The Awe of Heaven is Mercy

Any chance I have to write or have a conversation to talk about mercy, I take. Mercy is an astounding quality in God. The All Powerful restrains his judgment because of His goodness. God patiently withholds the full measure of punishment in favor of a loyal love for His creation, His friends, His Son’s Bride. God, who always catches us in the act of our sin, who knows every anxious and sinful thought, chooses compassion.

What got me thinking about all this is the mercy seat in the Old Testament and how this mercy seat is flanked by two cherubim facing one another while there wings hover over the mercy seat as a covering. And they there stand simultaneously in awe and in protection of the covering to the Ark of the Covenant.

Mercy seat - Wikipedia

I don’t want to get into a full blown theology lesson; we don’t have time for that. Nor do we really have time for information unless it leads to some type of encounter with God. Jesus himself says, ‘Go and find out what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” (In other words I want the experience of loyalty in relationship over your constantly giving up things just to appease me).

So I will massively summarize any historical/metaphorical significance to say that the mercy seat is best understood as the covering to the covenant. It is the place of provision for those who would inevitably break the Old Covenant. Thus the mercy of God is the only provision for His people to avoid judgment.

Mary Magdelene sees her own glimpse of this in the tomb where 2 angels are sitting facing each other at the head and feet of where Jesus’ body had been lain. And all they ask is “Woman, why are you weeeping?” Likely because they are not sad but in awe.

I believe it is confounding for the angels to understand that God has made a provision through atonement for humans when there appears to be none made for angels. I believe they stand or sit in awe and in silence and reverence as they see a God who allows Himself to be wounded to make a way for His beloved.

I think they probably for a moment felt: “What is even the point of the covenant or the commands if You had a covering? Did You always intend to offer forgiveness through the shedding of the blood of Your Son? Was this always the plan, to cover them? Was this your ploy, to show them unmatched loyalty, love and kindness? Your wrath melted way by Your desire for mercy? How?”

I don’t think they can figure it out. I know we cannot figure out how it operates. Why does God desire to relieve us so, from the sin we choose? Why does he offer to place the blame elsewhere and give us an out by drawing us in to trade sin for Spirit?

All, so he can dwell in us, with us, close enough to breathe on us and through us. God has a seat of mercy so we will be seated with Him at His table, enjoying His presence and one another as we are forever enamored by the fact that He made, for us, a way.

Mercy is always making a way.

A Safe Place for Anger: Habakkuk 1

How long, Lord, must I call for help

and you do not listen

or cry out to you about violence

and you do not save?

Why do you force me to look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Oppression and violence are right in front of me.

Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates,

This is why the law is ineffective

and justice never emerges.

For the wicked restrict the righteousl

therefore, justice comes out perverted.

Habukkuk 1:2-4

If we look long enough at the way the world systems operate among the powerful, wealthy, and oppressive, something within our hearts and minds is bent towards crying out for justice.

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And so long as our hearts don’t grow weary or indifferent or apathetic, we too are bound to ask questions like the ones above in Scripture.

In the times we live, we are overexposed to everything and while that has made us more aware or woke, I fear we at times become too overwhelmed by the sheer amount of injustice, propaganda and bias that is constantly being spewed.

I need not list all the evils we are watching the world endure and some of us experience. Part of the reason I won’t list them is many of these evils are talked about as good, and good things are considered evil.

But there is one question that sticks out when flipped back on me for how it reveals the cause for my anger:

“Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”

So much of the things I get angry and rage about are over my own wrongdoing, my own inability to be perfect as the Father is perfect. I look at my immature faith, my darkened desires, my atrophying empathy and find it comes as no surprise as to why I begin to get angry with usually myself over circumstance.

I pray I not be desensitized to the reality and damage of my sin, yet I pray I receive cleansing and rejuvenation to take up the cause of the oppressed and be reminded of Jesus’ encouragement to forgive and seek healing.

This I believe, or at least hope happens in congruence with our expressions of anger. The emotion is not the sin, anger over circumstance or injustice is not the problem, even sharing your anger with someone is not a sin, it is what you’re anger brings you to do that can damage: the hurful words we can utter towards or about someone, the profanity we can utter to try to bolster our thickness in spite of our sheepish woundedness, the violence we can succumb to. We become deceived into thinking our only option is to become what we see: violent, perverted, despising, accusing, lustful.

Yet, what the Spirit makes available to us, in crying out to God is to then become impassioned with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control. We become faithful, peaceably so, so when the nations themselves rage, we can be steafastly confident that the Lord hears us and will answer.

One last quick story: I was crying out to God (profanity included) while driving to work a few weeks ago and in the midst I heard the stilling voice of the Spirit speak: “I can handle your anger and am willing to be your shelter and refuge.” God is not afraid of our anger so long as God has us.

Little Hands

I had a profound moment this weekend. I paid a visit to Charleston to see the sun, hang with friends, and attend some sessions of a Missions conference. This past week has been helpful in reflecting about a sense of purpose and what brings me joy. My trip was a nice, not nearly long enough visit and break, but I fit a lot into a lovely weekend. One moment stuck out, not because it was the best moment of the weekend, but it was certainly unexpected.

Sunday morning at the end of church, the entire congregation was called forward to lay  hands in prayer on missionaries who shared throughout the weekend.  I was initially unsure if they wanted everybody to come forward but when it became apparent everyone was, I walked forward and laid my hand as a point of connection on Milton’s (and elder at the church’s) shoulder  to pray. I was standing against the stage and did not have much of a thought about anything.

I pause the story here to say that in all honesty, part of my hope for the weekend was a moment of clarity or revelation regarding next steps in ministry or locale or vocation. I’ve written previously about trying to be an augur to (predict) my future and that trap, but I think this weekend served as a reminder of the will of God (sanctification) and being faithful with what God has already given, being grateful for it, and not demanding something I would deem better. That’s a lot of wonderful things to feel and hopefully hold onto in a whirlwind weekend.

But I want to come back to this one kiss from the Lord.

We are praying. My mind is clear but not focused and suddenly, as my head is bowed eyes closed, standing with arm outstretched, a little hand grabbed my hand at my side without a hint of timidity. I don’t know if there was hesitation, but it felt like the hand grabbed mine so quickly and gently that there was none.

And in that moment, something fascinating happened, for a split second it was curiosity, then a laugh, then a flood of pictures ran through my head. I saw myself praying at a table with I presume, my children. I saw myself reading the bible with them and highlighting the promises of God. I saw eager and excited eyes and was a bit overwhelmed. So, I looked back, almost behind me and saw a boy about 7, holding my hand with his head bowed in prayer.

I smiled, thanked God, and prayed something along the lines of, “Lord thank you for this reminder, please tell me I’m not crazy for wanting to be a dad and having a family.” I mouthed that prayer, but not out loud. Immediately, the little hand gave a little squeeze. Perhaps confirmation, probably coincidence but it felt right, and I felt God’s delight.

I gave God a knowing nod and appreciated the moment as the time of prayer was wrapping up. But then another gift, 20 seconds or so before the prayer was about to end, another even smaller hand slipped between our hands. The little boys presumably 4-year old brother, wearing a backpack, wanted to be connected in prayer as well.

There really isn’t too big of a lesson or metaphor here. After the Amen I looked at a man who I assume was the boys dad and smiled and returned without much of a thought. Thoughts and doubts, you don’t need them when you know you’re known.