How Is Jehovah Different from All Other Gods?
WHAT are the gods of the nations like? Look at some of the images of the various gods around the world. Even if you accept these images as only representing qualities or dispositions attributed to such gods by their worshipers, what are they portrayed to be? Usually they are pictured as cold, aloof, angry, vicious, whimsical, fearful to approach, hard to placate, unmerciful.
The true God is invisible to human eyes. “God is a Spirit,” said his Son when on earth. He knew, for he had actually beheld Jehovah. (John 4:24) Jehovah kindly refrains from revealing his form to human eyes. His power, magnificence and brilliance are so great that human eyes could not endure the sight. “No man may see me and yet live,” says Jehovah.—Ex. 33:20.
We can appreciate why God maintains his invisibility if we realize that it is more important to know the personality and qualities of a person than merely to view his appearance. For Jehovah wants his worshipers to worship him with spirit and truth. (John 4:23) Why should we demand that the great majestic God, the Spirit, bring himself into the range of our eyes to believe in him? It is not because of or by means of an image or the appearance of any form that Jehovah’s worshipers serve him. It is because they love righteousness, and because of his qualities of righteousness, love, wisdom and justice.
Accordingly, Jehovah reveals himself, his personality, through his word of truth and by pictorial representations. Some of these revelations, presented in vision to his prophets, seem at first to be strange and unintelligible, although they are awe-inspiring. But by considering the circumstances under which they were given, also by consulting other statements in the Bible, the understanding becomes clear. These prophetic visions mean much to the faith of Jehovah’s worshipers. They give a picture of the true God and his dealings far more effectively than would any image of his form.
One of the most outstanding of such visions was the one beheld by the prophet Ezekiel. At the time Ezekiel was one of the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. It was the fifth year since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken King Jehoiachin of Judah captive, along with princes and mighty, valiant men and craftsmen. It was near the close of the spring of 613 B.C.E.—Ezek. 1:1-3.
At that time Jehovah’s anger was against Jerusalem, situated about 500 miles to the west of Ezekiel’s location. God had shown mercy in letting the city remain when Nebuchadnezzar dethroned Jehoiachin and placed Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah (Mattaniah) on the throne, in 617 B.C.E. Despite this, the city continued its idolatrous, rebellious course against God, and looked to Egypt rather than to Jehovah for help. (2 Ki. 24:11, 14-20; Ezek. 17:15) Therefore, God gave warning to the Jews in Babylon, through Ezekiel, of Jerusalem’s coming destruction. He also comfortingly foretold the mercy he would express toward some of its citizens. At the same time he revealed a glimpse of his awe-inspiring majesty and his surpassingly fine qualities.
In view of the purpose Jehovah had in presenting the vision, namely, to show himself as directing destructive forces toward the city of Jerusalem, what better illustration could he have used than that of a great war chariot? Ezekiel, a priest, gave us a description of what he saw. He wrote:
“I began to see, and, look! there was a tempestuous wind coming from the north, a great cloud mass and quivering fire, and it had a brightness all around, and out of the midst of it there was something like the look of electrum [an alloy of gold and silver that glowed brilliantly when heated], out of the midst of the fire. And out of the midst of it there was the likeness of four living creatures, and this was how they looked: they had the likeness of earthling man. And each one had four faces, and each one of them four wings. And their feet were straight feet, and the sole of their feet was like the sole of the foot of a calf; and they were gleaming as with the glow of burnished copper. And there were the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides, and the four of them had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joining one to the other. They would not turn when they went; they would go each one straight forward.”—Ezek. 1:4-9.
Later Ezekiel had a second vision of the chariot of God in which he called the four living creatures “cherubs.” (Ezek. 10:1-22; 11:22) These mighty spirit persons, angels of great power, serve as attendants around God’s throne as well as at his “chariot.”—Ex. 25:18-22; 37:7-9; Rev. 4:6-9.
ATTRIBUTES OTHER GODS LACK
Each cherub had a man’s face to the fore and the hands of a man under its wings. Cherubs have the God-given quality of love as does man, whose forefather Adam was created in the image and likeness of God. (Gen. 1:26-28) The face of a lion (symbol of courageous justice) was on the right side of each cherub’s head. (Isa. 31:4; Rev. 5:5) Opposite, on the left side, was the face of a bull (power, strength [Job 39:9-11]). Thus justice was nicely represented as being supported or backed up by invincible power. The eagle’s face at the rear of the cherub’s head points to heavenly wisdom, which corresponds with the heavens in which the farsighted, high-flying eagle soars (the cherubs had four wings).—Job 39:27, 29.
Having a face looking in each direction, the cherubs could follow any one of the four faces. Whichever of the four qualities or attributes needed to be exercised in any given circumstance, the cherub would immediately follow the face representing that quality toward the objective. The cherubs’ speed was like lightning. These things Ezekiel saw in his vision. He reported:
“And they would go each one straight forward. To wherever the spirit would incline to go, they would go. They would not turn as they went. And as for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire. Something like the appearance of torches was moving back and forth between the living creatures, and the fire was bright, and out of the fire there was lightning going forth. And on the part of the living creatures there was a going forth and a returning as with the appearance of the lightning.”—Ezek. 1:12-14.
JEHOVAH’S WAR CHARIOT
Not only the cherubs, but also the chariot they accompanied could move in a marvelous way unknown to earthly vehicles. Ezekiel described the chariot’s wheels:
“As I kept seeing the living creatures, why, look! there was one wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, by the four faces of each. As for the appearance of the wheels and their structure, it was like the glow of chrysolite [a semiprecious stone]; and the four of them had one likeness. And their appearance and their structure were just as when a wheel proved to be in the midst of a wheel. When they went they would go on their four respective sides. They would not turn another way when they went. And as for their rims, they had such height that they caused fearfulness; and their rims were full of eyes all around the four of them. And when the living creatures went, the wheels would go beside them, and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels would be lifted up. Wherever the spirit inclined to go, they would go, the spirit inclining to go there; and the wheels themselves would be lifted up close alongside them, for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.”—Ezek. 1:15-20.
Just as the wheels of a four-wheeled vehicle are at its four corners, so was the case with this chariot. The wheels were alike in appearance and structure. Their height was so great that Ezekiel must have been dwarfed into insignificance by them, for he says: “they had such height that they caused fearfulness.” With such a circumference the wheels could cover a great distance with each revolution.
Indicating that the chariot did not move aimlessly, blindly, but with purpose and sureness, the wheels had eyes all around their rims, as if they could see where they were going. Each wheel had a wheel inside it, not a smaller wheel within the big wheel and in the same plane with it. Rather, it was a wheel of the same diameter and fitted into the base wheel crosswise, rim touching rim at right angles. In this way the chariot wheels could go instantly in any one of four directions, and, according to Ezekiel’s description, the chariot thus changed directions without any loss of momentum. It was indeed amazing.
This description of the chariot’s motion fits in with the statement that the wheels “would go on their four respective sides.” Accordingly, they could move just as did the cherubs, like lightning in any direction, according to the impelling force of the spirit of Almighty God. Another remarkable thing about this chariot was that it could rise into space as well as run along the ground, just as could the cherubs, by God’s spirit.
High as the wheels were, yet above them, on invisible support, was the platform-like floor of the chariot. Ezekiel describes it: “Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse like the sparkle of awesome ice, stretched out over their heads up above.” (Ezek. 1:22) This expanse, though solid, was translucent, like ice. It was awe-inspiring, in harmony with the dignity of the one who rode above the platform, directing the chariot’s movements.
A SOUND BETOKENING WAR
Since the four living creatures were not as gigantic as were the four wheels, the platform was far above their heads. Ezekiel says:
“And under the expanse their wings were straight, one to the other. Each one had two wings covering on this side and each one had two covering on that side their bodies. And I got to hear the sound of their wings, a sound like that of vast waters, like the sound of the Almighty One, when they went, the sound of a tumult, like the sound of an encampment. When they stood still, they would let their wings down.”—Ezek. 1:23, 24.
The wings of the cherubs in motion produced a fear-inspiring sound, like vast waters when they are agitated. This was because Jehovah’s chariot was not on a mission of peace, but on one of war. The sound was that of an encampment of armed soldiers. In ancient times the sound of an army preparing for battle, the clamor of men talking and shouting excitedly and the clash of war equipment, would indeed convince the listener that a battle was imminent.
However, the appearance to Ezekiel, though instilling a respectful, wholesome fear in the prophet, was not one of hostility toward him. God caused each cherub to face Ezekiel with the face representing love (the man’s face). To the faithful prophet Ezekiel, therefore, the vision was of peace and a revelation of the primary attributes of the incomparable God. It revealed Jehovah to be a God of justice who has almighty power at his disposal, yet who exercises it in divine wisdom and who reveals himself in love to his true worshipers. Certainly the God of such beauty of personality is no angry god of an eternal torment of hellfire, nor a grotesque three-headed trinitarian god, as Christendom’s religions would have their members believe.
Though Jehovah’s glory is so far greater than all other gods, and though his wisdom, power and glory cannot be fully fathomed by the human mind, God overcomes the limitations of his servants by revealing himself and his qualities in terms that they can understand.—Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 2:9-13, 16.
Consequently, the things of Ezekiel’s vision are not to be understood as literally existing in the form that Ezekiel saw them. They were symbolic. Scientists today use diagrams and illustrations easily grasped to explain the properties and motions of submicroscopic things such as atoms. Likewise, Jehovah the Superscientist reveals his principles and dealings through relatively simple pictures. Nevertheless, even these visionary moving pictures are thrilling and beautiful, on a level of grandeur far above that of the illustrations men use.
Yes, by studying Jehovah’s Word of truth and observing his dealings with his people, his long-suffering even with his enemies, and his purpose to give obedient mankind everlasting life we can come to appreciate his sterling attributes.
But exactly what was the mission of this chariot, and what do we learn by the vision’s description of the chariot’s rider? We will await forthcoming discussions of Ezekiel’s prophecy, which deals further with the aforementioned qualities of Jehovah, to see even greater revelations of his superiority over all other gods.