How is God Our Refuge and Strength + More on What God Looks Like in the Bible #253
Hello everybody and happy three day weekend to you. Funny story. Today’s episode was initially going to be entitled, “what do angels look like?” To understand why, and why it isn’t, I need to tell you a little bit about how the sausage is made here, so to speak. My process for making the podcast is that I do a shallow reading of our Bible passages first and foremost, looking for an interesting topic to discuss, almost always in the form of a question. Once the main question is decided upon, then we do some research and then write an article/transcript, and then record the podcast, sometimes reading the article, sometimes ad-libbing. I have been wanting to focus on an Ezekiel passage, since we haven’t yet, and I thought today’s chapter would be great. It begins by describing a Spiritual Being in some detail, and upon a cursory reading of Ezekiel 8 (cursory readings being the most dangerous kind of readings!) I decided to do a pod on what angels look like, because there is a great amount of information in the Bible on that, surprisingly enough. So I wrote a few paragraphs of introduction and then begin to read and research in earnest. Upon doing that…I discovered a bit of a surprise…I don’t know for sure that the Spiritual Being in Ezekiel 8 is, in fact, an angel. I think it is very possibly a pre-incarnation portrayal of Jesus, and the reason for that is because the appearance of this Being in Ezekiel 8 has striking parallels with the appearance of Jesus in Revelation 1:
In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting in front of me, and there the hand of the Lord God came down on me. 2 I looked, and there was someone who looked like a man. From what seemed to be his waist down was fire, and from his waist up was something that looked bright, like the gleam of amber. 3 He stretched out what appeared to be a hand and took me by the hair of my head. Then the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and carried me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the inner gate that faces north, where the offensive statue that provokes jealousy was located. 4 I saw the glory of the God of Israel there, like the vision I had seen in the plain.
12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was one like the Son of Man, dressed in a robe and with a golden sash wrapped around his chest. 14 The hair of his head was white as wool—white as snow—and his eyes like a fiery flame. 15 His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and his voice like the sound of cascading waters. 16 He had seven stars in his right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from his mouth, and his face was shining like the sun at full strength.
You can see the parallels – the fire, the colors, etc. I also note that the Being in Ezekiel 8 has even more striking appearance parallels with the being in Ezekiel 1, who is portrayed as God:
25 A voice came from above the expanse over their heads; when they stopped, they lowered their wings. 26 Something like a throne with the appearance of lapis lazuli was above the expanse over their heads. On the throne, high above, was someone who looked like a human. 27 From what seemed to be his waist up, I saw a gleam like amber, with what looked like fire enclosing it all around. From what seemed to be his waist down, I also saw what looked like fire. There was a brilliant light all around him. 28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the likeness of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.
One more passage to throw in is Daniel 10, which describes another Spiritual Being that is not called an angel, but shares very similar traits with Jesus in Revelation and the Spiritual Being in Ezekiel:
2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three full weeks. 3 I didn’t eat any rich food, no meat or wine entered my mouth, and I didn’t put any oil on my body until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up, and there was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the brilliance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.
What can we conclude then? First, we should conclude that cursory readings, like the one I did at the beginning, can lead to potential mistakes, because we tend to jump to conclusions and make connections that aren’t there when we just give something a very shallow read. That’s something to watch out for. We can also learn that the Bible has a good bit of mystery in it that it doesn’t always take the pains to spell out to us. I tend to think that the being described in all of the passages above is the 2nd member of the Trinity, Jesus – God Himself and the Son of God, but the Bible does not identify completely the Spiritual Being in these passages, so we should not be definitive when we are guessing. All that said, I still love to read and discuss the descriptions of God and other Spiritual Beings in the Bible, so I hope that wasn’t wasted time for you, in what is now the longest intro in the history of this podcast.
Today’s readings include a bunch of chapters: 1st Samuel 29 and 30, Psalms 46 and 47, Ezekiel 8 and 1st Corinthians 10. Let’s focus today on the very beginning of Psalms 46 – a wonderful promise and comforting truth:
God is our refuge and strength,
a helper who is always found
in times of trouble.
Here’s Spurgeon with some encouraging thoughts on this verse:
God’s people have a sure confidence. Other men build as best they may, but true believers rest upon the Rock of ages. Their confidence is altogether beyond themselves. In this song there is nothing about their own virtue, valour, or wisdom. The heathen moralist boasted that if the globe itself should break, his integrity would make him stand fearless amid the wreck. But the believer has a humbler though a truer reliance. Though the earth be removed he is undismayed; and this does not arise from his own personal self-sufficiency, but from God, who is his refuge and strength. He is fearless, not because of his original stoutness of heart and natural firmness of will, but because he has a God to shelter and uphold him. If he does not fear calamity, it is because he fears God, and God alone. Our psalm begins with God, and with God it ends:—“The God of Jacob is our refuge.” We may be as timid by nature as the coneys, but God is our refuge; we are as weak by nature as bruised reeds, but God is our strength. We never know what strength is till our own weakness drives us to trust omnipotence; never understand how safe our refuge is till all other refuges fail us. When the earth is removed, and the waters of the sea roar and are troubled being driven both from land and sea, we hide ourselves in God. You who are strong in yourselves imagine strength where only weakness can be found; you seek the living among the dead, and substantial confidences amid the “vanity of vanities.” If we look to ourselves for courage we shall fail in the hour of trial. When the earth is removed, the mightiest men are the first to shudder; the greatest boasters become the worst of cowards. For confidence and peace we must say unto the Lord, “All my fresh springs are in thee.”
This confidence is gained by an appropriating faith. Peace comes to me, not only by what God is, but by what God is to me. “God is our refuge and strength.” “This God is our God.” You never enjoy the goodness and greatness of God if you view them in an abstract manner; you must grasp them as your own. It seems a daring act for a man to appropriate God, and yet the Lord invites us to do it; he says, “Let him take hold of my strength.”
Why hesitate to make the appropriation? Look at the men of the world; they would appropriate the whole earth if they could—continents are not too wide. It is no fault of theirs if they do not hedge in the stars, and monopolize the sun. And shall not the Christian appropriate those heavenly things of which he is made the heir—an heir of God, a joint-heir with Christ Jesus? Let us join with the prophet Jeremiah in his comfortable soliloquy: “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” As with Thomas we behold the print of the nails, let us say unto our blessed Redeemer—“My Lord and my God.” The deep peace which is our right and privilege, will not be ours unless, with assured faith, we take the Lord to be ours in all the fullness of his love. Come, let us now say—“God is our refuge and strength.”
C. H. Spurgeon, “Earthquake, but Not Heartquake,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 33 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1887), 122–123.
God indeed is our strength and refuge, and praise Him for that!