Life-Study of Leviticusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to the matter of propitiation. Propitiation is a very difficult term in theology. The definition given in most dictionaries is not according to the meaning of the Hebrew word. The Hebrew word translated “propitiation” in Leviticus 16 means to cover; it has the same root as the word for the cover of the ark. In the ark, the place where God was to meet with His people and where the people were to meet with God, were the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. This means that the tablets of the Ten Commandments were in front of God and in front of the one coming to meet with God. The Ten Commandments pointed out all the sins committed by the one who was approaching God.
Between God and the one approaching Him there is a problem. The problem is not with God, for He loves His people and wants to meet with them. The problem is that His people have committed sins, doing many things contrary to His commandments.
The Ten Commandments are a portrait of what God is. God is love and light, and He is holy and righteous. These four words—love, light, holy, and righteous—describe what kind of God God is. God is full of love and light, and He is righteous and holy. The Ten Commandments were given by Him to show us that He is such a God.
The tablets of the Ten Commandments stood before the one who approached God and exposed him as being a sinner. Therefore, between God and the one approaching Him there was the problem of sin and sins. How could a sinful person approach and converse with the One who is love and light and who is righteous and holy? This problem had to be solved. Otherwise, there would be an obstacle, a hindrance, between God and the one approaching Him.
We have seen that we were born unclean and are surrounded by people who are unclean. Thus there is a problem not only with our birth but also with our contact with others. Through this contact it is very easy for us to be contaminated. Furthermore, in our condition we are altogether leprous; we are a totality of leprosy. In addition, whatever comes out of us as a discharge is unclean, contagious, and contaminating. How can such a person approach God, who is clean, holy, and righteous, and converse with Him? It is impossible. God loves man, but man is in a pitiful situation. This situation reveals what we need. We need propitiation.
I have pointed out that the Hebrew word for propitiation means to cover and that the word for the cover of the ark comes from the same root. There was the need for the tablets of the Ten Commandments in the ark to be covered. Only if the Ten Commandments were covered could the situation between us and God be appeased.
Propitiation appeases our situation. In propitiation it is not mainly God but our situation with God that is appeased. The problem is with us, not with God. God is not angry with us. God loves us, but there is nevertheless a problem between us and God. For this reason, our situation needs to be appeased by the cover that is placed over the condemning, judging commandments.
We do not need to beg God to forgive us. He is ready to forgive us, once He has the standing to do so. Because God is righteous, His forgiveness requires that He have the standing to forgive us. Suppose we were to say, “God, I know that You love me. I beg You to forgive me.” If we said this, God would reply, “Yes, I do love you. There is no need for you to beg Me to forgive you. But what about the Ten Commandments? I shall put a cover over them for you. Then your situation will be appeased.” How wonderful that through propitiation our situation with God has been appeased!
In preaching the gospel, some have said that God is angry with us, but that Jesus, our Friend, asks God to do Him a favor and forgive us. According to this kind of gospel preaching, God grants the Lord’s request and forgives us. This way of preaching the gospel is absolutely wrong because it describes God altogether in a wrong way.
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