Tag Archives: Propitiation

I Cried Aloud

Meditations on the Psalms

I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:4 ESV)

Trust is an emotional response to a promise given by One fully capable of delivering upon that promise. In a world filled with people corrupted by sin, only God is trustworthy. It is to the only trustworthy God Jesus cries out, fully expecting an eternal, righteous, good and true answer.

To cryis to call out, to utter a loud sound, to proclaim, summon and invite. Thus, He cries out to God because He is surrounded by those who are trying to murder Him. All His adversaries consider Him incapable of ruling them and refuse to obey His commands. Instead, they conspire to kill Him, removing Him from authority over them, so they might rule themselves. His cry is for help from the One who has given Him dominion and ownership over the world and all it contains.

He who cries out expects an answer, knowing God hears and responds. Jesus is the only righteous One who lives, the blessed Man (Psalm 1:1). He acts and speaks with God’s full authority, being King over His kingdom. Jesus is God in the flesh and knows God will respond. God does answer, and His answer is eternal, fixed and finished.

Yet, the circumstances under which Jesus cries out to God look hopeless, final, showing a conclusion which seems to defeat the purposes of God. Even in the darkness, God is in control, working all things out according to His purpose and for His glory.

Jesus is on the cross, reviled and mocked by everyone. Then, darkness covers the face of the world as it appears God turns His back on His Son.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matthew 27:45-46 ESV; see Mark 15:34).

Jesus hangs helplessly on the cross, appearing to all as forsaken by God. Upon His bleeding, hyperextended shoulders, with arms stretched out, the weight of His body borne on the nails in his arms and feet, God places the sentence of death due to all because all people sinned.

Jesus became the propitiation for sin. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 ESV). Paul uses the same word. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith”(Romans 3:22-25 ESV). The word translated propitiationin the New Testament means mercy seatin the Hebrew Scriptures (see Exodus 25:17-22, Hebrews 9:5). It was upon the mercy seat, the covering of the Ark of the Covenant, the priest poured out blood once a year to atone for the sins of the people. The blood poured out would cover the broken Law, the Ten Commandments, from God’s sight. Jesus, the Mercy Seat, poured out His own blood for the sins of the people. His blood covers those who are His. For those who are God’s, He no longer sees their sin but the blood of His Son.

Jesus knew why God turned His back on Him. There was no other way to bring sinful, rebellious people back into His eternal presence other than someone fulfilling His demand for justice. Because of sin, someone had to die both a physical and a spiritual death, as demanded by God in the Garden.

God answers Jesus from eternity, His dwelling place. When Jesus died He “cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit”(Matthew 27:50 ESV; see Mark 15:37). Luke tells us His cry. “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last”(Luke 23:46 ESV). He intimately knew God, trusting Him to fulfill the purpose for which He was sent into the world. Jesus died, knowing death could not keep Him.

Jesus told His disciple beforehand all that would happen, including His death and resurrection. Nothing happened which was not ordained and decreed by God from eternity. Nothing can hinder the will of God.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.(Hebrews 5:7 ESV)

We cannot ignore the anguish and suffering Jesus endured, both physically and emotionally, while in this world. His crucifixion and death is His passion, a Latin word, passionem, which means a short period of suffering and enduring. Jesus endured intense suffering. During His ministry, His suffering was emotional. During His passion, His suffering was physical, compounded by the emotional. He suffered for us. God answered His prayer given for us.

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God’s Mercy Seat

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. … And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. … Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. … toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. (Exodus 25:17-21 ESV]

The term “mercy seat” is best understood using the word “propitiate” which currently means conciliation. The actual Hebrew word means “lid” or “covering.” Yet, this particular lid does more than keep the contents of a box secure. Part of the lid was the cherub with outstretched wings and faces looking down at the lid, at the contents of the ark under the lid. It is from between the cherub God spoke to Moses. “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel” [Exodus 25:22 ESV].

Under the mercy seat, contained within the chest, were three things placed within at God’s command over a short period of time. First were the second set of stone tablets upon which were the Ten Commandments written by God. Moses threw down and broke the first copy on the trail into camp when he heard the people of God partying and realized their sin and decadence, their rebellion against Him and God. Also within the Ark was a jar of manna (Exodus 16:33-34), never spoiling, and Aaron’s rod, which had budded, showing God’s approval of Moses and Aaron after a rebellion (Numbers 17:10). So, within the ark were God’s law, God’s provision for His people, and a symbol of God’s absolute decrees, His choosing.

Once a year the high priest, beginning with Aaron, would enter the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Testimony was, and offer atonement for the sins of the people. He would do this following the requirements of God commanded in Leviticus 23 by sprinkling, or pouring out blood on the cover, over the mercy seat. By doing this, still only once a year, the high priest would atone for the unintentional sins of the people.

As God looked down, symbolized by the faces of the cherubim, He would see those things in the ark. He would see His assurance of His decrees in choosing those who are His to do His will even though they rebelled. He would see the provision He made for His people during their wanderings in the wilderness because of their rebellion. He would see the Laws of God broken by the people in their constant rebellion. Then He would see the blood poured out over these things. Blood does not hide from His sight the rebellion of all people. Blood says the crimes and rebellion of the people have been paid for, atonement made, the sentence carried out and finished.

Once a year the blood poured out on the Mercy Seat released those who rebelled from the eternal just sentence and punishment for their sin. But someone has to bear the brunt of the punishment. It is not the blood of bulls and goats, which mean nothing to God. For the people continued to rebel, to sin against Him, requiring sacrifice daily, and annually in the Most Holy Place. Sacrifices must be repeated. To stop this there must be one sacrifice which takes care of all sin. Either that, or each must bear the sentence for their sin alone.

It was never God’s intent that each bear the sentence for their own sin. It was His intent that One perfect sacrifice be made for the sin of all. That sacrifice was His Son, Himself. Only one who has perfectly kept the Law of God could be the substitute, to bear the sentence of sin for another. And, He did.

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus who God has put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sin. [Romans 5:22-25 ESV]

There is only One who could bear the burdens of the sin of any in the world, let alone all in the world, and pay the penalty of sin. It is God Himself. Jesus’ blood releases us from the sentence of sin which is eternal separation from God. His blood does not hide our sin from God. Nothing can. His blood covers  our sin so that when God looks at us He sees the blood of His Son covering us. His sacrifice and blood paid the penalty and redeemed us from certain eternal death. For thousands of years the sacrifices pointed to the continual rebellion and sin of people. These same sacrifices also pointed to the one sacrifice of the One who demonstrated His eternal active love for us, His mercy toward us, through His personal sacrifice.

Yet, even though God’s mercy is greater than we can ever know there are still many who will not be saved. There remains one unforgivable sin. Only one. But, it only takes one sin to separate us from God.