"And there will I meet with thee from above the mercy seat."-Exodus25:22
THE Hebrews had emerged from Egypt in such a way by blood and the Red Sea as to emphasise the sovereign rights of God in them. Sinai was the place where those sovereign rights were declared in commandments and where they were acknowledged in obedience. Hence they became an organised unit, a nation and no longer a rabble of slaves. They have a Divine constitution declared to be a repository of power against all their enemies, but equally a stumbling block should they choose the will of the nations around rather than the will of God.
The will of God is intimately associated with worship; for the man that does not worship God cannot know the will of God. Worship is the arena of revelation. Hence the Tabernacle was in the centre of the camp, for that was symbolic of the true and vital centre of the community. If a people are weak in their relationship to the tabemacle, they will have no strength at the circumference against their enemies.
The Tabernacle, carefully prepared and planned as a pattern of the reality in heaven, was central. The centre of the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies. The centre of the Holy of Holies was the ark. The centre of the ark was its golden lid upon which the cherubim, one at each end, perpetually gazed. None but the High Priest ever looked upon the object of their wondering contemplation. The centre of the centre of the camp was therefore the golden lid, called the mercy seat, the propitiatory.
The attitude of the cherubim was significant. Concerning our salvation in Christ, Peter declares that the angels desire to look down into it. The gospel of redemption is a deep, impenetrable mystery even to their exalted intelligences. When, therefore, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year and sprinkled the blood on the golden lid, the angels were amazed beyond measure, for here indeed was a strange and awesome mediation in blood. With the New Testament in our hands, we turn to Romans 3: 25: "Whom God hath set forth a propitiation through faith in His blood." God has set forth Christ as a mercy seat. He is the propitiatory. The propitiatory and the blood of the propitiation are not the same thing. The propitiatory was that on which the blood of propitiation was sprinkled. In the person of our Lord in His absolute righteousness and obedience, we have the propitiatory, in the blood that He shed is the propitiation. It is the shedding of the blood of the Holy One that consummates redemption. It is not His holiness that saves, it is not blood that saves; it is the precious blood of the Only Begotten Son of God, the Righteous One, that is a prevailing propitiation in heaven. That is the truth of the mercy seat in the light of the New Testament.
All operations of the mercy seat were within the veil. The common people waited until the High Priest emerged assuring them that within the veil the ministry of propitiation had been effected. So far as the people were concerned, they depended upon that dramatic transaction hidden from their view, and the fact of the hiddenness of this ministry was significant. The writer to the Hebrews (9:24) declares that the earthly plan and arrangement of the Tabernacle was a figure of the true Holy of Holies in heaven; that while the High Priest entered into the Most Holy Place once a year with other blood than his own, Jesus has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. He asserts that this ministry is now proceeding and will be consummated with the appearing of our Lord at the end of the age. That is to say, our standing with God today is by virtue of His ministry within the veil. His actions within the invisible, the heavenly, are basic to all our daily life as pilgrims on the earth. Hence the centre of worship is to be found in no earthly shrine, but in heaven itself, and only as we realise this sublime truth and seek the life within the veil with all the deep mystery of the mercy seat, can we really know the vitalities that attend the exercise of a faith that reaches within the heavenly and the unseen. Here, then, are blessings indeed, and the first is:
Forgiveness expresses its solemn mystery in this golden lid, the symbol of His pure manhood and righteousness and the blood He shed. By virtue of the shedding of the blood of this Just Man, offered in the power of His Resurrection, forgiveness is mediated to the sinner. Forgiveness is essentially a Divine act, completely independent of any human agency. It is pronounced within the veil and is the solemn achievement of the One Who shed His blood in our behalf. The camp is the place of our sin, the holy place within the veil is the arena of our pardon, forgiveness and cleansing.
As an experience for the Christian, forgiveness requires that there shall be
a knowledge of sin, not as an abstract conception, not as a contingent possibility,
but as guilt before God. The sense of guilt must be there in the heart.
Only that sin which is uncovered before God, in His Most Holy Presence, as guilt
without excuse, can be covered by God in the mediation of the blood of Jesus.
If there is the least equivocation as to whether what we have done is sin before
God, or whether we have done the guilty thing, then basically there can be no
forgiveness. From that the sinner passes to a profession concerning the constitution
of the propitiation. If his mind is located in an earthly confessional, or he
seeks forgiveness without desiring to know anything concerning its mediation
in heaven, then there can be no eternal remission. He must look, in faith, upon
the blood, the blood of the Only Begotten Son of God, and in so doing see the
exceeding sinfulness of his sin and his utter unworthiness of such a propitiation.
Many Christians are altogether too casual in this matter of mediation for sin
to be privileged to know the unutterable joy of forgiveness, But where these
things are registered in the mind, heart and conscience, there flows the gift
of faith to receive in the heart the blessing of mediation, forgiveness and
reconciliation imparted from heaven. The believer knows it in the experience
of liberation Godwards, creating a new attitude to the evil of which he is guilty.
Whereby he hates the sin that made God mourn, loves with a new devotion the
One by Whose blood he has been forgiven, and so takes from within the veil the
power of His Risen Lord to live, not unto sin, but unto God. For the essence
of forgiveness in experience is not simply a negative remission of the past,
but a new invigoration for holiness for the future.
Let none who come to Keswick rest in any earthly mediation of forgiveness which ethically and dynamically will prove to be a religious cul-de-sac, but let them seek the blessing of the mercy seat within the veil.
"There will I meet with thee." If ever a human being is to meet with God in reality and not in imagination, then he must know the mercy seat. There, and there only, God meets with us. There is no fellowship without mediation, and if we seek the ministry of the mercy seat within the veil, then we will know the high privilege of fellowship where God wills to meet us.
Not every Christian knows fellowship within the veil. For most people worship is a matter of buildings and ritual, but for the child of God all earthly situations and ceremonies have no value except as they become stepping stones by which the redeemed spirit of the believer enters within the veil of the heavenly realm. And knows experimentally an immediate communion of Spirit with spirit, a worship in spirit for which the Father seeks so intensely. We have no reason to suppose that our Blessed Lord is ubiquitous, and when He assures us that where two or three are gathered together He is in the midst, we are not to suppose that that is an encouragement for a few disconsolate souls meeting for prayer, but is the assurance that when we meet in the Name our spirits ascend where Jesus is! That is alone worship and fellowship when the redeemed spirit, brought again from the dead in redemption, enters within the veil to be one with the Father of spirits.
The writer to the Hebrews knew much about this aspect of worship. He tells
us (Hebrews 12: 22-24) we are come to Mount Zion, the city of the Living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem. The place of worship is within the veil and not without
it, no matter how grand the circumstance.
There we meet with an innumerable company of angels who look with awe upon the solemnities of our redemption. We are one with all who in any part of the world are worshipping in the same spirit with us and finding their communion within the veil. We are come to God, the Judge of all, to find Him the tenderest Friend, the Father of spirits. It may surprise us to know that in such worship we come to the spirits of just men made perfect. We leave the spiritists to their earthly manifestations and mundane considerations, while we enter into the truth of which theirs is the counterpart of error. Here in the mystic silence, in the wonder of the mercy seat, we meet all who once from this side worshipped within the veil and now with greater understanding worship on that side. And finally we come to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, speaking better things than that of Abel.
Great is the privilege of the child of God who knows the fellowship within the veil, the fellowship that is from above the mercy seat where God delights to meet His people. From such an experience there comes inevitably the heavenly commentary on the earthly pilgrimage. We see all the events of time in a new way. Everything earthly is seen in its heavenly setting, perspective and proportion. The man who has no worship or is content with the worship of the earthly sanctuary, will see life as a series of events out of which he must weave his own philosophy, but to the child of God who has met God at the mercy seat within the veil is granted the sight to perceive the golden thread of Divine Providence that links all experience to the goal which the eye of faith has seen. We know in fellowship within the veil at the mercy seat, a communion which enlarges our being for God, a capacity which being exercised and energised, lifts us into a realm of spirit experience with which no joy on earth can compare. There is at the mercy seat a revelry of awesome fellowship with God with which no intoxication on earth can compare. It is our failure to know this joy that leads so many back to the leeks and garlic of Egypt.
It was in such a circumstance that God declared that He would speak of all things given in commandment. These marvellous ministries within the veil are not traditional ceremonies; they are not landmarks of the past superimposed upon the present, but they have life and vigour and out of our meditation on these realities God is pleased to grant us understanding.
Light on the path of our pilgrimage is one of the blessings of the mercy seat. Then we see that through life's dark maze there may be a sure light, which will bring us through. Many burdens are lifted from our hearts when we know that the one thing that matters is the Divine path in every situation. Illumination of the mind for that, will not be ours in a moment of crisis, no matter how hard we pray, if in the meantime we have neglected the mercy seat. It is our fellowship there that illuminates the darkness here and lights up the path with the unerring guidance, which is as a cloud by day and a fire by night. Verily we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, but we see our path and know our way, and the sure light of the eternal can be seen brightly burning in the darkest circumstance.
With that, of course, is the perpetual unveiling of truth in the Word. Then we know indeed what endless glories are within that revelation of which Jesus Himself is the Life Centre. For every situation on the earth God gives to His choice one within the veil the revelation of heaven. Things may be difficult within the camp, but so only the High Priest emerges all will be well. So it is today as we gather in this great Convention. Conditions in the camp are terrible. When we envisage the fact that possibly, without any declaration of war, without any warning, a bomb may explode which will set fire to everything in a circle of twenty-five miles, we may well tremble for the future. We cannot be surprised that men's hearts are failing them for fear as they see the powers of hell let loose. Yet from the mercy seat within the veil we hear those words, "See that ye be not troubled. When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, for your redemption draweth nigh" and the King Priest Whose eternal ministry within the veil has sustained you will appear for your inexpressible joy.
In such days as this we cannot tell whether another Keswick will be granted us. Who knows? God may have brought us here to bring us right within the veil, to disclose to us the high privileges of the mercy seat, and to unveil to us such splendours of Divine revelation as will be meat and drink to us in hours, the character of which we cannot apprehend. Let us seek the mercy seat this morning! God grant that each and all may experience Divine forgiveness ere we leave this place and in spirit be one with the Father of spirits in the fellowship of the heavenly in all its power. We may be sure that for every situation and eventuality revelation will be adequate. While the fears of men may increase, we shall know a hope which is as an anchor of the soul reaching within the veil, for while we are meeting with God day by day we may be sure we are at the springs of grace and life.
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