September 29, 2019 The Voice of the Almighty

The Voice of the Almighty

Scripture reading: Ezekiel 1:4,5; 22-24

    Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads.
    23    Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering its body on the one side and on the other.
    24    I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings.1

People avoid the book of Ezekiel because it begins with very bizarre visions. They are so strange that some give up trying to understand them if they try at all. When Jesus spoke in parables, some were easy to understand. But others were incomprehensible when he first spoke them. Once, when he spoke one of the more difficult parables, his disciples asked him why he spoke so often in parables. Jesus answered thus:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.2

We do not want to be those who are seeing but yet do not see. We are those who have been given the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. At least we are if we come to the meetings of the church, where the Lord has raised up teachers who hear from the Spirit.

Ezekiel is somewhat like some of those parables that Jesus spoke. It is not easy to understand, but it has been given to us to know its secrets! 

Ezekiel had a vision, but none of the things that Ezekiel saw were real things. They were visions meant to communicate spiritual realities. The Bible is a book of pictures revealing God to us as well as spiritual truth. These picture help us understand truth, if we love the truth.

Each of the things that Ezekiel saw in his vision signified something. The wind and the cloud and the fire and the gleaming metal all communicated something. When we get to verse 5, we see four living creatures. These creatures will take up most of the rest of the chapter. They have a human likeness. They have human faces. They have human hands. These living creatures signify God’s people. In Ezekiel’s day they represented the Israelites or, more accurately, the faithful ones. But Ezekiel wrote for our benefit as well as for his day. His message is eternal. These four living creatures signify God’s people throughout the ages. These four living creatures are us!

There are some wonderful things to be seen about them. These are found throughout the chapter. Today, we are only going to consider what is revealed in the three verses that we read.

There was an expanse over the heads of the living creatures. This expanse is simply the sky. Some versions so translate it.3 It is the same word used in Genesis 1 for the sky, variously translated as firmament, dome, bowl, or vault.

The creatures’ wings were straight and stretched out toward one another. This  shows their coordination. They are not independent but move together and speak the same thing.

Rereading verse 24: 

I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings.4

The word for “sound” and “voice” in this verse is qol in Hebrew. It can mean just a sound or a voice, depending on the context. It is commonly translated as voice when referencing a person. It is translated as “voice” 284 times in the Bible. The more accurate rendering is “the voice of the Almighty” rather than “the sound of the Almighty.”

The sky, or expanse, represents the ability of the four living creatures to see above them and around them. This same idea was pictured earlier with the eyes within the wheels that accompanied the four living creatures.

The sky can be clear for us and “spread out,” or expanding. “Before we were saved, our sky was dark and cloudy, even foggy. It was narrow, without any expanse. With us, there was hardly any heaven, hardly any sky. But one day, we repented, confessed our sins, and received the Lord Jesus as our Savior. The more we confessed our sins, the more clear our sky became.”5

The Lord has made it easy to have a clear conscience. All we have to do is confess our sin or shortcoming to the Lord (I John 1:9). Our trouble is that sometimes we do not want to admit that we have failed. This is our pride. If we will only humble ourselves, confess our sin, and talk to our Savior, our conscience will be clear. The Lord knows all about us and nothing we do or say will surprise Him. There is a song by Vineyard Music entitled Light the Fire Again (sung by Brian Doerksen) with these lyrics:

I’m calling out
Light the fire gain.
You know my heart, my deeds.
I’m calling out
Light the fire again
I need your discipline.
I’m calling out
Light the fire again.

When Brian sings, “You know my heart, my deeds,” he means that his heart is not good and neither are his deeds. But the Lord knows this. That is why he is calling! This is often our experience. The Lord is just waiting for your confession and your calling when we fail.

When we confess we have a sky above us as clear as crystal. We can see clearly, without fog or clouds. When we don’t confess our sins (we either ignore them or blame others), we cannot see things as they really are. We see clouds. In other words, we can’t see reality without a clear conscience. We begin to perceive things pessimistically. When we are walking in the light (this means confessing and turning away from our sins), we begin to see things as they really are. Some people don’t confess. Others confess, but just keep doing the same sin. We must confess and forsake sin. God calls us to a life of obedience, not stubbornness.

The Christian life is an optimistic life. This is because God is for us and all things are working out for our good (Romans 8:28). All things are working out for our good if we love God (28a). It is possible for a disciple of the Lord to temporarily not love the Lord. They can become self-focused. By thinking about ourselves above God and our fellow disciples we have a kind of darkness in our mind and life. We need to “light the fire again!”

Our bodies must be full of light! Some of us need to set a match to our candle so that we will have light again.
 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” 6

Some of you were lamps to others but your light has gone out. Once we rekindle our candle we will be light and we will be able to see things as they really are rather than pessimistically. The illustration of Jesus of having a lamp within us and that of Ezekiel, of having a clear sky, are the same signification. We need eyes to see! 

Under the clear sky is an amazing thing; The four living creatures have the voice of the Almighty! When they speak it becomes, as it were, the voice of God! They move. And, when they move, there is a mighty sound. Along with this mighty sound is the voice of the Almighty. Their voice becomes the voice of the Almighty!

This was the experience of Paul. Silas, and Timothy. The letter of I Thessalonians was written jointly by these three brothers (1:1). So, it is not that Paul, being an apostle and being divinely inspired, that enabled them to write this:

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.7

Because Timothy and Silas are included in the “heard from us” shows that this applies to all believers, not just apostles! This means that whenever any disciple of the Lord is speaking according to the word of God, the Scriptures, then their words are not “the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God!” You can speak the very words of God!

The proper life of God’s people is a speaking life. It is not a life that is quiet. It is a life of testimony. It is a life that speaks of the gospel. It is a life that warns, because God warns. It is a life that is not ashamed. It is a life with the strength of eagles’ wings and the voice of the Almighty. This kind of life may very well be against our natural inclination or disposition. But the living creatures express, move, and act not according to their natural inclinations, but according to the power and supply of God. And they are us.

Let me say again, the normal Christian life is a speaking life. We speak to the lost about the wonders of God. We are not timid, even if our natural disposition is timid.

    For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.8

We speak to the lost. But we also speak to the brothers and sisters. Men, we don’t need too talk much about football, baseball, hunting, trucks, and cars. Women, we don’t need to talk too much about clothes, dinnerware, and cooking. (Of course, it is fine to talk about these matters on occasion.) We need to speak those things that encourage others to follow after Christ more fully! We all need to speak of what we have enjoyed in the word lately so that we can supply others. We need to build one another up in our most holy faith!

And, it is not a matter of how we feel. The voice of the Almighty can speak though us even when we are feeling low. I will never forget a time in my life when everything seemed to be going wrong. I was in my late 20’s, living in California, and I went back to northern Ohio to visit family. The only ones in my whole extended family who were Christians were two of my cousins. They were brothers and about 8 years older than me. I went to visit one of them. His wife was not a Christian and when she found out I was coming to visit she left the house. I came by the house. I was feeling pretty low. Actually, I felt dead. I thought to myself, “I hope Dave does not ask me any questions about the Bible.” After a time of just reminiscing about our youth, he asked me a question about the Christian life. I cannot remember what his question was, nor my answer. But I do remember that as I was answering his question I felt lifeless and I thought, “This is not a very good answer.” When I was done, I apologized to him. I said, “I’m not feeling that well. I’m sorry if my answer is not that good.” He said, “Are you kidding? That was one of the best things I have ever heard! It is so helpful!” You see, the Holy Spirit took my feeble efforts and magnified them to bless my cousin. He will do the same for you!

We can speak to a brother or sister and we can speak to the whole church.

 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.9

A healthy and proper meeting of the church is not one in where we just sing songs and one man does all the talking. This is standard fare in most churches, but it is not the pattern of worship we see in the New Testament. “Each one” has something! Each one has a hymn or a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Every one of those things is speaking! The normal Christian life is a speaking life!

 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 10

There is some misconception about prophecy. Prophecy is not just foretelling the future. It can be. But prophecy, according to the New Testament, is simply speaking on God’s behalf.  It is for the purpose of either teaching or encouraging. We can all do this! In fact, that is what the apostle says: “You can all prophesy one by one!”

The reason why many do not have anything to say is because they are not supplied. In order to be supplied we must spend time in God’s word. I promise you, if you will read or study God’s word just 30 minutes a day, the Lord will reveal things to you and you will be able to share those things in the meetings of the church.

It is good to tie whatever the Lord has shown you with the message any particular Sunday. And, the Spirit will enable you to do that!

We are the four living creatures. As we move, we will have the voice of the Almighty. Our voice will be the voice of the Lord Jesus. We can speak to the lost and we can speak to the saints. We can speak because we have the wings of eagles! Today and this week, speak! Be supplied and then let the overflow bless someone.

1 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eze 1:22–24). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:11–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
3 The Living Bible, The Message, NLV, NLT.
4 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eze 1:24). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
5 Witness Lee, Life-Study of Ezekiel, Volume One (Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. 1998) 103.
6 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 11:36). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
7 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Th 2:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
8 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Ti 1:7). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
9 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 14:26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
10 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 14:31–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.