‘Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
Propitiation is not a word that surfaces in my regular vocabulary, it’s more a once a year word and frankly when I encounter it I am intimidated. The sound of the word seemed too complicated to understand and since it was used so infrequently I didn’t take the time to understand its meaning. When it is used during Bible studies or church, I nod like I know what is being explained. “Ah…yes (nod, nod) propitiation!” But in reality I’m thinking, “Propitiation…wasn’t that the gangster movie with Tom Hanks? Gosh, I like Tom Hanks and he is such a good pairing with Meg Ryan. Man, it’s been a while since I’ve seen her in anything. You’ve Got Mail was a good movie…..ooh, I have a coupon for Barnes and Noble that I need to use soon.” By the time that train of thought has played out, propitiation has left the immediate conversation and I’m in the clear to join the discussion or follow along and understand the teaching.
In his book The Search for Significance, Robert McGee devoted a whole chapter to Propitiation and since this chapter would be the topic of discussion at my next small group, I took a deep breath and dove in with little expectation of gleaning something significant. This is what McGee said, “When Christ died on the cross, He was our substitute. He took upon Himself the righteous wrath of God that we deserved.” Christ’s death was my propitiation for the wrath from God that my sins caused. Jesus paid the penalty/settled the debt/took the punishment for my sins to satisfy God’s wrath so that I may not be eternally damned; forever in torment. Well, after that clear explanation, the understanding of the term propitiation became a non-issue. The bigger challenge revealed in my reading was understanding the holiness of God the Father and the love the Father had for Jesus. Then going on to understand and believe the true wretchedness of my sins (even the ‘small’ ones) compared to God’s holiness; the depth of what Christ endured; God’s undeserved/unearned/unchanging love for me; and knowing that amazingly the ONLY thing He asks of me (and anyone) is to give Him my/our life while still on this earth, so that He can use me for His holy purposes! Now understanding all of THAT is an intimidating task…and it is truly awesome.
Thank you Father, thank you Jesus, again and again for saving a wretch like me. For loving me while I was still a sinner. For being my propitiation even when I hated you and was unaware of my eternal doom. You are so incredibly loving. Help me grow in my understanding of all that You are, and the scope of Your love and how far You had to reach to pluck me from the pit. I love you. Amen