Spiritual realities require risky language
unless you think they can be reduced to little formulas and formulations.
— Brian D. McLaren (A New Kind of Christian)
God is far too great for our language to describe. Ezekiel tried and look at the result:
- An approaching thunderstorm from the north
- Continual lightning strikes coming from a bright amber spot in the middle of the storm
- Four creatures that looked human—except they each had four faces, four wings, feet like calves, and were glowing in the light of the storm
like polished bronze
- Something that looked like a wheel inside a wheel, rimmed with eyes
- The creatures and wheels moving quickly in any direction without having to turn or veer
- Something like burning coals or torches in the centre of the creatures, moving among them (the source of the lightening)
Ezekiel did the best he could to describe the indescribable. The Creator of language can never be fully limned by his creation.
Consider how Ezekiel described this vision: He started with an approaching storm, only to witness the clouds open up to reveal the source of the storm’s power. The dark cloud surrounding the unapproachable light of God is peeled back to admit only one scribe.
. . .
This isn’t the first time God’s glory was described like this. Here’s how God looked to David after he cried out to be rescued:
He bowed the heavens, and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub, and flew;
he came down swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering around him,
his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire.
—Psalm 18:9-12, NRSV
Lightning is an incredibly destructive and powerful force. It’s no wonder the Israelites described God in these terms.
How do you picture God? If you had to describe your image of God, would your choice of vocabulary be risky and dangerous—or tame and flowery? Do you think our descriptions of God are a reflection of how we really understand him? Is it time to work on our vocabulary?
God always beyond. Our Designer and Maker can never be reduced to pithy aphorisms and saccharine sayings. It’s time for us to recapture the bright mystery of Ezekiel’s vision.
. . .
Awesome God, help us to never minimize your power. Remind us every time we pray, every time we sing, every time we see a storm approaching, that you are far beyond our feeble attempts to describe you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.