Ezekiel 1:28, “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
They’re always falling down. It’s always like that. It isn’t like the popular near death stories you hear today, where folks tell us about when they saw God – it’s usually bright lights, pastels, and good feelings. Not really the stuff that knocks men to the ground. It’s always burning like molten bronze in the prophet’s vision, a voice like the roar of a thousand lions in his ears, majestic terrifying creatures with many wings and many faces zipping around, with the twinkle of a panorama of glittering sapphire beneath a rainbow garlanded throne. And the prophets always fall down.
Ezekiel’s vision is especially compelling. You can try translating it, but good luck. The tortured syntax and halting vague language is challenging to the best scholars. I think that makes sense. He’s writing down something that truly overwhelmed him, and the sense of his confusion, the sheer magnitude of the sensory input makes writing it down difficult. Then there’s the subject matter itself. We’re at the very limits of human language. Ezekiel’s descriptions say over and over “it was something like,” giving you the sense that he just doesn’t have the right tools. There just isn’t a thesaurus that’s going to help.
But I wonder. He fell down. I don’t think Ezekiel’s problems are only finding words inadequate and being floored. I think his problem is far worse than that. I think he can’t get his theology around it. The Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament, were his bible. Moses was his prophet, the one he studied and read. And Moses was told “no man sees my face and lives.” Moses even asked to see God, and God told him no. He could only see the “after effects” of God’s passing. So you’ve got to figure, Ezekiel knows he’s seeing and describing what he simply should never be allowed to see. Ever. God is terrifyingly holy. Man is horrifyingly unclean. It is a practical, biblical, and theological problem that a glimpse of God means you’re finished. So Ezekiel doesn’t just fall down. He throws himself down the way a marine does when the alarms sound off for incoming mortar fire. What Ezekiel doesn’t know yet, what is implied and promised in the vision, is that God would become perfectly visible to men. In Jesus. Which means the unclean can be made clean, and the Most Holy has touched the unholy. In Jesus. Which means that falling down also means you get picked up. In Jesus. And guess what’s happening in heaven, in John’s vision of Christ in heaven? Everyone is still falling down.
So what I don’t get, as we stand here between the vision of Ezekiel in 586 BC and the vision of the end of time, why we aren’t falling down now? Half the people I know are taking a stand on bogus issues and the other half are just standing around being casual about God. We need a theology of falling down. This is real gospel prayer! If you grasp the greatness of God, down you go. If you perceive the criminal you are in your heart, down you go. And if you grasp with joy the wonder of our Savior, down you go. And that’s what I pray now for San Francisco and for our generation, for our time. That He would knock us down like only He can, so He can stand us up like only He will. By the Spirit. Before His Son.
We ask in His Name. Amen.