• Joel

The Anointed Cherub that Covereth

[Below are the notes to Joel's message tonight on the Anointed Cherub that Covereth as part of his new series on Angelology. Enjoy!]

Turn to Ezekiel 28:11-19

This section is yet another example of how brilliant God’s Word is. Exek. 28 is a chapter with parallel stories. This chapter is in the context of broader prophecies about the downfall of a variety Gentile nations after Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem. We’re about to look at the downfall of the Prince of Tyre, whose fall is so similar to the fall of Lucifer that the Lord makes parallels here. Not only that, everything the Lord says about Satan is from the perspective of final judgment while looking back over Satan's whole career when so much of his career is still future but written about as if it were past. Only God can do that. On top of all this, God doesn’t even talk about Satan in a spirit of anger or righteous indignation. All of this is given as a lamentation. He’s sad about the fall of Lucifer. He’s sad that the Prince of Tyre fell into the same error as Lucifer.

Eze 28:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Eze 28:12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Eze 28:13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Eze 28:14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Eze 28:15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Eze 28:16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Eze 28:17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Eze 28:18 Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. Eze 28:19 All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.

First, let’s talk about the Prince of Tyrus. Tyrus means “rock.” “Tyrus” is synonymous with “Tyre,” which, in the Hebrew is pronounced tsor, which means rock. That’s what Tyre was - a giant rock of an island with this huge seemingly impenetrable wall around it. This rock of an island was off the coast of north Israel (now Lebanon), officially part of the promised land, originally assigned to the tribe of Asher by Joshua. But later Tyre became its own independent government. They were never brought back into the fold of Israel, and basically treated like an ally. The Bible talks about how Tyre delivered Cedar to David for the new temple. They also delivered men and supplies to help Solomon construct the temple. Both Joshua and Samuel called Tyrus a “strong city.” Isaiah called it a “crowning city,” “whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth” (Isa. 23:8). Chapter 27 lists how Syria, Persia, Egypt, and every quarter of the ancient world laid their choicest and most precious resources at the feet of the Prince of Tyre.

And this prince sat on a throne of ivory, covered with blue and purple. The fact that he was covered in royal purple is all the Bible need say to illustrate how wealthy he was, because purple was the most expensive dye. Do you know how they got the purple dye? These very particular murex snails. And they’d get the dye from the snails’ hypobranchial glands, which was unbelievably laborious. You’d get less of a gram of dye per snail, which is why it was so expensive. So it’d take hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of snails in order for this prince to be arrayed in true royal purple, which tells us that he was one of the wealthiest men on the planet at the time. Also we’d find in chapter 27, the Prince of Tyre was quoted as saying “I am of perfect beauty” because he had it all. He was a handsome devil, unbelievably wealthy, and wise in the ways of the world. The Prince of Tyre would eventually declare himself to be a god, which brought about this prophecy of doom.

Now this rock island of Tyre would be brought down by Nebuchadnezzar after 13-years. Nebuchadnezzar attacked that island for 13 straight years until it finally fell. Can you imagine? 13 years to bring down this one little rock of an island! Which goes to show how well-fortified it was.

But this prophecy in Ezek. 28 didn’t have anything to do with its downfall at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. This prophecy was about its downfall after it’d rise again to power. After its downfall at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, for 70 years, Tyre was forgotten. Then she revived again. She became even more powerful and even more wicked than before. Isaiah would write, “she committed fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth” (Isa. 23:17). The prophecy about Tyre’s destruction in Ezekiel wasn’t about Nebuchadnezzar but about Alexander the Great. When he came along, Jerusalem just rolled over, but Tyre put up a fight and lost after 7 months of battle. Then Alexander took the rubble of the city and built a causeway to the mainland, and this was actually prophesied in Ezek 26:12. It said, “They shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.” Which makes me think of the open theism debate. If God can’t know the future, then how was He able to predict that Tyre would rise again and the new conquerors would use the rubble to create a causeway? In one documentary I saw about Alexander the Great, after he conquered Tyre, men pointed out to him that what he did was prophesied in Ezekiel and he loved having those verses read to him. Over the years, they built up the land around the causeway so that now it’s no longer an island. It’s like a peninsula attached to the mainland. It’s now the 4th largest city in Lebanon.

Jesus once went to the coast of Tyre. It was there that he healed the daughter of the Syrophenician woman after He told her, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt 15) In Acts 21, when the people of Tyre went to Herod and declared his words to be the voice of a god and not of man, an angel of the Lord killed Herod because he gave not God the glory. Later in Acts 21, Paul docked at Tyre and when the disciples told him he should not go to Jerusalem, he left to another city.

But the phrase in vs. 12, “King of Tyrus,” is interesting. Tyre was ruled by a prince, not a king. So the “King of Tyrus” is a spiritual reference to Satan himself, the supreme ruler of Tyre. Why? Because he was the great energizing force behind all the corruption! Also, the downfall of the prince and region of Tyre closely parallels the downfall of Satan. So the Lord uses this opportunity to make a judgment upon both the physical and the spiritual leader of Tyre. In a tone of lamentation, in the context of the fall of Tyre, the Lord talks about the fall of Lucifer, how perfectly he was created, how privileged he was, how beautiful he was, how powerful he was, and how he was full of wisdom. Lucifer was a perfect fulfilment of God’s intention. Lucifer, like all angels and the humans who were made a little lower than the angels, are all free moral agents, free-willed, independent in thought, yet dependent upon God for life. Stam wrote, “The original fall of Satan may well be what our Lord referred to in Luke 10:18, when He said: ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.’ Certain it is that Satan is presented in Scripture as a fallen being, not one who was created evil. Indeed, if Satan was created an evil being, how could there be any justice in his ‘judgment’ (John 16:11) or in our Lord's ‘triumphing over’ him and his hosts at Calvary? (Col. 2:15).” Some might think, “Wait a minute. Didn’t God say He created evil in Isaiah 45:7? In that context, He’s talking about judgment. In time past, in the OT economy for the nation of Israel in a covenant relationship with God, God brought about evil upon the people as the inevitable consequence of idolatry.

We have in vs. 14 the declaration that Eze 28:14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth… He was, and still is, a cherubim, the highest class of angels, which we’ll cover in greater detail next week. He was, and still is, the anointed cherub that covereth. It’s interesting that the Lord says Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth, present tense. There is only one anointed cherub that covereth and Satan is still the anointed cherub that covereth. Why? How can this be? Didn’t Satan lose his title and his position when he rebelled against God? The Lord says in that same verse, thou wast upon the holy mountain of God, past tense. He was upon the holy mountain of God, but he still isthe anointed cherub that covereth. Lucifer never lost his title. Lucifer was never replaced. Why? There were a couple of different views on this. One was that Lucifer was not just over Heaven but Earth, too. Satan walked the holy mountain of God as one who owned it just as Satan walked the earth as one who owned it. So he was, and still is, the anointed cherub that covereth, because he is still in authority over the earth, albeit as the prince ofthe power of the air. That may be. I love that thought. Early on in my studies, I had just taken the approach that Satan is still what God created him to be even though he’s fallen. Just as we’re fallen as man, we were created in the image and likeness of God, yet we’re still man. So too, Satan is fallen as an angel, yet, he is still what God created him to be – the one and only anointed cherub that had been designated to be a covering. I have to mention, too, that in Jude 8-10, when Michael when was contending with Satan over the body of Moses, you can’t help but be amazed that Michael, THE ARCHANGEL, was hesitant to bring a railing accusation against Satan, perhaps intimidated, so he merely quoted the Lord’s simple rebuke, and Satan backed off. Satan is still and may always be the anointed cherub that covereth because that’s how God created him, and also, perhaps, because he’s still over the Earth.

Here’s a question. What did it mean that he was the anointed cherub that covereth? What does the idea of a covering have to do with his position? Some suggested covering in the sense of protection. And I’m like, “Protection from what exactly? Satan is the adversary, but he hadn’t fallen yet.” We often think of covering in the sense of a substitutionary atonement. Remember how in Romans 4, Paul quotes Psalms 32 in which David sings of the blessedness of the man to whom is imputed righteousness without works. The Psalm opens with “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” Lucifer couldn’t have been a covering in that sense. There was no sin yet. Was it a covering in the sense that he was physically stationed over the Lord’s head? Impossible. Nothing is above God, and the verses tell us that Lucifer was physically lower than the throne because walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire on the holy mountain of God. There was also another verse I came across. Psa 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. In fact, there are quite few verses in the OT describing the Lord as dwelling between the Cherubims. Dan pointed out in a podcast that this was His Shekinah glory over the Ark of the Covenant between the Cherubims, which is an earthly shadow of a heavenly reality. The point is - there is nothing above the Lord. He dwells between the cherubims. Some suggested he was a covering in the sense of Lucifer having this glorious, exulted position over all the other innumerable company of angels. He was a covering because he was the guardian angel of all the angels.

But I would suggest that we consider all the ways in which the Cherubims were portrayed as coverings in the OT, coverings over the Ark of the Covenant and in the tabernacle, because those were all shadows of everything in Heaven. In the tabernacle, portrayals of the Cherubims adorned the walls of the Holiest of Holies, the innermost sanctuary in the temple where God was pleased to dwell amongst His people in His Shekinah glory. You also had Cherubims adorning the veil covering the entrance to the Holiest of Holies. You might also remember how the Lord told Moses when he was to build the Ark of the Covenant, in Exo 25:20 And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. Their faces were downward toward the mercy seat in observance of every sacrifice while their eyes were always upon Christ who dwelt between them. The writer of Hebrews, talking about the Ark wrote, Heb 9:5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly (Thanks so much, Mr. Writer of Hebrews. That’s so helpful.). But see, the Cherubims are a covering because they overshadowed the mercy seat, which involved substitutionary atonement.

Is it possible that the mercy seat existed in Heaven before man ever fell into sin? Why not? God had thought everything through to such a degree that He had already planned to implement this age of grace before the world was created! So why wouldn’t the mercy seat already exist? And what was the function of the Cherubims exactly in Heaven? God doesn’t tell us. We’ll find out when we get there. We can only view the Cherubims in terms of how God used the Cherubims to teach us, which may speak to why they exist to begin with – to teach us. There was a point to having them over the Ark and in the Holiest of Holies. How do you create something visual that symbolizes God’s power and glory to place atop the Ark and inside the temple, which is something that cannot be visualized physically? God chose Cherubims for that purpose, so that Israel could have these visual symbols that would repeatedly impress upon them the might and power of God in His heavenly host. They also impress upon all of us the supreme dominion of God in the incomprehensible power of His elite angels, who may have been designed to be a representation of the might and power of His entire innumerable company of angels.

One book made the point that if you really study the Cherubims, no two Cherubims look alike, which may have been by design to represent the fact that there are innumerable designs and classes of angels just as there are innumerable angels themselves. The visuals of the Cherubims also, I think, were designed to impress upon us the sheer magnitude of God’s glory, the pureness of His holiness, the perfect righteousness in all His ways in His sovereign authority, and the assurance to Israel that even beyond God’s witness, there are witnesses both on Earth and in Heaven of every transaction that took place upon that mercy seat, never to be forgotten. The Cherubims, we know, continually worship God. We talked last week how the Lord said in vs. 13 the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Lucifer was in charge of music. God created in him the ability to make musical instruments, and they continually worship Him, which was designed to continually demonstrates to us His worthiness to be continually worshipped.

Back to Ex. 28. I also find the holy mountain of God fascinating. The Lord says in vs. 14 thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. The “holy mountain” seems to the center of God’s power, His government, and His eternal throne. David wrote in Psa. 48:1, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.” I suspect that mountain is still there as are all those stones of fire. Dispensations may change, but that doesn’t mean the geography of Heaven changes. And we’re told Lucifer walked up and down that holy mountain. Why? Because of his exalted position over that mountain, just as Satan told the Lord in Job 1:7 that he had been “going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Satan walked the holy mountain of God as one who owned it just as Satan walked earth as one who owned it. So when God told Abram to walk around and survey the promised land of Canaan, he was essentially mimicking the way Satan walked in Heaven and on the earth as one who possessed it, but in this case it was God signaling to Satan that he was taking possession of this land for His own use to wage an epic warfare.

And what are we to make of the stones of fire? I don’t think this is some arbitrary detail about how God likes to decorate His holy mountain. There has to be meaning here, and no one has ever really tried to explain the stones of fire. So I’ll take a stab at it. I think the stones of fire were designed to be a warning to all the angels. Lucifer was covered with all these precious stones, but he walked by the stones of fire. Why does the Lord point this out? Because I suspect that those stones of fire were representations of the supreme sovereignty of God Himself. I’m reminded of what Paul said in 1 Cor. 10:4 when he wrote about the Jews in the wilderness. 1Co 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. And then, of course, fire is representative of judgment, and the writer of Hebrews said, Heb_12:29For our God is a consuming fire. So we have in the stones of fire symbolic reminders that God is not only unchangeable but also immovable from His authority and sovereignty, and the fire was a warning of judgment to come to any angel who would dare challenge Him. And you might remember how the Lord said of Satan in vs. Ezek. 28:12 that he was full of wisdom. He knew exactly what those stones of fire meant. And yet, he chose to rebel anyway. And I suspect that this is why God chose to highlight the fact that he walked by the stones of fire because the stones of fire stood as a warning to any angel who might choose to rebel against Him. Satan knew what those stones of fire meant, and he chose to rebel anyway. Just as Adam was warned of the consequence of his actions if he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so too, Satan was warned of the consequence of his actions if he tried to usurp God’s throne. And he was warned every time he walked by those stones of fire. The Lord said, I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Satan’s downfall put him on a path from the stones of fire to the lake of fire. In fact, Satan’s fall is fourfold. First, he was cast out of the third heaven. Next, in the middle of the tribulation, he will be cast down to earth. Then, he will be cast into the pit of the abyss for a thousand years, and finally cast into the lake of fire.

But perhaps the most interesting verses to me was Eze 28:17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness... It goes without saying that what we have here is how Lucifer as a free-willed, independent agent, internalized his own vanity. His heart was lifted up because of thy beauty. Angels have thinking hearts like we do. His vanity was as much a corruption of the mind as it was his heart. His own corruption worked from the outside in. It began with his eyes being dazzled by his own beauty and the outward luster of the glory God had given him. Then he began to lie to himself about his own greatness. And his heart, as a result, was lifted up in pride.

Interesting, too, that the same process by which Lucifer was corrupted is the same process by which he tries to corrupt all of us – from the outside in through the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In vs. 15, the Lord said, Eze 28:15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. And the iniquity in him came when he willfully allowed his mind to drift toward thoughts of vanity, self-glory, all of which was self-deception, Satan believing his own lies to himself about himself, and then his heart, which operates so closely with the mind, as it does with us, his heart became lifted up in pride. The Lord said, “thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness”. Lucifer alone was responsible for the corruption within himself of all the wisdom God had given him.

Hal pointed out on Monday’s podcast, 1Co 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Anyone who glories about himself – who do you think you are? What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Everything you are, everything you have in Christ, is given to you by God. What Paul tells the Corinthians about the pointlessness of pride and self-glorying is the same point that could’ve been made to Lucifer. Why would you glory about yourself as if you hadn’t received everything from God Himself? And so Lucifer in this narrative of Ezek. 28, had twisted the brightness of his own glory into an excuse to glorify himself in his own mind, to reason within himself that he was greater than he was. He believed his own lies, and then began to covet to have more than what he was already given.

We’ve discussed how in 2 Tim. 3, the excessive love of self today leads individuals to become covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, etc., and all of that is perfectly embodied in the fall of the anointed cherub that covereth. Self-deception marches lockstep with pride in every mind. Then that pride and vanity become motives to covet, to sin, and to rebel against God. John 8:44 spoke of how Satan “abode not in the truth.” He made a willful choice in his mind and in his heart to refuse to abide in the truth to glorify himself. And just like the Prince of Tyre, Lucifer needed to see himself as a servant to those he was over and subject to God rather than superior to those he was over and subject only to his vanity. We also find that Lucifer, like Adam, in his uncorrupted state was perfectly capable of choosing right from wrong, because Lucifer and Adam both knew there’d be consequences for choosing a path of rebellion against God. And they chose to sin because they coveted more than what God had given them.

What is said here about the Prince of Tyre isn’t just a parallel to Satan’s fall but it’s also a message to Satan himself who was the corrupting influence that brought about the pride whereby the Prince would exalt himself above God, making himself a type of Satan and the antichrist, which brought about his own doom. The Lord said, I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold theeAll they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.

Isa 14:12-17

Isa 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! Isa 14:13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Isa 14:15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isa 14:16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; Isa 14:17That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?

The context in this section is the fall of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, the great enemy and oppressor of God's people, “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters,” “with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” Babylon is also described in Rev 17 as a woman sitting “upon a scarlet coloured beast,” “arrayed in purple and scarlet,” “having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication,” and who like Lucifer, Belshazzar, and the Prince