Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the two foregoing messages we considered the materials of the ark, the dimensions of the ark, and the rim of gold around the top of the ark. We have also considered the four rings of gold and the two poles used for the move of the ark. In this message we shall consider from 25:17-22 the propitiatory cover which was put on the ark.
Exodus 25:17 says, “And you shall make a propitiatory cover of pure gold, two cubits and a half its length, and a cubit and a half its width.” This propitiatory cover was the lid of the ark. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament made before the time of Christ) the word hilasterion is used to translate the Hebrew word for propitiatory cover. This Greek word is a noun form of the Greek verb hilaskomai. Hilaskomaimeans to appease, to reconcile two parties by satisfying the demand of one upon the other, that is, to propitiate. According to Hebrews 2:17, the Lord Jesus made propitiation for our sins to reconcile us to God by satisfying God’s righteous demands on us.
Suppose a certain party is indebted to another party. However, he is not able to fulfill the demands of the second party. There seems to be no way to settle this problem. Then a third party comes on the scene and, on behalf of the first party, fulfills the requirements of the second party, thus appeasing the second party. In this way, the first party is reconciled to the second, for the demands of the second party have been satisfied. The Greek word hilaskomai refers to such a transaction in which reconciliation is brought about through the appeasement of a particular party and the satisfaction of his requirement. Christ has reconciled us to God by satisfying God’s demands on us.
The Greek word for propitiation, hilasterion, is different from hilasmos in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. Hilasmos denotes that which propitiates, that is, a propitiatory sacrifice. According to 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, the Lord Jesus is the propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. Christ is not only the One who reconciles us to God by fulfilling God’s requirements and appeasing Him, but He is also the propitiatory sacrifice. He sacrificed Himself that we may be reconciled to God.
We have seen that Christ is the One who makes propitiation to God for us as well as the One who is the propitiatory sacrifice. In Romans 3:25 Paul says that Christ is our propitiation-cover. God has set forth Christ to be our hilasterion, our propitiatory cover. This means that as the hilasterion Christ is also the very place where God is able to meet with us, His redeemed people, and talk to us. Therefore, Christ is the One who propitiates, He is the propitiatory sacrifice, and He is the propitiatory cover, the place where God and His redeemed people meet together.
As the propitiatory sacrifice and as the One who has made propitiation to God on our behalf, Christ is also the place, called the propitiation-cover in Romans 3:25, where we can meet with God. The Septuagint uses hilasterion for the lid, or cover, of the ark. Paul uses this word to refer to Christ as the propitiation-cover. No doubt, when Paul was writing Romans 3:25 he had in mind a picture of the propitiatory cover placed on the ark of the testimony. (See note 251 in Romans 3, Recovery Version.)
As we study the description of the propitiatory cover in Exodus 25:17-22 and seek to understand its significance for our spiritual experience, we need to receive light through the Word and not mere knowledge. Our goal in reading the Bible should be to receive light and not simply to gain objective knowledge. Therefore, we need to guard against unnecessary questionings and thoughts which interfere with the shining of the light through the Word. On the one hand, we need to ask meaningful questions concerning what we read in the Bible. On the other hand, we need to avoid useless questions, questions which have no answers. When we read the account of the propitiatory cover in Exodus, we may be snared by such questions. For example, some may ask if the cherubim on the ark are angels. Others may want to know the weight of the cherubim or how many faces they have. Some may try to figure out the thickness of the propitiatory cover, realizing that the length and the width are given, but not the thickness. Some readers may ask if the cherubim and the lid of the ark were all one piece of gold. Other readers may wonder how the cherubim can have their faces toward each other and also toward the lid of the ark. In this message we shall not be concerned with questions such as these. Rather, our aim is to consider those matters crucial for our spiritual understanding and experience. Thus, we come to these verses not to find answers to unnecessary questions, but to obtain light from the Lord.
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