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.

Michael Slater