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Joyful Sorrow…And Other Paradoxes

Leviticus 16:30a, 31a
“For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. … It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves.”

In human terms, it’s impossible to unlock the treasure trove of divine atonement without the conceptual key called paradox. All the great truths of the Bible arrive in this enigmatic form. All symbols of divine revelation are double-sided as it were, and Christ is the most absolute and best of these. What do I mean by ‘paradox’? This: that what seems opposing and contradictory to our finite minds is unified in God’s.

Theologians often speak of Christ being ‘fully God’ and ‘fully man,’ or ‘100 percent divine and 100 percent human,’ but 100 percent plus 100 percent is 200 percent, right? Which is an impossibility according to every mathematical principle we have. Such an equation breaks the very law of non- contradiction God inscribed in our reason. To measure Christ’s hypostatic nature by human standards (as theologians refer to it) means that Jesus can only be fifty percent divine and fifty percent human—a half-God, half-man hybrid. Yet that isn’t the case! But the truth of His nature exceeds our ability to speak of it. It breaks our mathematical formulas, defies our limits and measures. And the moment we try to condense divine paradoxes like these into the limits of finite language, we end up confounding the mystery rather than expounding it.

Take that example into your reading of Leviticus 16:29-31, friend, and open the treasure-box with this key of paradox. Recognize that God symbolizes atonement as a Sabbath rest throughout the Bible and subdivides it into the two contraries of somberness and joy. One moment, it’s a time of affliction and grief. The next, it’s a time of dancing and jubilee! Why? Because the life of faith is both. Because Christ was the Man of Sorrows, draped in grief, and the Wellspring of joy! He was the sacrificial Lamb and the triumphant Lion! The servant to all and the King of all! Son of God and Son of Man!

Rejoice in the LORD’s mercies today, but mourn over your sin. Dance with delight over the wounds of your Redeemer, but weep in agony for putting them there. Season your sorrow with laughter and your joy with somberness, because to leave out half is to miss the whole.