Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17
Propitiation is a word we usually pass over when it appears in a scripture verse. It’s intimidating and hard to pronounce but it just means ‘substitute’. Jesus was our substitute sacrifice.
Man was born with an awareness of his estrangement from God. Worshippers, even in the world, knew this well. They would bring their sacrifices; animals, even newborn babies, and kill them at the altar, all for the purpose of appeasing angry gods. While their faith was misplaced, their conscience was right in know that a god who bore wrath needed to be appeased. Praise God that He sent Jesus, who bore God’s wrath for us, so that we could appear guiltless before His Father.
William Cowper, a prolific hymn writer, came to Christ through understanding the meaning of propitiation. Orphaned at six years old, he was sent to a boarding school where he suffered extreme mistreatment by bullies. He was a frail child with an artistic temperament, an easy target for peers who abused power. In 1756, when he was just 25 years old, he was committed to an asylum to supposedly live out a life sentence. He is quoted to have said, “My sin! My sin! Oh, for some fountain to cleanse me.” The torment which fed his instability was little more than recognition of His need for forgiveness.
God heard. He sent a doctor who was a gentle old man, a follower of Christ. God used him to bring William to faith. When He shared Hebrews 2:17 with him, the power of Christ’s death washed over this broken young man and he understood the magnificent implications. He embraced Christ and the powerful experience was captured with his pen.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
Many have ended their lives in suicide because they were overcome with guilt. Others live out a life sentence of depression and regret as they rehearse their failures like a favorite old movie. The track record haunts them like a ghost. Some with OCD scrub their hands till they bleed in order to find a kind of cleansing that brings relief. All if offered in Christ. Complete cleansing, one that lasts forever, is offered in the fountain of his blood.
I stand in the flow and, with tears, say thank you. Amen