His Glorious Presence

Joel Stephen Williams

One of the books of the Apocrypha is known as Ecclesiasticus or The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach. It was written around 180 B.C. by a teacher of the law of Moses, and it was very highly regarded by Jews and early Christians. Toward the end of the book Joshua ben Sira, the author, describes the appearance of Simon the high priest on the Day of Atonement (50:5-10):

How glorious he was when the people gathered round him as he came out of the inner sanctuary!
Like the morning star among the clouds,
like the moon when it is full;
like the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High,
and like the rainbow gleaming in glorious clouds;
like roses in the days of the first fruits,
like lilies by a spring of water,
like a green shoot on Lebanon on a summer day;
like fire and incense in the censer,
like a vessel of hammered gold adorned with all kinds of precious stones;
like an olive tree putting forth its fruit,
and like a cypress towering in the clouds.

Simon was high priest from about 225 B.C. until shortly after 200 B.C. He was known as a very pious individual and is probably to be identified with the famous Simon the Just. Because he was serious about his work as high priest and was representing the people on the Day of Atonement to ask God for forgiveness, his appearance evoked the marvelous poetic description above. "How glorious he was...like the morning star...like the sun shining...like roses...." If such beautiful words were necessary to express the dramatic presence of Simon, how much more so must we stretch the limitations of human language to express the grandeur of Jesus Christ as our high priest. His appearance in this world was remarkable. His life was exceptional and unique. His death and resurrection were awe inspiring. His second appearance will be dramatic beyond the ability of words to describe. Our reaction will be an extreme reverent awe (Rev. 1:17) and a shout of hopeful expectation (Tit. 2:13). To use Sirach's words, we will say: "How glorious he is...like the morning star...like the sun shining...like the rainbow gleaming...like roses...like a vessel of gold adorned with precious stones. How glorious is he."

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