As for the wheels, it was cried to them in my hearing, O wheel.
I take this figure to refer to Divine providence — the actual dealings of the Creator with His creatures; so various, so complicated, and yet so harmonious after all.
I. THE CHANGES IN GOD'S PROVIDENCE. The chariot that we see here is not of the old rude type, not a mere sledge drawn roughly and heavily along the ground; but something more ingenious and more elaborate. It has its wheels — that beautiful kind of mechanism, which none of the most recent improvements in locomotion have been able to supersede; the wheel, with its many spokes and perfect circle, ever revolving and revolving. Many of us can recollect the time when, as children, our minds first caught the idea of the motion of a wheel; the higher part becoming the lower, the spokes that were upward becoming reversed and pointing downward, whilst from beneath other spokes were ever rising to the top; and so, nothing continuing at one stage — nothing to be seen but change, change, perpetual change. And now, no longer children, we see it all in providence; and, seeing it, look up and cry, "O wheel!"
1. We see it in social life.
(1) Look into the house. "One generation is passing away, and another generation coming." "Instead of the fathers are the children."(2) Look on the Exchange. Old long-established houses are sinking, are disappearing, and younger firms are taking their place.
(3) Look into the Churches. Where are the old preachers that used to move all hearts? and who are these younger men that have risen to so much influence?
2. We see it in national experience. See what our Father is doing in the earth, what changes — what mighty changes — He is working on every hand. This is no new aspect of His dealings. There was a time when on the spokes of the wheel were written the names of Babylon and Persia, of Greece and Rome. And then the wheel turned round: and each in succession rose to the summit — and was humbled to the dust. Has it not been the same story ever since? and is it not the same story now? It matters not what political opinions you may hold. As you watch the rise and fall of nations, parties, and opinions on the wheel of Divine providence, you are constrained to cry, "O wheel!"
3. We see it in the history of the professing Church. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea — these are the names of seven famous Churches: Churches to which Christ Himself dictated sacred letters, and which stood high and conspicuous in the religious history of the world. Where are they now? The wheel has turned! They are sunk down into the mire, and lie buried there! So too with the Churches to which Paul wrote. Where are Corinth, Galatia, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica? The mosque rises where once stood the Christian sanctuary, and the Crescent has displaced the Cross. But you say, The Church of Rome still stands. It does! But is this the Church to which Paul wrote? So you may go through the professing Churches of every name — at home and abroad — near or far, and you will find nothing uniform or stationary: only change upon change — increase and decrease — advance and decline until you stand amazed and bewildered, and can only cry, "O wheel!"
II. PROGRESS IN THE MIDST OF ALL THESE CHANGES. The wheel the prophet saw was not like the wheel we may see in fireworks, — one which revolves round the axle, leaving the axle motionless; it was the wheel of a chariot — one which carries the axle with it, and bears the chariot on with each revolution. And there is something in this view very cheering in the truth it suggests: that in the midst of so many changes of God's providence a real progress is taking place. Bear in mind — the progress of the chariot is independent of the position of the separate spokes. Some of them may be rising, some falling; but each moment the chariot goes on. Nay, some of them may be actually moving backwards — but still the chariot goes forwards. Just so, all the changes in God's providence — even those that look like changes in the wrong direction — are helping on the progress after all.
1. In what sense is this to be understood? In what forward movement are these changes bearing a part? I answer, in the accomplishment of the purposes of God. The world is to be converted to God. "All the ends of the earth shall remember," "I, if I be lifted up," etc. The Church is to be complete in members, purity, and bliss. We read of "a multitude that none can number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues." We read of saints "without spot or blemish," and these are "presented faultless," etc. The Redeemer is to have a large and abundant reward. "He shall see of the travail," etc.
2. In what way can this progress come to pass? How can changes so disastrous help forward the accomplishment of purposes so delightful? We have to do with One who is "wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." There may be lions in the path — but He slays the lions, "and out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong, sweetness." There may be passions in man's heart worse than beasts of prey, — but He so controls their working that in the end "the wrath of man shall praise Him." "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?"
(F. Tucker, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel.