One of the interesting “appearances” of our Creator in the Hebrew Scriptures is as a “whirlwind”. There is a term that is commonly thought of in this way, the Hebrew word, “sa’arah”. It’s used when Elijah is taken up by Yahweh (2 Kings 2:11), and this is the word for the whirlwind out of which Yahweh speaks to Job (Job 38:1). It isn’t always the appearance of Yahweh, sometimes it is an actual storm.
Having said that, it is used in Ezekiel for the appearance of Yahweh to Ezekiel at the River Chebar:
As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.
Ezekiel 1:4 NASB
Ezekiel goes on to describe an inexplicable sight of the creatures about the throne of Yahweh. Still, all of that happens within this cloud or fiery whirlwind. Which reminded me of the appearance of Yahweh on Mount Sinai in Exodus:
So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
The same word, sa’arah, is not used in Exodus, but the imagery sure sounds similar. There are other visions of Yahweh which don’t involve the whirlwind, so why do some? I’m not sure, and conjecture at this point is probably not helpful. It most likely has to do with the particular people at that particular point in human history, and I don’t know enough detail about either.
Yet, I learn something of my Savior from these appearances. I learn things like these:
- He is willing to come to His people and be seen by them
- He is powerful, frighteningly so, possibly terrifyingly (yet, see Judges 13:21-23)
- He reveals Himself to His people in ways that communicate a message we need, at that point in time.
I could go on, but you probably get the idea. The vision of Elisha of the chariots of fire and horses of fire as Elijah is taken by the whirlwind, combined with the vision of Ezekiel of the creatures within the storming whirlwind makes me wonder. What would it be like to see that? What would such an appearance of my Creator be like to experience? Would I, like Ezekiel, be silenced for a week? Would I, like Isaiah, have the presence of mind to volunteer for my Savior’s purpose? Or would I blather on like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration? I suspect I’d blather.
My Creator has not shown up to speak with me like that. I haven’t seen Him enthroned with the four creatures around Him. I haven’t heard the loud thundering trumpet of His voice. I believe Hollywood cannot reproduce, or even come close, to what Elisha or Ezekiel saw, nor adequately depict the glory of my Creator showing up on Mount Sinai. I want to see it. I want to be so awed I collapse in a quivering heap on the ground, babbling in a fetal position for a week. Bring it on! Sigh, alas, it is not to be. And that’s okay, honestly.
The thing is, I can get so caught up in the physical sight that I miss the fact that I have Him with me all the time. It would be cool to see the whirlwind, don’t get me wrong. And I would be ecstatic to experience that (and, yes, terrified). Yet, my Savior dwells within me at every moment.
Therefore, when I am behaving, He is with me. And when I am misbehaving, He is with me. He is with me when I travel, when I am at home, and when I am somewhere else. If I would live that way all the time, I would be different. I would treat others differently, I would see this world differently, I would think differently. And, perhaps, living that way might make it more likely that I will see such a sight. Yet, even if it doesn’t, and I don’t, I will in heaven. Eventually, we will all of us see Him, in all His glory, and every knee will bow, and every will tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It will happen, eventually. So, in the meantime, how will I live today?