Better suuuuper late than never:
– “Ah, Ariel! Ariel!” So I’ve been to Ariel in Israel – it’s a pretty large city on a tall hill in Judea-Samaria. It was originally settled in the 1970s by courageous pioneers who said “God has promised us this land and we’re holding Him at His word!” I figured this was the same city rebuilt upon a historical Ariel. Wrong. This Ariel is just another name for Jerusalem. Add it to the list… (It does mean “Lion of God,” which is pretty cool.)
– Look at verse 11: “And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’ And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read.'” And now look at verse 18: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” A couple things. First, there’s a book. What’s the book? Flip over to the end of Daniel, after the prophet has been given a vision of the end of days: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (12:4). So it’s a book about the end of days, the return of Jesus, the end of all things? Jump over to Revelation 5:
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
So there’s a book that contains something important in relation to God’s plan and purposes for the world and for the ages, but the book has been sealed for a time, but the book will be unsealed at the end of time, when the revelation of Jesus Christ occurs. Pretty consistent!
– There’s an image in verse 16 of a potter and clay, and it’s an image that recurs throughout scripture (of course!). We see it in Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:6, and Romans 9:20-22. It’s an interesting image: It starts happily – we are happy lumps of clay being molded by the Father, which we are indeed. But throughout scripture we little clay lumps become unsatisfied and talk back, at which point we’re reminded that we are just clay. We didn’t fashion ourselves. We didn’t create the life and the narrative we have for ourselves. The Lord did that. It reminded me of the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” “That I am not my own…” (Read my post about that get-in-your-face theology here.)
We continue our mini-study of Revelation…
– Here they are: The Four Living Creatures. (When I first taught on them during our Revelation study at my last Ladies Bible study, I bought a tee-shirt with these dudes on it. I have since gotten rid of it, which suuuucks, but if I want to I can grab the shirt again here.) But first, before we look at the dudes, we find that they’re actually not the focus of the passage. The focus of the passage is worship. Constant, incessant worship of the Lord from every living thing that exists within the throne room. Songs are sung to Him. Crowns are thrown down before Him. Even the architecture of the throne room suggests that everything is circled around the central point of the Lord upon the throne.
– Ok, so these crazy dudes! What are they? They are living creatures that are described as thus: “…the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (4:7-8). A couple things of note about them:
– They look like a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. But do they? Do they look like them or just have the appearance of them? Is it an ox, or is it strong and intimidating like an ox? Is it a human or is it tall and wise like a human? What do these specific animals have in common, or represent? They seem to cover the entire range of the animal kingdom, over which the Lord reigns and created. Do we know? We don’t know.
– They are covered in eyes. Are they? Do they actually have eyeballs all over their bodies? (EEEWWWWW.) Or are they all-seeing, or have perfect vision? Since they are before the Lord is their vision affected, do they need to have different vision? Do we know? We don’t know.
– They have six wings each. Ok, that’s a given.
– They sing to the Lord.
– They are created beings.
– They are eternal.
– Time for my super-patented Bible study questions: “Where else is this is scripture?” Know it? Want a hint? Ezekiel 1. While Ezekiel is chilling on the banks of the River Chebar, the heavens open up and he sees great and crazy things from God. His description nearly matches the description of the four living creatures from Revelation: Man, ox, bird, lion; wings; attendant upon God. This time they’re accompanied by spirit wheels (that’s the least crazy description I can give!) and it seems that the four living creatures are some kind of pallet-bearers to the Lord upon the throne. Where are they also in Scripture? Hint? They’re on top of the Ark of the Covenant. In the plans for the building of the Ark, the Lord wrote, “Make cherubim on top of the ark” (Exodus 25:17-22). It makes sense: If the Ark is the Mercy Seat where the Lord dwells, and it is circled by these guys, then that perfectly replicates what’s going on in heaven.
– So…cherubim? NOT fat babies. And remember the seraphim we saw in Isaiah 6? Not fat babies either. Rather “fiery burning ones” in Hebrew. So, the next time you want to get your Renaissance art on, you know what’s really Biblically correct.