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. When folks meet God in the bible, they don’t usually stay standing. It isn’t like the pop near death stories you hear today, where folks tell us about meeting God – usually with bright friendly lights, pastels, and good feelings. Not really stuff to knock you off your feet. Not like the molten metal in the prophet’s vision, with the deafening soundtrack blaring, majestic multifaced minions zipping around, the twinkle of sapphire beneath a throne garlanded with rainbows. No wonder 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 scholars. It reveals how this vision truly overwhelmed him, and the sense of his confusion – the sheer magnitude of sensory input makes description difficult. Then there’s the subject matter itself. We’re at the very limits of human language. Ezekiel’s descriptions repeat “it was something like,” as if he’s grasping for the right words. There just isn’t a thesaurus that’s ever been written that’s going to help.
But I wonder. He fell down. I suspect Ezekiel’s problems are bigger than just being floored. I think he can’t get his theology around what he’s seeing. 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 was only permitted a glimpse of His “after effects.” So you’ve got to figure, Ezekiel knows full well he’s seeing and describing something all men are forbidden to see. Ever. God is terrifyingly holy. Man is horrifyingly unclean. It’s a practical, biblical, and theological problem – you get a glimpse of God, you’re toast. So you’ve got to figure Ezekiel doesn’t just fall down. He throws himself down, hitting the dirt like a soldier hearing a mortar whistling in the air. What Ezekiel doesn’t know yet, what’s implied in this impossible vision, is that God intended to be completely visible one day. In Jesus. Which means the eye of sinful man will see His glory. In Jesus. Which means falling down is always followed by how He picks you up. In Jesus.
So guess what’s happening in heaven, in John’s Revelation vision hundreds of years later? 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, is how come we’re all standing so tall? Half of us are eager to take a stand on big issues and the other half are just standing around being casual about God. We all need a theology of falling down! This is real gospel prayer. This is whole person repentance. This is faceplant worship. If you grasp the greatness of God, down you go. If you perceive the criminal you are in your heart, down you go. If you grasp with joy the wonder of our Savior, down you go. He is the Savior who was knocked down by murder and three days later stood alive again on the earth. And that’s what I pray now for San Francisco, for our generation, and for our time. That He would knock us down as only He can, just so He could stand us up like only He will. Before the Father, in His Son, and by the Holy Spirit we ask. Amen.