"There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee." Ex. 25:22.
The point specially to be noticed here is communion. Enoch had walked with God, and others had believed God; but here God is showing how He can meet man, and have to do with him, in a way suitable to His own infinitely holy nature. He had talked to Adam in the garden. He had made Himself known to Abram as the Almighty, and had come so near to him as not to hide from him the things that He would do. But when He called Israel out of Egypt, He revealed Himself to them as Jehovah. He sheltered them from destruction by the blood of the Lamb, brought them through the Red Sea of death and judgment, and thus perfectly delivered them from their enemies, whom they saw dead upon the sea-shore. In this way, God had a people (though in the flesh) separated unto Himself by election, and by blood, and redeemed by power, so that He could now dwell among them. We read, therefore, in this chapter, "Let them make ME a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." (v. 8.) And again, when the priests were consecrated, Jehovah said, "This shall be a continual burnt-offering throughout your generations, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before Jehovah; where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel. . . And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God." And again, "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people." (Ex. 29:42, 45; Lev. 26:12.) Thus Israel is chosen, separated from every other people, redeemed, and blest with Jehovah in their midst; and now we read of His meeting with Moses, and with them. Communion then flows out of established relationships founded on redemption accomplished, and through God's dwelling with His people by His Spirit. All this is clearly set forth in this typical people which God brought out of Egypt, most of whom fell in the wilderness because of their unbelief. With us, all these blessings are of eternal value. By One offering we are "perfected for ever." The redemption obtained for us is "eternal." We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. We are children of God, and have received the Holy Ghost to abide with us, and in us, "for ever." We are therefore "called unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus." In the verses we have referred to, we find Jehovah teaching what His mind is as to communion. He desired communion with His people — "There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee." He also teaches on what ground He can meet them.
It was not long before these precious words were communicated to Moses, that mount Sinai had been altogether in a smoke, because Jehovah descended upon it in fire. Then the people were commanded to keep off, and not to come near. There were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; and so terrible was the sight that Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake." Bounds were set about the mount, so that the people might not break through. It was said, "Whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: there shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man it shall not live." (Ex. 19:10-21.) But why all this? Because Jehovah came down upon mount Sinai, and demanded righteousness from man in the way of works. He gave a law proper to man as a child of Adam on earth. Holy, just, and good as it was, it was the ministration of ,death, because it was the ministration of righteousness. It demanded righteousness from man to God on the principle of works. Such was law.
But how different are the words written soon after" There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee." It is because God, knowing what was in man, that he would be insubject and a law-breaker, was here setting forth what was in His heart toward him; for, though on the principle of law or works, man must always be at a distance from God, yet His own wise and gracious heart could devise the way whereby men on earth and Himself could not only meet together, but have communion. An altar of burnt-offering was at the door of the tabernacle. All our blessings are founded on the sacrifice of Christ. These are some of the beginnings of the unfoldings of Scripture as to the way of grace.
Law then is not grace. They stand in widest contrast with each other. The principles of grace and works are never commingled in Scripture for justification in the sight of God. Hence we read: "If by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." (Rom. 11:6.)
The symbol of the mercy seat was the intimation that God would come out in grace, and that even to lawbreakers. This we know has since been freely done; for God has made the way of approach to Himself in the person and work of His own Son, both according to His own holiness and the need of the sinner. The Son of God has come; He has declared the Father. It is well to observe that the Ark was the first vessel of the tabernacle which God commanded to be made, and that the place assigned to it was inside the veil. It therefore sets forth Christ in heaven.
The two qualities of material of which the Ark was composed — "shittim-wood," and "gold" — set forth Christ as perfect man, and also truly God. Made flesh and dwelling among us, He nevertheless was the eternal Son — God and Man in one Person. In this Ark, or chest, the tables of testimony, on which the Ten Commandments were written, were put. The whole was covered by a lid of pure gold (pure gold meaning divine righteousness), out of the ends of which lid, or mercy-seat, were beaten cherubims made to overshadow the mercy-seat, and to look toward each other, and to the mercy-seat. All this clearly sets forth that "grace reigns through righteousness." It foreshadows the precious fact, that, though man was a sinner, and thus justly exposed to the wrath of God, yet that Jesus had glorified God concerning the law. He was the law-fulfiller, as well as the bearer of its curse in the death of the cross, to redeem those who had broken it. Moreover, He magnified the law and made it honourable, and could truly say, "Thy law is within my heart." With Him, not one jot or tittle of the law failed. He was obedient in all things. His meat and drink were to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work. This He did perfectly. He could. therefore say at the close, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (John 17:4.)
The believer, who has been under the law, is thus redeemed from the curse of the law, and, having died to it in Jesus his Substitute, is brought to know God in Christ as the Giver of both grace and glory. Like the apostle, he can now say, "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." It is precious to know that Jesus the Son of God, now in the heavens, is the One who has glorified God as to the law of Moses, and is the true mercy-seat. This we see Jesus.
In the directions about the construction of the mercy-seat, the way of our intercourse and communion with God begins to be shadowed forth. But about this, further revelations of God's mind are afterwards given. In this place it is especially seen how law-breakers can be brought to God in peace and blessing, and how God can then have intercourse and communion with them. Afterward, in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, God further reveals that those who come into His presence can only be there in safety by virtue of the cloud of sweet incense covering the mercy-seat, and the blood of the sacrifice sprinkled upon and before the mercy-seat. The incense, no doubt, blessedly set forth the moral excellencies and perfections of the Lord Jesus, who entered into heaven itself by His own blood. The blood upon the mercy-seat was never wiped off; it was the ever-present witness to sins having been judged in the sacrifice, and to the ways of God having been fully vindicated. The blood was only sprinkled once upon the mercy-seat, for God knew perfectly the infinite value of the blood of Jesus Christ His Son; but it was sprinkled seven times before the mercy-seat, to assure the worshipper of its perfect efficacy for him when thus approaching God.
We have now, then, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. The blood gives us title to be there, and we have no other. "It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." We are redeemed not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, "but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
After this ordinance on the great day of atonement, God was still further pleased to show us His mind as to the ground of intercourse and communion with Himself. When the Son of God hung, as the spotless sacrifice for sin, upon the tree, and cried out, "It is finished," and "gave up the ghost," we are told that "the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom." (Matt. 2.) The veil, we are taught, symbolized the flesh of Jesus hence we read, "The veil, that is to say, His flesh." As long as the veil was unrent it was a bar of access from man to God it showed that the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest. But when the mercy-seat was accessible to all through the rent veil, the way to God was made plain. It is now a fact that an incarnate Saviour, Law-fulfiller and Curse-bearer, crucified, risen, ascended and glorified, is known in the presence of God. Man raised from among the dead, and gone into heaven itself by His own blood, is now seen there. "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour." (Heb. 2:9.) What a wonder of divine grace, that God should thus, devise a way whereby His banished ones might return, in perfect consistency too with His own holy and righteous demands. It was Jehovah who said, "There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel" (Ex. 25:22); but we can say that we are now "justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God hath set forth a propitiation or mercy-seat) through faith in His blood." (Rom. 2:24, 25.) What a holy and righteous ground has divine grace thus laid for the Father's intercourse with us, and our intercourse with Him. We see sins judged, law fulfilled, its curse borne, God's righteousness fully met, so that He is just both to Christ and to us, in forgiving our sins and giving us access with confidence into His own presence now by faith, with title to be there for ever. Let us not fail to observe that it is not said, There you shall meet with me, but, "There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee;" for God's righteous estimate of the work of Jesus is such, that, consistently with every attribute of Himself, He can meet with us and commune with us. What peace and rest this gives to our souls How similar is the Lord's last address to the Church on earth, when in its worst phase of profession and indifferentism to His claims: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." It is the Lord who Himself here proposes communion, and expresses Himself as desiring it. He wants to sup with us. Precious grace
By communion we understand fellowship, or joint participation. Communion and fellowship are generally the same word in the original. Communion, as we have said, must flow out of established peace and relationship; and its measure must be according to the character in which God is known. We do not read of communion with God in the epistles, because God is now revealed as Father; "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." Every believer now is born of God, and knows the Father. The Holy Ghost has come down, and has been given as the Spirit of adoption. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6.) Thus it is that "our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3.) The Holy Ghost is the power of this fellowship, hence we read of "the communion of the Holy Ghost." Thus now, in our measure, we can enter into the Father's love, counsels, delight and rest, in regard to the Son, and to all His children; and can also enter into the Son's love, delight and rest concerning the Father, and concerning every member of His body. It is into this new order of things that we have been introduced through grace, and by "the fellowship of the Spirit." It is most wonderful to contemplate, and yet we can easily see that nothing less could suit the Father, nothing less be suited to the infinite worth of the "eternal redemption" accomplished by the Son, and nothing less could be wrought in us as children of God by the indwelling Spirit. It is no wonder that the apostle should have added, "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." As we have before observed, it is the peace made, the relationships established, and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, which give character to the communion from which true service flows. Peace, communion, and service are therefore the divine order. What rest, and joy, and power, too, for service and testimony, are connected with the realization of this present order of fellowship I It is of all importance that our souls really enter into it so that we may be consciously before God our Father inside the rent veil, where Jesus is, our life and righteousness, where perfect peace and perfect love are unchangeably known, and the blood ever speaks of our title to be there. There worshipping the Father, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, without a cloud, without a fear, having no confidence in the flesh there ever learning divine goodness, and increasingly delighting in the Father, who loves us as He loved His« Son; and delighting in the Son of God, who loves us, and gave Himself for us. Such are some of the blessednesses of present fellowship with the Father and with the Son.
What saith the reader to these things? Do you enter into and enjoy this present character of communion? Are you at home inside the veil? Is it the happiest place your soul knows? and do you regard it as the suited place for a child of God, now brought into this wondrous fellowship? Liberty of access there we have with confidence, and to come boldly to the throne of grace; but the important question is, What do our souls know of it practically?
The Christian's power for service, and all fruit-bearing, is communion. Jesus said, "Abide in Me;" and again, "Without Me ye can do nothing." The moment communion is broken we cease to live as Christians should, and cannot be in a good state till our souls are restored. Hence we find in Scripture that God's people were happy and blest in having to do with the ark or mercy-seat, and quite the reverse when not being near it. As an example of the latter, we have only to turn to 1 Sam. 7:2, where we read, "It came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord." The expression of their unhappy state is most telling,
They "lamented after the Lord;" they had not the sense of His presence. And more than this; for we may be quite sure, if God our Father has not His right place in our hearts, something else will occupy them; perhaps the surrounding religiousness. It was so in this case; having lost the sense of the presence and blessing of the true God, they were taken up with the strange gods of the nations and Ashtaroth. A sad but true picture of the state of many now, who have no enjoyment of the communion at the mercy-seat we have been considering. Oh the marvel of divine grace! "There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony." Surely we can look up and say:
"Far from Thee we faint and languish;
Oh, our Saviour, keep us nigh!"
If personal intercourse and communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Ghost, be not known by our souls, then other objects will easily engage our hearts, and we shall be unhappy; not surely giving up the Lord, but, instead of enjoyment, lamenting after the Lord. May He graciously keep us abiding in our Lord Jesus inside the veil!
Let us turn to another example. In 2 Sam. 6:11, 12, we find one greatly blessed by the Lord. The ark, or mercy-seat, was in "the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months: and the Lord blessed Obed-edom, and all his household." Nor could the blessing be unnoticed, or untalked of, it was so remarkable. We read, "And it was told king David, saying, The Lord hath blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God." Ah, let no Christian expect the blessing of the Lord in his household, unless the mercy-seat be consciously known and honoured there! God's word is, "Them that honour me, I will honour." If, therefore, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be called on, honoured, and served in our homes, we may surely count not only on our own blessing, but on blessing to all the household. We may rest assured that neither individual nor family blessings will be wanting, if Christ in heaven, the true mercy-seat, be the daily object of our souls, and honoured by us.
Toward the end of this same chapter, we find also an encouraging example of collective joy and blessing, among those who knew the ark or mercy-seat to be the great centre of attraction. The ark of the Lord, or mercy-seat, was brought up with shouting, the sound of the trumpet, and with gladness. Burnt-offerings and peace-offerings were offered before the Lord; the people were blessed in the name of the Lord of hosts; and bread and wine were distributed to the whole multitude of Israel. And so now, when the Lord's people are really gathered unto the name of the Lord Jesus, and He, the Head of the body, is truly known in the midst, who is also the mercy-seat above, then, doubtless, there will be blessing and gladness. The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving will ascend from worshipping hearts to the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, and the affections will go out after every member of the body of Christ. If the presence of the ever-living and ever-loving Saviour be not thus known and enjoyed, let it not be surprising if deadness and carnality in some shape or other be painfully manifested. Individual occupation with our glorified Lord Jesus is the secret of collective gladness and comfort. When each heart is rejoicing in the Lord, we can then have fellowship one with another, worship the Father in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and delight in the thought that "yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Thanks be unto God, who hath called us "unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor. 1. 9.)
Communion then is the Christian's watchword. Our blessed Lord would have us share with Himself "the words" — the divine communications — which the Father gave Him. (John 17:8.) He gives us too His own peace; that calm, unperturbed state, which ever flowed from confidence in the Father's love, so that He would have us be without heart-trouble, or fear, during the whole time of His absence. He said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27.) He would have us also share His joy. He said, "These things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." (John 17:13.) As to love, His desire is that we should know that the Father loves us as He has loved Him. (John 17:23, 26.) And, to crown the whole, He will share with us His glory. "The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them." (John 17:22.) Oh to be kept in the constant enjoyment of this sweet communion