Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where does God dwell, speak, and reconcile?


At church we have just started a sermon series on Romans and so I have been dipping into Karl Barth's great commentary. I have also been reading through Exodus which recounts construction of the Tabernacle, including the Mercy Seat. 

Below is Barth's exegesis of Romans 3:25 [which he translates "Whom God set forth to be a covering of propitiation, through his faithfulness, by his blood"]. He notes that three things happened at the Mercy Seat:
  • God dwelt
  • God spoke
  • God reconciled people to himself
In the New Testament all of this happens in the person of Jesus.

"In the Old Testament cultus the covering of propitiation was the sheet of gold, overshadowed by the wings of the two-angel-figures (cherubim), which covered and marked the place where the contents of the ark, the oracles of God, were deposited (Exod. 25:17-21). In I Sam. 4:4, 2 Sam. 6:2, Ps. 80: 1, it is the place above which God himself dwells; in Exod. 25:22, Num. 7:89, it is the place from which God speaks to Moses; it is pre-eminently, however, the place, where, on the great Day of Atonement, the people were reconciled to God by the sprinkling of blood (Lev. 16:14-15). The analogy with Jesus is especially appropriate, because the mercy seat is no more than a particular, though very significant, place. By the express counsel of God, Jesus has been appointed from eternity as the place of reconciliation above which God dwells and from which he speaks; now, however, he occupies a position in time, in history, and in the presence of humanity"
Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 6th Edition, pp. 104-105.
As an aside I note that this passage illustrates just how "orthodox" and "conservative" Barth's theology was. He clearly saw substitutionary atonement as central to theology.

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