Photo Credit: Smithsonian American
Let’s begin by looking again at Spurgeon’s text from Ezekiel 1: 15-19 (as quoted in the ESV):
"Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose."
Spurgeon’s first point is that God’s Providence is compared to a wheel. He tells us that this is not the only place that the comparison of God’s providence to that of a wheel was used. Apparently in the ancient classics, the Romans and the Greeks both regularly spoke of God’s wondrous works in Providence to that of a wheel. Quoting Spurgeon,
The story goes, that a certain king being taken prisoner, was bound in chains, and dragged along at the chariot wheels of his conqueror. As he went along, he kept looking at the wheel, and shedding tears – looking at the wheel again, and lifting up his eyes and smiling. The conqueror turned and said, “Wherefore art thou looking at that wheel?” He said, “I was thinking, such is the lot of man; just now I was here; now I am there; but soon I may be here again at the top of the wheel, and thou mayest be grinding the dust.”
Is the wheel a figure of divine Providence as Spurgeon suggests? Is being at the top of the wheel one moment and then back at the bottom another moment an illustration of God’s Providence? Can that be a picture of God’s providential care in our lives? Perhaps it is.
I am sure I can speak for many of us in saying that there have been times when we’ve been down and out to such a degree that we wonder where the next meal is coming from. As the wheel of life turns, we find ourselves in situations where we are a little better off. The budget suddenly allows for a steak dinner or two. Our cup, as it were, overflows with God’s blessings. Then after a while, affliction seems to find its way back into our lives again. It might be in the form of an illness or job loss. Finally, after a season of this, the wheel of life elevates us once again.
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” If one sin were greater than another, perhaps the sin of pride would rank somewhere near the top of the list. And it is precisely there that many of us regularly wrestle. Pride also illustrates the great truth of Ezekiel’s wheel. We may be at the top of our game at the moment, but pride will have us eating dust once again real soon. Please understand, I am not saying that all falls in life are pride related, but it does illustrate a point. Do we think we’re strong? Do we see ourselves as great or rich? Remember, friends, life tends to be a wheel and we may yet be brought low again.
The converse is also true. Are you depressed and downcast today? Are you weeping because of your difficult position in life? The same wheel that carries one man down to where you are now will also lift you up to where he has been. Experience is never a stable and constant thing; it is always changing and always turning. The fly that is sitting now comfortably on top of the wheel may be crushed by the next revolution. The same crowd that called out “Hosanna” (Mt. 21: 9) while on top of the wheel soon also cried out “Crucify Him” (Mt. 27:22) when they found themselves on the bottom of the same wheel. Spurgeon says, “Such is the state of man. Providence is like a wheel.”
All is not, however, gloom and doom. Spurgeon reminds us that, “there is one portion that never turns round, that stands steadfast; and that is the axle.” God’s Providence provides us with an axle that never moves. Our circumstances in life may be ever changing, rolling here and there as on a wheel. Sometimes we feel like we’re on a mountaintop with God; other times we feel like we’re drowning in a flooding valley. Life can be a real rollercoaster. Feelings, however, can be deceptive. The axle that is constant and never changing is the axle of God’s love towards His people. Though the place where the rubber of God’s Providence wheel meets the road of life is ever changing, the axle of His love has not changed, nor will it change. The world moves on, but God’s love does not. Rain today is followed by sunshine tomorrow, yet both are blessings of God. That is why the Providence of God can be compared to a wheel. Spurgeon writes further:
You observe when the wheel moves very rapidly you can discern nothing but the circumference – nothing but the exterior circle. So, if you look back to history, and read the story of a thousand years, you just set the wheel of Providence revolving rapidly; you lose sight of all the little things that are within the circle; you see only one great thing, and that is, that God is working through the world his everlasting purposes.
We can see the evidence of this, for example, when we look at only small pieces of the Scriptures or small pieces of any history textbook. When we do so, how many times don’t different events seem rather out of place? If we look at only small pieces of a puzzle one by one, it’s virtually impossible to see the bigger picture. A pile of small pieces looks little more than a mess. So too our lives, if we look only at the little pieces, can often appear little more than some twisted cosmic mistake or cruel joke. However, put the pieces together and look at the bigger picture, and suddenly our perspective changes and everything begins to look a little differently.
I suspect that God doesn’t worry about the little pieces like we do. Yes, He notices them, but I believe that He looks more at the finished bigger picture and sees the beautiful artwork of our lives. We don’t tend to see that because we are focused more on the little details of our lives and our location on the revolution of the wheel.
It’s hard to see where God is when disaster strikes. It’s hard to see God in the midst of the genocide of abortion and third world wholesale slaughter by militant extremists. Where is God in war and famine? Where is God in the unemployment line and in the bank’s foreclosure of our home? Where is God when we hurt and when our whole world seems like it’s spinning out of control? We may not see Him, but He is there, steady as an axle while the wheel of life continues to constantly turn placing us in various degrees of highs and lows.
Could it be that if we look at our lives, not with the troubles of today, but back at the bigger picture of the past forty or so years, could it be that instead of lamenting and mourning, we actually bless God for His mercies towards us? What does the picture look like if we counted mercies instead of woes? What does the bigger picture look like with all the puzzle pieces in place? When we look at life that way, can we begin to see God’s Providence? Hasn’t it been there all along? The Providence of God, says Spurgeon, is first compared to a wheel.
Spurgeon says, “Let the wheel go round, and you will see nothing but a ring of everlasting wisdom revolving.”