Bible reading for Mar 26 -- Exodus 37; John 16.
"The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim." (Exodus 37:9)
Cherubim. The Bible teaches that there are supernatural beings, not just in heaven but active on earth as well. The different names used -- cherubim, seraphim, angels, living creatures -- may designate different kinds of these beings. Cherubim (pl.; cherub, sing.) serve as defenders of God's holiness, for example, guarding the way to the tree of life with a flaming sword (Gen 3:24). Images of cherubim were woven into the curtains of the tabernacle (Ex 26:1). Ezekiel saw cherubim bearing up God's glorious appearance in his visions, and Lucifer (Satan) had been in that class of cherubim (Ezek 28:14, 16). At Sinai Moses is directed to make two gold images of cherubim as part of the mercy seat, or lid, upon the ark of the covenant. Upon this lid the blood of the atonement sacrifice would be sprinkled on behalf of sinful people (Lev 16) and so, in symbolic form, the guardian angels would look down upon the death of the substitute, see that justice was satisfied, and in mercy the nation was spared from judgment. This was all foreshadowing the Messiah (Isa 53).
Angels in the tomb. At the end of the gospel of John, two angels are seated at either end of where Jesus' body was laid, I believe, in portrayal of this Old Testament ceremony, indicating that full atonement for sin had been accomplished by our Lord Jesus (Jn 20:12). The angels in the otherwise empty tomb were seated, and at peace. There was no flaming sword. Outside the tomb in the garden, the "gardener" -- for so Mary presumed, and ironically, she was right -- this risen gardener, the last Adam, greeted Mary on the first morning of the new creation. We always need to remember that the gospel is not about how you and I make ourselves right or better before God -- it is all about how Jesus himself has accomplished that. We may come now into God's glorious and holy presence in peace, with no danger any longer of the angelic sword, if we come to him with the sprinkled blood of the Son of God. The way to the tree of life has been opened to us (Rev 22:2, 14-19)!
"I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away." (John 16:1)
Overview. We continue with the words of Jesus to his disciples on the evening of his betrayal, on the night before his death upon the cross. This upper room discourse, as it is called, is designed to prepare his disciples for their future ministry. It is most relevant for us, too.
Joy. The Lord does not promise his followers that no tribulation will come (16:1-4, 33), but that they will have a resource (the Holy Spirit) and a message (the truth) that will accompany them. Christ's resurrection will give them -- and us -- a joy that will never be taken away (16:20, 22). And we are told to ask freely as Christ's disciples for what we need, and we will receive, and our joy will be full* (16:24).
The Helper (16:7-15). Our Lord promises the presence of the "Helper", who is also called the Spirit of truth. This word, Helper, is also translated as "advocate, counselor, comforter". He comes alongside of us, just as Jesus did to his disciples, to give strength in their ministry and to lead them into truth. The Spirit will amplify the disciples' witness (Jn 15:26-27) by adding God's power to bring conviction upon the world (16:8-11). The central work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ and to help us know the riches we have in him: "He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:14).
Recalling his words. Note how often Jesus says, "I have said these things..." (16:1, 4, 6, 25, 33). The ministry of the Holy Spirit does not remove the need for God's written revelation, the Bible. In fact we have the four written Gospels precisely because Jesus promised that "...the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26). This is our assurance that God has guided the Apostles by inspiring their New Testament writings. And so in this way we abide in his word and prove to be his disciples (Jn 8:31).
*If you are interested, here's a sermon I gave on John 16:24, "That Your Joy May Be Full."
Image credit: above, detail of the statue, "Archangel Michael and the devil" by Francisque-Joseph Duret, at the Fontaine Saint-Michel, Paris. Photo by Alvesgaspar at wikimedia commons.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.