THE MERCIFUL | They shall obtain mercy
Mercy versus Unforgiveness: those who are merciful shall obtain mercy, and for the unmerciful, the sting of justice without mercy will be felt. Matthew 18 tells the parable of the unmerciful servant who is forgiven a great debt, then proceeds to treat his fellow servant violently when he is unable to repay a much smaller debt. When the master hears what has happened, he says, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion of your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” The consequence of the servant’s unforgiveness and unwillingless to be merciful is eternal – he is delivered to the torturers until he should pay what was due him – and in that place, how can he ever do so? The parable finishes on a sombre note – “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” It’s a strong message, but an important one! How often do we forget the Father’s mercy in our lives and focus instead on our “right”? In modern society, “rights” govern many decisions, including how we react to our “right to justice”. Yet here, God commands a different response. Matthew 5:38-42 :
“You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
Jesus is not telling people to be pushovers, but He is explaining the concept of mercy, in selflessness here, and in loving your enemy. More than that, there is a joy in mercy, a reward that comes as we understand the depth of mercy God shows us, and the reason He lavishes it upon us. [Lamentations 3:22] – “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions are new every morning.” We have a God who is not obliged to give us anything, yet chooses to give us everything because of His great and eternal love. Jesus paid the penalty for sin so that we might become benefactors of God’s mercy, yet shown in His perfect justice. More on mercy: https://lostnowfoundk.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/knowing-in-mercy/
THE PURE IN HEART | They shall see God
Psalm 24:3-4 is one of my favourite verses – “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.” A few things to look at here:
The hill of the Lord could be considered the mountain of His righteousness. [Psalm 36:6] – “Your righteousness is like great mountains…” and in verse 10 of the same Psalm, “Oh, continue your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.” Psalm 24 continues to explain the result of having clean hands and a pure heart in verse 5 – “He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Ascending the hill of the Lord also reminds me of building an altar of worship. Unfortunately, much idol worship occurred at shrines built upon high places. However, there were also many examples of people worshipping the Lord and building an altar upon a high place (eg. Moses’ altar on the mountain of Moriah where he prepared to sacrifice Isaac, Moses’ meeting with God on Mt Sinai). Ultimately, the temple of Jerusalem became the one ordained high place to offer sacrifices, and the Lord commanded the destruction of other altars in high places. The Lord alone is to be worshipped and exalted because He is the one true God – all others are idols.
[Deuteronomy 12:2-7] – “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put his name for His dwelling name; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your free-will offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.”
Who may stand in His holy place? The tabernacle consisted of various portions, and to go into the meaning and design of each section would be a topic of its own! The design of the tabernacle is intricately woven with revelation of Christ. However, here is a diagram of the tabernacle layout. We will just focus a little bit about who could enter the innermost chamber, of Holy of Holies.
Once a year, on the day of atonement, the High Priest would prepare himself to enter the Holy of Holies. There were different priestly garments made for the priests to wear as they ministered to the Lord but on this day, the High Priest alone was to enter, and he alone, would minister before the Lord in the Holy of Holies. Leviticus 16 describes what he did to prepare and minister in the Holy of Holies:
- The High Priest understood the gravity of meeting with the Lord – that the Lord was holy. Two of Aaron’s sons died after they offered profane fire before the Lord and God gave Moses a strict command that the High Priest was not to come in at “just any time”. They were to treat the Holy of Holies and the presence of the Lord with the reverence due Him.
- The High Priest would wear a full attire of linen. He would wash himself and put on the garments, which were holy. Exodus 28:39-43 further speaks about the purpose and sign of these garments. They were “for glory and beauty” that they would be anointed, consecrated and sanctified to minister before the Lord. These garments would also cover their nakedness, reminiscent of how God clothed Adam and Eve in their nakedness, which was revealed in their sin.
- Before he entered the veil, the High Priest would offer a sacrifice of atonement for himself, and his household. This took place at the altar of burnt offering and at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
- As he entered the veil, the High Priest took with him a censer full of burning coals of fire from the Lord’s altar, his hands full of sweet incense. There is mention, in Revelation 8:3-6 of a similar offering before God – “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.” The prayers and worship of the saints, offered before God, release His holy judgement. The High Priest, entering the Holy of Holies, brings with him hands full of incense, or worship, knowing the holiness and righteousness of God. Isaiah 6:6 describes what happens when a live coal from the Lord’s altar touches the lips of the prophet Isaiah – “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”
- Once inside the veil, the High Priest puts the incense on the fire before the Lord. Verse 13 goes on to describe what happens – “…that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.” Meeting face to face with God could kill a person because of the righteousness of God contrasted against sin. Yet, God is merciful and desires redemption over judgement. Jacob, in Genesis 32:30, says, “…For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
- Following this, the High Priest performs more sacrifices and rituals for the cleansing of the Holy Place, the Lord’s Altar, the tabernacle, and for the congregation of Israel. All of this he did alone. Meeting with the presence of God is a personal thing – a one-on-one, face-to-face encounter. The day of atonement, when the people were made clean from their sins before the Lord, was to be an everlasting statute for the people of Israel, a reminder of the holiness, and mercy of the Lord their God.
Hebrews 9-10 describes the new covenant made through Christ, the great High Priest who offered a single sacrifice, His life, for our eternal cleansing. That is why it is through faith in Christ that we are saved and redeemed.
- [Hebrews 9:7-8] – “But into the second part the high priest went alone once and year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing…”
- [Hebrews 10:16-22] – “’This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I remember no more.’ Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
We are pure in heart when we “draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” Ie. To be pure in heart, is to place of focus on Christ, to set our hearts in faith to live according to His way. He redeems us pure before God, to be able to enter the place of seeing the Father face-to-face. [Hebrews 13:12] – “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
Psalm 24 goes on to say, “(v.6) This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Your face.” Jacob, as described previously, saw God face to face and lived. In fact, he said to Him, “I will not let You go until You bless me!” [Genesis 32:26] The generation of Jacob is indeed those who seek God’s face zealously. Just a few Psalms later, in Psalm 27, David writes about his desire to gaze upon the Lord, and to seek His face (another one of my favourite passages) –
- “(v.4) One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That I will seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.”
- “(v.8-9) When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.”
Here we see David’s heart which yearns for God, yearns to see God. It is a deep, intuitive heart response that says, “Yes, Lord”, which responds to the Lord’s voice. God says, “Seek My face,” and David’s heart cries out , “Yes!” God’s response to a pure heart, one that seeks and desires after Him, is to respond, “Yes, here I am. You will see Me.”
[John 14:7] – “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him”