Ezekiel’s prophecy begins with one of the most remarkable visions or revelations contained anywhere in the Word of God; the vision is of the throne of God and His ineffable glory. But it focuses initially on the “living beings” (Ezek. 1:22), or angels, beneath the “expanse that was over their heads” (v. 26), above which stood the throne of God. These angelic beings are depicted as moving with incredible haste in obedience to the commands of God. Ezekiel provides a lengthy, if sometimes cryptic, description of their movements, such as, “each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went” (v. 12); and, “the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning” (v. 14); and finally, “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” (v. 24). The scene is one of intense activity as the angels rush back and forth doing what they were created to do: fulfill God’s will. Anyone who has pictured heaven as a place of incessant calm, quiet serenity where someone can easily nod off to sleep must be shaken by this picture of intense, loud industry.
But then, the scene changes. Ezekiel notes that “whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads [i.e., where the throne of God stood]; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings” (vv. 24b, 25). The KJV translates verse twenty-five (in this instance, perhaps, with greater clarity): “And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.” Regardless of the translation, the repetition of the fact that the angels “dropped” or “let down” their wings is intended to arrest our attention after so much emphasis has been placed upon their exceeding activity.
Angels do not need to rest as do humans. They do not stop flying around and drop their wings in order to take a needed break and catch their breath, but they stop in order to hear the voice of God. Not one of their actions occurs without direction from God and according to His purpose. Not one movement, even so much as the gentle flapping of one wing, strays from His will. Though created to serve and able to serve more perfectly and continuously than any mechanical robot, they act only in accord with God’s direction.
What lessons we humans might learn from these glorious creatures. Though sinless and perfect in every regard, angels never attempt to make their own decisions, choose their own time, place, or method of service. They never think themselves able to decide what is best on their own. They never pretend to misunderstand God’s will, never act as if it is unknown or unknowable, and never spurn God’s will. They never try to help God out by working out things by their own efforts. They never take the gifts God has given them to use in His service to advance their own agendas, feather their own nests, focus attention on themselves, or bring honor to themselves. They do all His will and only His will. Then they drop their wings and listen patiently to His voice.
How different we are. Although we have been redeemed, we remain sinful, fallen creatures. Still we find ourselves trying to outthink God, trying to improve on His will, or hurry up His plans. Unlike the angels, we often seem to think that our desires and choices will bring us the utmost happiness, failing to realize that, like the angels, our joy will be complete only as we fulfill that for which we have been created. As little as some of us may enjoy labor, we will, in our blind willfulness, work up a sweat attempting to get our own way (only to discover it to be wormwood) rather than fold our wings and listen to the voice of God. Yes, God wants us to serve; and, yes, we were redeemed in order to offer God-glorifying service, but a critical facet of serving involves waiting on the Lord. God will not speak until we have folded our wings.
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