The Shout

Could it be, in the place where God dwells, in eternity where there is no time, that all these shouts are the same shout echoing out into eternity?

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? … On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:6-7 

In Job 38, God asks Job where he was when the cornerstone of the universe was laid to a shout of joy. The Cornerstone is later identified as Jesus Christ. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-20 

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6 

And the angels shouted for joy when this precious Cornerstone was laid. This shout of joy is one of those themes or threads that run all through the Bible.  

Jesus came to die with a shout. 

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 (NASB) 

 Jesus ascended back to heaven with a shout. 

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Psalm 47:5 

And he will come again with a shout. 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NASB) 

Jesus, himself, shouted out on the cross. 

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out (shouted) in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 

And you might wonder, why am I including this shout of agony and despair in the list of joyful and triumphant shouts? Because this shout is the whole reason for the joy. This shout is the whole reason we can sing and shout in victory and be overcome with joyous celebration. He died that we might live. He was rejected by his Father God that we might be eternally accepted as beloved children. This Cornerstone that was laid at the foundation of the universe, this “Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), he was God’s purpose and provision from the beginning. And looking ahead and seeing the redemption and salvation of the world, the heavens and the earth and the angels shouted the great shout of joy.  

Could it be – think about it – in the place where God dwells, in eternity where there is no time – could all these shouts be the same shout echoing out into eternity? The earth shouting for joy; the heavens shouting for joy. Even the mountains and trees shouting for joy?  

Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the LORD has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory. Isaiah 44:23 

The Psalms say, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!” (Psalm 66:1), and are we not also called to join in this joyful shout? Jesus says at his triumphant arrival in Jerusalem that if his disciples praising him are silent, “the stones will cry out.” Let us drown out the stones and the trees and even the angels with our joyful shouts! 

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1 

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy (be overcome, cry out, shout for joy, give a ringing cry). Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. Psalm 96:11-13  

But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Matthew 25:6 (NASB) 

Photo by Jack Bair

The Everlasting Lyrics

Jesus knew what he was singing, but did the disciples?

The priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the LORD, which King David had made for giving praise to the LORD—” for His lovingkindness is everlasting” … 2 Chronicles 7:6 (NASB)

1 Chronicles 16:39-41 records how David appointed worship leaders and established the way to give thanks to the Lord saying, “for his lovingkindness is everlasting.”  It appears that by the time of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple this phrase, His lovingkindness is everlasting (or His love endures forever), had become the standard for praise. Ezra 3:10-11 confirms that “according to the directions of King David of Israel” they were to play the musical instruments and praise God in this way.

The Psalms are full of this phrase. It is used 26 times just in Psalm 136. Wouldn’t you love to know how the music went? But even more important is to know why that phrase? What is so important about these lyrics – for his lovingkindness is everlasting?

Psalm 118, one of the great Messianic prophecies, foreshadowing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his death as the Passover lamb, uses this phrase five times. The Psalm declares that “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone,” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” But it also says this:

The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 118:27-29 (NASB)

What is this festival sacrifice mentioned here? It is the sacrificial lamb. Did you know that on major feast days, according to Jewish tradition, a set of Psalms were sung that are referred to as the Hallel? It includes Psalms 113-118 and 136. So, these words could have been among the last that Jesus and the disciples sang before they went to the Mount of Olives the night Jesus was arrested.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:20

The Greek word translated “hymn” here is humneo, which is the “singing of paschal hymns … Psalms 113 – 118 and 136, which the Jews called the ‘great Hallel.’”[i]

Jesus knew what he was singing when he sang “bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar,” but did the disciples? Did it, maybe, dawn on them later the everlasting meaning of those last words?

Give thanks (shoot arrows, extend your hands in reverent worship, confess the name of the Lord, praise, give thanks) to the Lord,

for He is good (gracious, joyful, kind, loving, precious, sweet);

For His lovingkindness (goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy, pity)

is everlasting (from the beginning of the world, perpetual, continuous, eternal, to the vanishing point). Psalm 118:29

I’m not sure David understood what he was singing. I don’t think the disciples did either at first. But this perpetual, continuous, gracious, loving, precious, sweet goodness, kindness, mercy of God has always existed. It was his plan from the beginning of the world, this sacrificial Lamb.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18-20

Let us join in the eternal song. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting!

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail, by Jules & Jenny on flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpguffogg/


[i] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

The Arm of the Lord

Isn’t this just like God? The last, first, the meek victorious, overcoming evil with good?

The Arm of the Lord

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” Exodus 6:6

A footnote in a book I am reading recommended a word study of the arm of the Lord. So, I decided to do it, and found some amazing hidden treasure.

The Hebrew word translated arm, as in “outstretched arm” and “arm of the Lord,” is zerowa or zeroa (זרוֹע). It is defined as the arm as stretched out, and figuratively, as force, help, mighty, power, strength.

Zeroa comes from zara which means to sow or scatter seed. Sowing seed was done by taking a handful of seed and scattering it with an outstretched arm. It is the same word as used in Psalms 126.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. Psalm 126:5 (NASB)[1]

God’s outstretched arm bringing deliverance, but also sowing the seed of life. This is wonderful in itself, but what really stunned me was the other meaning of zeroa. It also means the shoulder or foreleg of an animal sacrifice. This meaning is still used today for the sacrificed lamb in the Passover celebration. From Wikipedia:

“(Hebrew: זרוֹע) is a lamb shank bone or roast chicken wing or neck used on Passover and placed on the Seder plate. It symbolizes the korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice), a lamb that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, then roasted (70 CE) during the destruction of the Temple, the z’roa serves as a visual reminder of the Pesach sacrifice; in Ashkenazi and many Sephardi families, it is not eaten or handled during the Seder.”[2]

The Arm of the Lord, his might and saving power, is also the sacrifice lamb. Isn’t that just like God? The last, first, the meek victorious, overcoming evil with good?

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:1-2 (written between 701 BC and 681 BC)

This verse begins the famous chapter in Isaiah prophesying the Messiah. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows … Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows … he was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:3, 4, 7).

Who is this “message” referred to in Isaiah 53:1, and who is the “arm of the Lord”? Jesus, Messiah, is both the message (the Word become flesh) and the revealed Arm of the Lord (the sacrifice Lamb).

God’s arm, his strength, might, power, help, was revealed in a sacrificed lamb, submissive and obedient to death.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8

The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” Luke 22:7-8

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:7b

 

[1] All quotations from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeroa

Thank you to Ian Livesey for the photo of the lamb from Flickr.

Easter Saturday

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (conquered, prevailed, been victorious).” John 16:33 (NIV)

You probably already knew this, but I just realized that Jesus said this to his disciples at the last supper. After Judas had left to betray him.

Yet, Jesus said, “I HAVE overcome,” because from where God sits, there is no time. Jesus had already overcome, in fact he had overcome from the foundation of the world.

He [the Lamb who was slain] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18

Jesus knew what the disciples were going to experience in the next days and he wanted to give them something to cling to. He hoped they would remember his words in that dark day between the despair of the crucifixion, and the blazing light and joy of the resurrection. As Philip Yancey wrote, “It was no accident, I believe, that Jesus spoke his triumphant words, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD, even as Roman soldiers were buckling on weapons for his arrest.”

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. Let us rest and abide in the One who promises to always be with us. Let us be still and know that he is God. He has already overcome this dark world, and whether we live or die, our peace is in him, our ultimate home is with him. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“It is a good thing to remember, when we encounter dark, disturbing times, that we live out our days on Easter Saturday.”—Philip Yancey[i]

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

 

[i] Where is God When it Hurts?

 

The Face of the Lamb

The next day he [John] saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (NASB)

“Just watch the one who is approaching—not the Baptist there in the water but the one who is walking toward the Baptist along the edge of the water. Siehe, das ist Gottes Lamm. Nothing matters except him. See how the air stirs, bending the rushes in front of him. Watch his face as he picks his way along—nobody else’s face. His. Everything that matters is in his face. Everything that matters is in his hands. In his hands is the meaning and purpose of creation, the first voice says. In his hands is your life, the second voice says. Behold, he taketh away the sins of the world. Das ist Gottes Lamm.” –Fredrick Buechner

I love this quote by Buechner. “Everything that matters is in his face. Everything that matters is in his hands.“ It reminds me of this verse in Psalms:

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. Psalm 44:3[i]

I also love the German translation of John’s prophetic exclamation – Siehe, das ist Gottes Lamm! – See, this is God’s Lamb! Something happened that day as Jesus walked down the riverbank. John the Baptist had come as a forerunner to announce the coming of the Messiah. But, he hadn’t known who he was looking for until that day when Jesus, his familiar cousin, had come down to the river to be baptized.

John’s eyes were opened, and he received the revelation. See! It makes me wonder if maybe there was something different in Jesus’ face that day. Maybe Jesus had already set his face like flint to accomplish his suffering, his mission to take away the sin of the world. Or maybe, to John, Jesus’ face shone like Moses’ had when the veil was lifted. Or maybe the veil over John’s own mind and heart was lifted. Maybe all of those. Whatever it was John knew, “See, this is God’s Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world!”

God’s Lamb, or the Lamb of God refers to the ancient prophecy in Genesis 22:8 when Abraham assured Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Géza Vermes has written: “For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice, and especially the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering, was a memorial of the Akedah [the binding of Isaac] with its effects of deliverance, forgiveness of sin and messianic salvation.”[ii]

The Lamb of God who “takes away.” The Greek word is airó (αἴρω) and its definition tells the story of Jesus’ ministry and his death on the Cross.

to raise up, elevate, lift up

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. John 12:32

to draw up a fish

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

to take off or away what is attached to anything, to loose, remove

And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed (loosed) from your sickness.” Luke 13:12 (NASB)

to raise from the ground, to take up stones

“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. John 10:29-31 (NASB)

to take by force

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Luke 22:54

to take from among the living, either by a natural death, or by violence

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. Isaiah 53:8

to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24

to expiate sin

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

“See, this is God’s Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world!”

For God, who said,

“Let light shine out of darkness,”

made his light shine in our hearts

to give us the light

of the knowledge of the glory of God

in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

 

Image, detail from John the Baptist by Jack Baumgartner. Used by permission of the artist. See more at his blog here The School of the Transfer of Energy

 

[i] All Bible quotations from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

[ii] Géza Vermes. Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 1961.

Come For To Die

I loved Jesus, I really did, but it never sunk into my kid-brain, it never entered my mind to wonder why. Why was he born, why did he come?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky[i]

Looking back, I am always amazed that I went to church my whole life, I was in the choir and loved the old hymns, and I sang all the Christmas songs in the candle-light services. I heard the story about his birth, and about there being no room and the shepherds and wise men and angels. I stood transfixed before the pathos of the manger scene in the park across the street from the church – but I never really knew why Jesus came. I loved Jesus, I really did, but it never sunk into my kid-brain, it never entered my mind to wonder why. Why was he born, why did he come?

It wasn’t until I was 21 years old, and I heard a message about the blood of Jesus, that I finally understood.

How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I

Believe it or not, I had never got the message about the necessity and power of the Blood. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of all us “poor on’ry people.” The blood sacrifice, once and for all, for the sins of all the world that were ever committed, or ever would be. Prefigured in the Old Testament in the Passover in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over the house painted with the blood of the sacrificial lamb (Exodus 12:22-23). Prophesied in Isaiah 53 that He would carry our sins and pains and sicknesses to death.

From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins––that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. Isaiah 53:8-10 (NLT)

“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him.” That was the plan all along, and he knew it. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV) He didn’t come to be a good role model – though he was, the best. He came to set us free from the overwhelming burden of our guilt and sin, to reconcile us to the Father, to bring us home where we belong.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” Hebrews 10:4-7 (NLT)

Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord Jesus that you came for to die! Thank you that you came to be the offering for sin that I might be a child of God and heir to your Kingdom! I will forever be in wonder at the miracle of your amazing grace!

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, he was sent to the earth for all to see. And he did this for you. 1 Peter 1:18-20 (NLT)

[i] From I Wonder as I Wander, by John Jacob Niles

This blog is also available as a Bible study, free to use and distribute Come for to Die Bible Study

Image in the Public Domain

The Angels Bent Down

Of all the things that touch me in this painting, the thing that strikes me the most is the background. Can you see them? Millions of angel-wings crowded into the sky. Is that why the sky grew dark and the sun ceased to shine? Were millions and millions of heavenly beings and gone-before witnesses so crowded around, leaning down to see the completion of the triumph of the Son of God, the it-is-finished-forever salvation of the world that they shut out the sun? Did the rocks split and graves open at their cries of Hallelujah? Did the earth quake at the mighty Amen, as God ripped the veil in two and saluted his Son, “Well done!”?

 

Image in the public domain, The Lamentation of the Virgin, Rohan Master

The Ram

I just recently discovered an amazing, wonderful hidden treasure looking at this verse.

Blessed (adored, knelt down to, praised, thanked) be the Lord,

who daily, daily (perpetually, presently, continually, today, yesterday, tomorrow)

bears our burden (our heavy burden, carries our load),

The God (the powerful, strong, mighty God) who is our salvation (welfare, deliverance, victory, Yeshua!).

Selah (pause, lift up, exalt). Psalm 68:19

 

I just recently discovered an amazing, wonderful hidden treasure looking at this verse. The Hebrew word translated God is el (אֵ֣ל). And, according to Strong’s Concordance, el is a shortened form of ayil (אַיִל), which means strength, or anything strong, like a strong man, a pillar, or a mighty oak. But it primarily means, and is mostly used (156 times) to mean a ram, like a ram for the burnt offering. I had to selah, pause, a minute to let that sink in.

Ayil is the word used in Genesis 22 where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to test his faith. It is the word used for the ram that Abraham looks up and sees with its horns caught in the thicket, the ram provided by God to be a sacrifice in Isaac’s place, the ram that foreshadowed the Lamb of God who would carry all our sins and sorrows and pains and sicknesses – our heavy load – to the cross.

The one who still daily bears our burdens. The Hebrew word for daily is repeated for emphasis – he daily, daily, day after day, perpetually, presently, continually, today, yesterday and tomorrow bears our burdens as our Intercessor, Comforter, God With Us.

The strong one, the mighty one who willingly let himself be caught in the thicket to be our sacrifice. The One provided by God to be our salvation, welfare, deliverance, victory.

Yeshua.

Jesus.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” Genesis 22:13-14 (NIV) 

Blessed, adored, knelt down to, praised, and thanked be the Lord!

Selah

 

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail, by Jules & Jenny on flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpguffogg/

Mercy Seat

The ark was full of responses to doubt and fear and rebellion, but God covered it all over with His mercy.

Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover (Mercy Seat). Hebrews 9:3-5 (NIV)

In the heart of the Israelite’s Tent of Meeting, behind a veil in the room called the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, was a box covered with sheets of beaten gold which was called the Ark of the Covenant. Its lid, the Mercy Seat, was solid gold and depicted two angels in an attitude of worship. Inside the ark were three things:

1) a jar of manna, the “bread of heaven” or bread of angels which was given to the Israelites to eat in the desert

2) a dead wooden staff made from a branch of an almond tree which had come alive and produced flowers and almonds

3) the ten commandments written on stone tablets

I recently realized that all those things in the Ark were put there in a direct response to rebellion. The manna was given to the Israelites in response to their grumbling about having nothing to eat (Exodus 16: 3-4). God commanded Moses to put some in the ark as a reminder of His provision (Exodus 16:32).

Korah and company rebelled against Moses and Aaron as God’s chosen authority – “What right do you have to act as though you are greater than anyone else among all these people of the LORD?” they asked. Kind of like, “who made you the boss of me?” (Numbers 16:3). Aaron’s rod budded and produced fruit in direct response to the rebellion to confirm God’s choice, and God commanded Moses to include it in the ark as a sign (Numbers 17:1-10).

The stone tablets containing the ten commandments were the most important response, a life-preserver thrown out to all of us people flailing about trying to be our own god. His word is an anchor dropped into the world’s chaotic sea of sin and rebellion – an anchor that holds within the veil (Hebrews 6:19-20).

The ark was full of responses to doubt and fear and rebellion, but God covered it all over with His mercy and told Moses He would meet with him there.

“You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel. Exodus 25:21-22 (NASB)

The Mercy Seat is where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled as an atonement for sin of the people by the High Priest once a year. This foreshadowed the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the final sacrifice for the sin of the world. It also foreshadowed Jesus as High Priest offering his own blood one final time in the heavenly Temple (Hebrews 9:11-28).

I also have been realizing that all those things in the ark represented Jesus, the Savior who was to come. He is the manna, the Bread of Life (John 6:48-51). He is the chosen High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), the Branch (Isaiah 11:1) that was dead and came back to fruitful life. He is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). God knew from the beginning how things would go and had a plan for our redemption. God’s response to the sin and rebellion of the world was Mercy. His response was Jesus.

… and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26 (NIV)

The word translated “sacrifice of atonement” in the above verse means, in the Greek, both the atoning victim and the Mercy Seat itself. Jesus is our Mercy Seat. But, Jesus isn’t storing up all our sins – or even the reminders of our sin – in a box and covering them over with his blood. At the cross Jesus vanquished sin, he destroyed it, he wiped it out forever – we can be made just as if we had never done anything wrong. Yet we are still crabbing about what we want but don’t have to satisfy our cravings, arguing about who is the boss, who gets to make the rules. We have been doubters, grumblers, rebels from the beginning, but God is still waiting to meet us there, at the Mercy Seat. Come and meet him there.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB)

If you would like, you can learn more about the Mercy Seat here https://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_Mercy_Seat.htm

 

Photo replica of the Ark of the Covenant in the Royal Arch Room of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Photo by Ben Schumin on December 27, 2006

Look up and see

In Genesis 22:7-8 when Abraham is on his way to obey God in faith and sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering, Isaac asks his father, “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answers, “God himself will provide (ra’ah) the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” God does provide a ram, “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw (ra’ah) a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide (ra’ah), or Jehovah Jireh. And to this day it is said, “’On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided (ra’ah).’” (Genesis 22:13-14).

The word translated both “saw” and “provide” in this verse is the same Hebrew word, ra’ah (רָאָה) which means:

to see, perceive, observe, consider, look at, give attention to, discern, gaze at, appear, present oneself, cause to see, show, cause to look intently at, behold, cause to gaze at, to be caused to see, be shown, be exhibited, to look at each other, face

God sees what’s going on, he is giving attention to it. Some people think it is like he is going to “see to it.” He is gazing at and sees the answer to the problem right now. He is going to cause us to see, behold, the answer too, as he caused Abraham to see the ram caught in the thicket. And he has been seeing the answer to all our problems from the beginning of time. The mountain, Moriah, where this all took place, and where “on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” is the same mount where Solomon built the first temple (2 Chronicles 3:1) and where the second temple was rebuilt (Ezra 5:13). God saw it all, from beginning to end, and provided the answer there on mount Moriah when Jesus came to offer himself up as the Passover Lamb. He let himself be caught like the ram in the thicket; he let himself be sacrificed.

At the temple Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus and he was prophesied over (Luke 2:22-32); “my eyes have seen your Salvation” (2:30). At the temple Jesus taught daily, demonstrating his power and authority and allowing the children to call him the Son of David or Messiah (Matthew 21:14). In the temple the veil dividing God from the people was torn in two from top to bottom as Jesus died, providing the way for reconciliation to God (Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45, Matt. 27:51). The sacrifice for our sins, providing reconciliation with God, was provided. And if we look up we will see it, and we will be able to look at God face to face.

For some reason this knowing that God sees, that he’s got it all under control, he’s planned and known the answer from the beginning of time – this has boosted my faith way more than just knowing that he is my provider, though that is a wonderful and awesome fact. I know I can trust in him, I can lean back on him, he’s got my back, he’s got it all figured out.

But you, O God, do see (ra’ah) trouble (misery, pain) and grief (vexation, frustration, anger); you consider it to take it in hand. The victim (or unfortunate one, poor) commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14 NIV)

 

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail, by Jules & Jenny on flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpguffogg/