lord.

Here are two practical suggestions for you:

1) Set Aside Time for God’s Word. Take approximately thirty minutes and have a plan on reading the Bible. You should include time to memorize some Bible passages. Aim for word for word memory. A good place to start is the Roman Road (go ahead and Google it).

2) Set Aside Time to Show Mercy to Others. This is a great time to remember the poor. This was exactly Jesus’ point in Matthew: “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:11-12). Too often churches operate as a restaurant – hungry people wait to be fed by a select group of waiters. Instead, our church should operate as an anthill – every member has a task of mercy to do.

The Ark of the Covenant – Exodus 25-27

Read Exodus 25-27

In today’s reading, we are introduced to the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22). The word “ark” in Hebrew simply means chest. The Ark was a wooden box overlaid with gold. It was approximately 4 feet long, 2.5 feet high, and 2.5 feet wide. On the top of the Ark was a slab of pure gold called the Mercy Seat. There were two golden angels facing one another over the Mercy Seat.

The Ark of the Covenant was the central piece of furniture in the Tabernacle. It was placed in the back of the Tabernacle in the Holy of Holies. Only the Levites, a group from within Israel, could carry the Ark. It was the only piece of furniture in this room. It was over this Ark that the very presence of God appeared. The Ark represented the very presence of God (Exodus 25:22), thus a reminder we can know and experience God Himself.

If we follow the Ark of the Covenant through the pages of the Bible, we learn some important lessons for our worship of God.

Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, eventually captured the Ark at a time when Israel had no king (see 1 Samuel 5). The Philistines mockingly said to themselves, “This ‘God of Israel…’ He’s not so tough. We’ve captured His Ark!” The story that ensues would be amusing if it were not true. Every time the Philistines placed the Ark inside their temple, the Ark destroyed their god. Every morning when they woke up, their god, Dagon, was flat down on his face before the Ark. And even when they removed the Ark from their temple to place it in their town, tumors broke out upon the people (1 Samuel 5:9). So, the Philistines got rid of the Ark and sent it back to Israel.

Back in Israel, the Ark first came to rest in the small town of Beth-shemesh inside Israel. Curiosity overtook seventy men who decided to look inside the Ark and as a result, they died (1 Samuel 6:19). Messengers were soon sent to the town of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “Come, take this thing away from us.” So they returned the Ark but it only came to a fairly remote place in Israel, Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:2).

Twenty years go by and King David desires to bring the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). During this time, David had brought the Tabernacle to Jerusalem, and now wanted to bring the central piece of furniture there as well. David gathered thirty thousand men to bring the Ark to the Tabernacle in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:1). They placed the Ark on an ox-cart and Uzzah walked along side the ox-cart. Soon, one the oxen stumbled and the Ark was about to fall. It was then that Uzzah placed his hand out to steady the Ark from falling to hit the dirt. And it was right there that Uzzah was struck down dead for touching the Ark (2 Samuel 6:7).

Imagine the scene as thousands of people dancing and singing and Uzzah drops dead. The entire scene goes silent. Everyone went home and the Ark was left right there at the home of Obed-edom, a foreigner (2 Samuel 6:10-11). It remained there for three months.

What do we learn from the Bible’s story of the Ark? The story of the Ark is running commentary on your worship practices.

  1. God is Very Big. People thought they could manipulate God by taking the Ark to the battle. Once the ark was near the battle, they thought God was obligated to give them victory. God cannot be manipulated by a holy relic. Nor will He be manipulated through the use of a rabbit’s foot or a four-leaf clover.
  2. God is Infinitely Holy. Why did Uzzah die? God gave rules for the transportation of the Ark in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. What were those rules?

1) The Ark had to be covered. People were not to look upon it.

2) It was to be carried. There were golden rings on the sides of the Ark for poles, allowing four men to carry it.

3) The Ark had to be carried by Levites consecrated by God for this work.

4) The Ark was not to be touched.

Uzzah thought the dirt of the ground would defile the Ark more than he would. He thought the soil was dirty but he was not. Uzzah’s instincts assumed that his hand was holy enough to touch the Ark.

Again, why did Uzzah die? Every one of the instructions given by God were disregarded. Uzzah was not a Levite. The ark was not carried by Levites, instead it was placed on a cart. And Uzzah touched it. The rules for were broken.

No one can come before the holy presence of God without grace.