In just three days Jesus would be dying for his enemies. Still he was calling them to repentance through the parable of the tenants (Mark 12:1-17). Their hearts were hard. Their opposition continued through the question about taxes. The crowds were amazed. The religious leaders hardened their hearts further.
I wrote a week of Meditations on this parable that will appear this October (attached). As I prepared that writing assignment, I realized that this parable provides a very clear picture of God’s love in the Old Testament. (If you would like to purchase a subscription to Meditations click here.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me read the Old Testament through the lens of the Parable of the Tenants. I easily focus on the judgment that came upon the rebellious. I fail to appreciate my God’s patience—sending his servants (prophets) over and over. Finally sending his Son. Help me find comfort in this patient love of my Savior God. Help me daily remember that I am your tenant—living to produce the fruit of faith that you love. Amen.
Our Old Testament reading (Numbers 7) is 89 verses long. It is repetitious. Each tribe brings the same gift for the dedication of the Tabernacle. The three kind of animal sacrifices each tribe gives provides a chance for us to review:
- The whole burnt offering - animals completely burned up on the altar symbolizing that our whole lives belong to the God who has atoned for our sins. "I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship" (Romans 12:1).
- The sin offering - the goat upon whom the offerer would lay their hand and transfer their guilt to the goat to make atonement or payment for their sin. "Jesus Christ, the Righteous One... is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).
- The fellowship offering - part of the animal would be burned on the altar, the rest of it eaten by the priest and offerer, symbolizing our fellowship, our peace, with God. "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
God's best gift to us is reserved for the last verse of Numbers 7.
“When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover [KJV “mercy seat”] on the ark of the covenant law [KJV “ark of testimony”]. In this way the LORD spoke to him.”
The LORD promised to dwell in a cloud between the two cherubim or angels on the ark. Inside the ark were the two tablets of the “Testimony” as it is most often translated, or “covenant law” as it is translated here. We know the two tablets as the 10 Commandments.
The LORD, above the atonement cover, would look down and see the 10 Commandments. The commandments revealed the LORD had reason to come in judgment on the Israelites. But as the LORD looked down on those tablets in the ark, he would see the blood of the Day of Atonement offering (Leviticus 16) that paid for [made atonement for] those sins.
It is for this reason the King James Version (KJV) uses the term “mercy seat” for “atonement cover.” The LORD spoke to Moses from this place of mercy. The LORD speaks to us in his Word through this place of mercy—looking at us through the blood of the Savior.
Lord Jesus, how often haven't I been a rebellious tenant of which you spoke in the parable. LORD, speak to me from your Mercy Seat, your cross of sacrifice. Amen.