Thursday, February 20, 2020

Atonement, Testimony, and Communion

In this year's reading through Exodus, a triad of interwoven themes attracted my attention in a new way. In the instructions for building the tabernacle and its furniture, the ideas of atonement, testimony, and communion appear together in at least two places.

In Exodus 25:21-22, the Holy Spirit led Moses to record, "And you [Moses, Israel] shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I [YHWH] shall give you. 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." The ark was a golden box or chest. The stone tablets with the law of God were to rest inside it, so it was sometimes called "the ark of the testimony." The mercy seat was the golden lid for the ark. On it 2 magnificent golden cherubim spread their wings, a visual symbol of the presence of God; on it the high priest, and only the high priest, poured out the blood of the substitutionary sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, obtaining one more year's forgiveness of sins. From that place, the holy and living God condescended to meet with his stumbling, stiff-necked, loved, and chosen people.

Atonement, testimony, and communion.

In Exodus 30:6, 10, God's command to Moses about the altar of incense states, "And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you.... Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD." Again, we see the triad of themes: atonement, testimony, and communion.

Having sat with those ideas for several days now, pondering why or how they are connected, I arrived at the following thoughts, which I encourage you to test against Scripture for yourselves.

Without atonement, testimony would be my guilty verdict and death sentence, and communion with the holy God would be beyond my reach.

Without testimony, atonement would be unknown to all but the eyewitnesses (and even they needed the risen Christ's explanation), and communion with God would be impossible, since I would still be His enemy without any knowledge of the remedy or access to the living God's living Word.

Without communion with God, atonement would deliver from hell without granting the delights of heaven, and the testimony of Scripture would be someone else's love letters.

All praise to the triune God that none of these are lacking. The combination of atonement, testimony, and communion in the tabernacle foreshadowed imperfectly the consummation of all three in the person of Christ, the Lamb of God, the Word of God, and the Son of God who reconciled believers to His Father by His death and made us sons and daughters of God with free access to Him through the Spirit. May we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to Him for providing so great and complete a salvation. Amen.

Monday, February 10, 2020

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

"Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.  For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.  He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding."
Ephesians 1:3‭-‬8 CSB

Your grace, O God, is glorious. 
Your grace is praiseworthy. 
Your adoption of us through Jesus Christ resounds in praise of Your glorious grace. 
Your grace is a blessing. 
Your grace is ours *in* Christ the Beloved. 
Your grace comes as riches...abundance, not reluctance or stinginess. 
Your grace correlates to our redemption through the blood of Christ. 
You forgive our trespasses according to the riches of your grace. 
You lavished Your grace on us in all wisdom and insight.

Blessed be Your name!

Monday, February 3, 2020

A Prayer for My Year of Grace

Cedar waxwing
My focus word for 2020 is grace. The Lord in His providence has appointed an extra measure of “hard eucharisteo” for the end of December and, perhaps, most of 2020. I am feeling a need to trust that this too is grace, to receive the promised sufficient grace for my weaknesses, and to accept grace from God and others when the highest priority areas cause me to drop the ball in other areas that matter to me but need to be lower in importance and urgency at the moment.

For my Bible reading, I’m returning to an old, familiar edition that is thoroughly marked up. Because of that, a prayer copied on the flyleaf came back to my notice. It fits so well with my word for the year that I’m commending it to your attention as well. Maybe another soul needs to pray it, too?

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and tried to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios.  Suddenly we have come to our senses. We are sorry and ask You to forgive us. Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do. Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love. Amen (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel).