“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)
What in the world is a “propitiation?” The word means “atoning sacrifice” or a “blood offering”. The word pictures the Mercy Seat of God that was fixed atop the Ark of the Covenant stationed within the Holy of Holies inside the Temple.
No one knows what the Mercy Seat really looked like, because the Art has been lost for centuries. However, this is the place where God was supposed to sit. The Ark was the place where the blood of the sacrificial lamb was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement each year for the sins of Israel. It was that place between the two angles wings where the High Priest would make atonement for himself and his people.
(If you would like to read about this place, see Hebrews 9:1-7)
All of this is wrapped up in a wonderful Christmas present called propitiation. That is what God did when He gave us Jesus. He gave us His wonderful love wrapped up in “swaddling clothes” and lying in a manger (Luke 2:7). The Temple with its Outer Courts, its inner worship place where the sacrificial fires never ceased, and it’s Holy of Holies where God’s presence was stationed upon the Mercy Seat was just an ruff image of God’s great Love. A clearer presentation came in Bethlehem when Jesus was born to a virgin whose name of Mary. They called His name Jesus because He was the one who would:
“…save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
The Bible says of Him,
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this world; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption…” (Hebrews 9:11-12)
We used to sing this great old hymn,
O, the grace that brought it down to man;
O, the mighty gulf that God did span,
- It is a word that captures the love of God.
- It is a word that presents to us the greatest present ever imagined – Forgiveness of Sin.
- It is a word for the way we ought to love one another sacrificially.
We love each other because God first loved us and gave His only begotten Son to show us how to love others. I really like that word--PROPITIATION. It is a word that plumbs the depth, the measures the length, extends the breadth, and elevates height of God’s love for us.
My kids used to ask me, “How much to you love me, daddy?”
I would always say, “This much,” as I held my fingers about an inch apart.
They would say, “No, you love me this much,” as they stretched their arms apart as far as they could.
Propitiation shows us that God is holding His arms out for us as far His love can reach.