Chapter 2: Justice And Mercy Kiss

In Chapter One, we concluded that a right understanding of the gospel is the key to success in the Christian life. The absolute truth is that if we do not have a right understanding of the hope that is bound up in the gospel, we simply cannot have strong faith, for the Word of God assures us that . . .

"Faith is being certain of what we hope for." (Hebrews 11:1)
This being the case, we have to ask ourselves yet another vital question, and that is,
Just where do we begin in our search
for this life-changing gospel of hope?
Once again Paul supplies the answer. He tells us that . . .
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf." (Hebrews 6:19,20)
Clearly, therefore, if we study the ministry of Jesus in the most holy place - behind the curtain - and if we gain a right understanding of the symbolism depicted by the furnishings in the Most Holy Place, we can expect to be filled with hope, a hope that will be to us as an anchor to the soul; an enduring hope that will inspire us with practical faith and active love.
Let us therefore take a little time to consider the furnishings that were housed "behind the curtain" in the Most Holy Place.
In the most holy place stood the ark, a chest of precious wood overlaid with gold, the depository of the two tables of stone upon which God had inscribed the law of Ten Commandments.
Above the ark, and forming the cover to the sacred chest, was the mercy seat, a magnificent piece of workmanship, surmounted by two cherubim, one at each end, and all wrought of solid gold.
In this apartment the divine presence was manifested in the cloud of glory between the cherubim." (GC11-412)
Every one of the items in the sanctuary has very special significance, but let us first of all focus our attention on the ark of the covenant and its covering.
The ark, containing the tablets of the law, represents God's justice. The gold cover over the ark is known as the mercy seat and, as the name implies, it represents God's mercy.
"The ark that enshrines the tables of the law is covered with the mercy seat, before which Christ pleads His blood in the sinner's behalf.
Thus is represented the union of justice and mercy in the plan of human redemption. This union infinite wisdom alone could devise and infinite power accomplish; it is a union that fills all heaven with wonder and adoration." (GC415)
In order to appreciate the broad picture that God is presenting to us in the Most Holy Place - behind the curtain - we need to first of all remind ourselves that justice, mercy and love are the primary attributes of God's character and that, as such, they "are the controlling powers in Jehovah's kingdom." (9T218; DA756; 2T210)
It is highly significant, therefore, that each of these three primary attributes of God's character is depicted in the most holy place . . .
by the ark containing the law - representing His justice,
by the mercy seat and the cherubim - representing His mercy, and
by the Shekinah, the manifestation of God's presence that shone above the mercy seat - representing His character of love.
But just what is the deeper significance of all this? What is it about the "union of justice and mercy" that fills all heaven with wonder and adoration?
Justice and Mercy Kiss

When God considered a plan for the redemption of the fallen race, He found His justice and His mercy standing in direct opposition to eachother . . .
on the one hand His mercy demanded that the sinner be pardoned;
on the other hand His justice demanded that the sinner be put to death.
At first we might feel that the demand of justice for the shedding of the blood of the guilty is somewhat out of harmony with the ways of a God of infinite love. Yet there was simply no other way because . . .
"Justice demands that sin be not merely pardoned, but the death penalty must be executed." (6BC1099)
It simply could not be otherwise for, . . .
"Were there no justice, no penalty, there would be no stability to the government of God." (6BC1072)
Thus we are led to conclude that the infliction of appropriate penalties is vital to the maintenance of universal law and order (and this is one reason why our world is falling apart today). Nevertheless, we have been told that . . .
"It was the righteousness of God to maintain His law by inflicting the penalty. This was the only way in which the law could be maintained, and pronounced holy, and just, and good." (1SM301/2)
We can better appreciate, therefore, why it was that justice demanded the shedding of blood, and why this demand could not be denied without placing the entire universe in jeopardy.
Yet God's mercy simply would not step aside and allow His justice to have it's way. The more that His justice demanded the death of the sinner, the more boldly His mercy stood in the face of His justice and demanded the acquittal of the sinner. Neither His justice nor His mercy could or would bow down to the other. This was a titanic tug-of-war if ever there were one.
Yet Infinite Love had a wonderful solution. Because both His justice and His mercy were unyielding in their demands, God's love would have to intervene, . . .
"Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin [and] would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race." (PP63)
Thus it was that God, in the loving Gift of His only begotten Son, met the requirements of both His justice and His mercy. "By dying in man's stead, Christ exhausted the penalty [thus satisfying God's justice] and provided a pardon [thus satisfying God's mercy]." (6BC 1099)
The Bad News
The Good News
Man's Choice God's Choice
Made Independently Of God Made Independently Of Man
Eve took (Genesis 3:6) God gave (John 3:16)
Brought man under the condemnation of the law Released man from the condemnation of the law
"Voluntarily our divine Substitute bared His soul to the sword of justice, that we might not perish but have everlasting life." (1SM322)
"As the outflowing of unfathomable grace, Jesus "redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." (Galatians 3:13, KJV)
"There simply was no other way. Only by taking our place upon the cross, only by being made a curse for us, and by suffering the penalty that we deserve, was God able to reconcile "the prerogatives of Justice and Mercy, and let each stand separate in its dignity, yet united." (7BC935)
"In a nutshell, therefore, Jesus "suffered on the cross, that mercy might be granted to fallen man. God's justice is preserved, and guilty man is pardoned." (TMK287)
Notice that neither the claims of God's justice, nor those of His mercy were ignored or diminished; the claims of both were fully satisfied.
"The reconciliation of justice and mercy did not involve any compromise with sin, or ignore any claim of justice; but by giving to each divine attribute its place, mercy could be exercised in the punishment of sinful, impenitent man without destroying its clemency [lenience] or forfeiting its compassionate character, and justice could be exercised in forgiving the repenting transgressor without violating its integrity." (1SM260/1)
Yet, while the claims of both justice and mercy were met in full, ultimately it was God's mercy, allied with His love, that triumphed over His justice.
This is why James tells us that . . .
"Mercy triumphs over judgment." (James 2:13)
This glorious truth is symbolically represented by the furnishing in the Most Holy Place, first of all by the fact that the mercy seat (representing God's mercy) was positioned above the ark (representing God's justice), and secondly by the materials from which the mercy seat and the ark were constructed. The mercy seat was constructed of solid gold, while the ark containing the law was constructed of wood that had been overlaid and inlaid with gold. Exodus 37:1,6. This, of course, is intended to imprint upon our minds the fact that . . .
"If there was glory in the administration that condemned [God's justice], then the administration that acquits [God's mercy - allied with His love] abounds far more in glory." (2 Corinthians 3:9, Moffatt)
The gospel of hope tells us, therefore, of the "kindness and sternness of God." (Romans 11:22). It is the story of how God's love intervened in the conflict between His mercy and His justice, and how He, the God of infinite compassion, wrought out for His fallen children - for all of His fallen children - a hope that is absolute.
Let us rejoice, therefore, in the knowledge that . . .
"It is the mingling of judgment and mercy that makes salvation full and complete. It is the blending of the two that leads us, as we view the world's Redeemer and the law of Jehovah, to exclaim, 'Thy gentleness hath made me great.' " (6BC1072)
And now, thanks to God's amazing grace, and to His love that absolutely defies understanding, "there is nothing to hinder God's mercy from descending, abundant, free, and full, in pardon, taking away sin, and imputing the righteousness of Christ." (HM 11-01-97.8)
"May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you . . ." (Ephesians 1:18)


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