July 8, 2010

Grace in the Sanctuary

By Johnny KanThe story is told of well-known evangelist Billy Graham driving through a small town, when he was stopped by a police officer and charged with speeding.

When Graham appeared in court, the judge asked him, “Guilty, or not guilty?”

When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, “That’ll be 10 dollars—a dollar for every mile you went over the speed limit.”

Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. “You’ve violated the law, the fine must be paid,” he said. “But I’m going to pay it for you.” And with that the judge took a $10 bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner.

“That,” said Graham, “is how God treats repentant sinners!”

Joshua the High Priest
In Zechariah 3, Joshua stands before the “angel of the Lord” ministering on behalf of the people of Israel, as one would expect of a priest. Satan stands on his right to accuse him. The Hebrew word “accuser” has the same root as that for Satan. Satan is the accuser of the people of the nations. He reminds us of our own sinfulness, our own wrongdoing, that we are undeserving of God’s forgiveness and grace.

2010 1525 page10But the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (Zech. 3:2).

Joshua represented the people of Israel, God’s chosen people. God, in His unconditional love, had snatched these people from the fire of captivity in Babylon to carry out God’s purpose for them.

The account continues: “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. . . .

“Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.’ Then I said, ‘Put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by” (verses 3-5).

The word “filthy” in Hebrew means “covered in human excrement.” Sin is repulsive to God, but in verse 4 God says, “Take away the filthy garments” (KJV). He didn’t say take the sinner away, but take the filthy garments from him. In other words, remove the sin and leave the saint.

The turban is the headdress of the high priest, and Exodus 28:36 tells us that on the front of that headdress is written “Holy to the Lord.” The headdress is symbolic of the fact that a sinner, whether it be Joshua, or any sinner, is back in fellowship with God!

The prophetic vision thus says that even though we stand accused because of our filthy garments, we are saved by the new “garments” and “turban” of Christ. This is righteousness by faith.

Symbols of Salvation
Christ is the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world, the light of the world that lightens everyone, the living bread who came down from heaven to give us eternal life. Christ is our intercessor against the accusations of Satan. Christ is the veil of the temple that bore our sins in His flesh.

All this was revealed in the sanctuary, the expression of God’s grace through the sanctuary and the priestly service.

The sanctuary was where God met sinners; today He meets us in Christ. The sanctuary was where God revealed Himself to sinners; today He reveals Himself to us in Christ. The sanctuary was where God dwelt with sinners; today He dwells with us in Christ. The sanctuary was where God accepted sinners; today He accepts us in Christ. The sanctuary was where God forgave sinners; today He forgives us in Christ. How can we not find grace in the sanctuary?

It is said that Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, once captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?”

“Half of my wealth,” was his reply.

“And if I release your children?”

“Everything I possess.”

“And if I release your wife?”

“Your Majesty, I will give myself.”

Cyrus, moved by this devotion, freed them all.

As they returned home the prince said to his wife, “Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!”

With a look of deep love for her husband, she said, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you—the one who was willing to give himself for me.”

2010 1525 page10A former editor of the Adventist Review once wrote: “Grace is a five- letter word: J-E-S-U-S.” There is no better word to amplify the intensity and magnitude of God’s grace to us. Only in Him, and Him alone, can we find absolute protection, safety, and refuge.

Four million Jews died in Auschwitz during World War II. But for all the ugly memories of Auschwitz stands one story of love and sacrifice. In February 1941 a Franciscan priest, Maximilian Kolbe, whose father was German and mother Polish, was imprisoned at Auschwitz. In the harshness of that slaughterhouse he maintained the gentleness of Christ. He shared his food. He gave up his bunk. He prayed for his captors. He was soon given the nickname “the saint of Auschwitz.”

In July of that year there was an escape from the prison. It was the custom at Auschwitz to kill 10 prisoners for each one who escaped.

All the prisoners were gathered in the courtyard, and the commandant randomly selected 10 names from the roll book. These victims were immediately taken to a cell where they received no food or water until they died.

The commandant began calling names. At each selection another prisoner stepped forward to fill the sinister quota. The tenth name he called was Franciszek Gajowniczek. As the SS officers checked the numbers of the condemned, one of them began to sob, “My wife and my children.”

Then the officers turned as they heard movement among the prisoners. It was Kolbe, the Franciscan priest. “I want to talk to the commander,” he said calmly.

“Herr Commandant, I wish to make a request, please. I want to die in the place of this prisoner.” He pointed at the sobbing Gajowniczek. “I have no wife and children. Besides, I am old and not good for anything. He’s in better condition.” Kolbe knew well the Nazi mentality.

The commandant was uncharacteristically speechless. After a moment, he barked, “Request granted.”

Franciszek Gajowniczek survived the Holocaust. Every year, on August 14, however, he went back to Auschwitz to say thank you to the man who died in his place.

Christ died on our behalf so we might live the grace-oriented life through Him.

Standing Before the Judgment Throne of God
I sometimes imagine myself standing before the judgment throne of God. I imagine God asking, “Why should I let you into My kingdom?”

In my imagination I say, “Lord, from the moment of my birth to the moment of my death, I lived a sinless life.”

“Really?” questions God.

“Not only that, from the moment of my birth to the moment of my death, I preached the word, healed the sick, helped the poor, visited the needy, clothed the naked; I even caused the lame to walk and the blind to see. I even raised the dead to life.”

“When did you do all that?”

“Lord,” I’ll say, “I did it all in Jesus. He has told me to take His righteousness, claim it as my own, and present it before You.”

Then I imagine the Father saying to me, “My son, come into the inheritance of the kingdom that has been prepared for you since the foundation of the world.”

Johnny Kan, pastor, Seventh-day Adventist church, Jurong, Singapore