The Tabernacle, The Ark of the Covenant, The Mercy Seat - Lesson 18
The article of the tabernacle which we will study today, if absent from Godís dwelling place, would render the tabernacle a curse to us.
It would be a futile, hollow, and fruitless, structure which could only communicate to us gloom, doom, and despair, for it would be a structure which only brought us condemnation.
What a joy it is that God gives us the ability to bring to you good news instead of condemnation.
As the Apostle Paul said in the book of Romans, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
God has made it so that glad tidings can be broadcast for God has so graciously placed into his tabernacle that which prominently brings into his plan His great Mercy.
Transgressors so love mercy for mercy is paramount to sinners for without Godís mercy there is no hope.
A man named John Marckant, a Church of England clergyman and poet, who lived in the 1500ís knew manís greatest of needs when he wrote about Godís great mercy:
In this writing he uses the word "suit" which is a seeking for something, by petition or application. We use it today in a legal framework.
O Lord, turn not away thy face From him that lies prostrate,
Lamenting sore his sinful life, Before thy mercy gate;
Mercy, good Lord, mercy I ask, This is the total sum;
For mercy, Lord, is all my suit: Lord, let thy mercy come.
Rightly so, his compelling prayer upon which all other prayers depend is Godís mercy for without Godís mercy all petitions bump up against Godís law and therefore, without Godís mercy, are prayed in vain.
But God has answered this prayer in Jesus Christ for Jesus Christ has obeyed the Father and shed his blood before Him.
And with the shedding of this perfect blood the Father is wholly satisfied that justice has been done, and therefore mercy can be extended.
This picture of Godís mercy was shown prominently in the tabernacle for God so choose to provide a shadow of what was to come in Jesus Christ by commanding Moses to make a seat on the Ark, a seat called Mercy.
We read of this in: Exodus 25:17, 21-22, And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.
21And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
So this is the position in which God chooses to meet man.
It is a position where the mercy of God is before man and before God.
Transactions take place in an environment of mercy.
Now the Hebrew word for Mercy seat means "Covering" or "Atonement."
The idea is that of the covering of sins, of atonement, or reconciliation made possible by the mercy of God.
Forgiveness and reconciliation were made possible because the blood of the sacrifice, the propitiation, was sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat once a year on the Day of Atonement.
The root word for Mercy Seat or "Atonement Cover" comes from the Hebrew word kaphar, which means:
To make atonement, to reconcile
To appease, to placate, to cancel or annul
It means to cleanse, to forgive, to pardon, to purge away, to put off
This root word has a rich meaning in relation to the Mercy Seat for it is at the Mercy Seat God:
Covers man's sin
God cleanses, forgives, pardons, purges away, and puts off man's sin
God makes atonement and reconciles man to Himself
And he appeases His own wrath against sin; He pays the death penalty for sinners, He annuls and placates the requirements of His law
The Mercy Seat was made of solid gold exactly to fit the dimensions of the ark.
The Cover of the Ark, a propitiatory covering, a covering that satisfies the requirements of God is a beautiful type of Christ.
Christ, is the great propitiation, the great satisfaction who fully answers the demands of the law, covering our transgressions, and coming between us and the curse of death which we fully and completely deserve.
The book of Romans speak a great deal of the Mercy Seat and its fulfillment in Christ.
God set forth the redemption that is in Christ Jesus first here in the Tabernacle with the Mercy Seat.
It's a seat of Godís great "must have" mercy.
More than that, it symbolizes the constant stream of love flowing from God the Father, through Jesus the Son, to all humanity.
Godís constant presence above the mercy seat communicates to us
great assurance in knowing that there is bountiful mercy available to all who will but come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, who will confess their sins, having them washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus!
Paul tells us in Romans exactly who this mercy seat represented:
Romans 3:25, Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
And John stated it like this in 1 John 4:10, Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
The word "propitiation" here is the same word in the original Greek found in Hebrews 8:5 translated "mercy-seat."
Hebrews 9:5, And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
There were to be two cherubims at the two ends of the Mercy Seat which was placed on top the Ark.
Psalm 99:1 refers to this, The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.
It is as if the cherubims were poised to strike any who approached God without proper authority for God can only be approached through the blood.
Know this, by knowing how the priest came in the Most Holy Place, for the blood of the sacrifice that preceded him was that which allowed him entrance.
Now the cherubims had wings stretching upward and meeting on high, forming a kind of canopy, with faces looking to each other but downward toward the Mercy seat.
The space formed by the over-arching wings above the mercy seat was filled by the Shekinah, the symbol of Godís presence.
The cherubim are pictured as gazing with intense interest at the blood sprinkled Mercy Seat.
It was here, from above the Mercy Seat, that God spoke to Moses.
Numbers 7:8,9, And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him.
The Mercy Seat is where the Blood of the slain bullock was sprinkled as atonement for the sin of the nation.
The Priest could never enter the Most Holy Place without the Blood.
And so we see that the voice of God from off the Mercy Seat was only heard through Blood atonement.
God has nothing to say to man apart from Jesus Christ and His work of redemption.
All we have, comes through the blood of Christ.
For our sin has separated us from God.
There is a great gulf between God and man, a gulf so vast that it keeps us from reaching God and that gulf is there because of sin.
And sin condemns us to death and hell.
Without the intervention of our Creator all is hopeless but because God has given us His word we know there is hope for it comes because of the mercy of God.
This is the very reason God designed the Mercy Seat of the Ark, to proclaim His great Mercy.
It is the Blood that changes the throne of Judgment into a throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).
It is through faith in the Blood that Jesus became our Mercy Seat.
God is a holy God, full of righteousness and judgment.
This is the God we see in the Law.
When Israel broke the Law, they stirred up the wrath of God.
Divine wrath is the holiness of God in action against sin.
Sin must be judged; the demands of a Holy God must be appeased.
God's holiness and righteousness must be vindicated.
God has declared the wages of sin to be paid by death!
The Blood, which was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, testified that a death had taken place.
The judgment of God had been executed and therefore God's wrath was appeased.
His righteousness was vindicated and now, God's mercy could flow.
Under the Old Covenant, God accepted the blood of a sinless animal as atonement for sin, but this was only a shadow of the blood of the Lord Jesus, which would be propitiation for us.
As we stand sprinkled in the blood of Christ, God can be merciful, just and the justifier of all who believe or have faith in the blood for the law has been appeased.
Romans 3:20-27, Therefore by the deeds of the law there
shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge
of sin. 21But now the righteousness of God without the law is
manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the
righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon
all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have
sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely
by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom
God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to
declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the
forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his
righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth
in Jesus. 27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what
law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
The blood shed at the Brazen Altar which is a type of the Cross, is brought to the Ark and God is propitiated.
He is appeased. He is satisfied.
In the Tabernacle we see a blending of judgment and mercy.
Mercy and truth, righteousness and peace have been reconciled here.
The grate on the Brazen Altar of sacrifice, which was one and a half cubits high, was the Judgment Seat.
Here the sin of the whole nation was judged in that substitutionary death of the innocent animal.
Yet we see the Ark of the Covenant, which was also one and one half cubits high, as the seat of mercy.
Here the whole nation of Israel was reconciled.
God provides us an example of what happens when men try to see God without seeing him though the blood.
This is found in 1 Samuel 6:19-20, And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. 20And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?
Because they looked into the Ark of the Lord, for that is where they sought God, but in looking they only found the Law and the penalty of the Law which is death.
God will not be looked at apart from the blood.
We must look at him as Romans says, through faith in his blood.
When you stand before him you must claim the blood, for those without blood are condemned to be eternally apart from Him.
The blood is the Law of Spirit and Life, the Law written on tables is the Law of sin and death.
The Law could only command, it could only demand, and because sinners are without strength to obey the law, it could only condemn.
The Law is God's perfect standard of righteousness, but it is powerless to save from death and hell for to the sinner it only brings condemnation.
Romans 8:2, For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath
made me free from the law of sin and death.
Christ died to satisfy the righteous claims of a holy God and to meet His demands of divine justice for God sees the blood of His only begotten Son and we are therefore restored to a position of fellowship with God.
We can therefore sing this song by Phillip Bliss with heartfelt gratitude:
Free from the law, O happy condition,
Christís last words on the cross were "It is finished."
The blood of bulls and goats had been shed for hundreds of years and each blood letting was followed by another.
But Christís blood was the blood that stopped the bloodletting for it was finished.
This is recalled in Hebrews 10:11-12, And every priest
standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which
can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one
sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
And in Hebrews 12:1-2, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of
our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising
the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Think about this sitting with regard to the Mercy Seat for it is indeed a seat yet no man ever sat upon this seat.
Christ presented His own Blood at the Throne of God, and having done so, He sat down.
He is now seated as our Heavenly High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
He is now seated on a Throne of pure gold, a seat for Deity, even the eternal Son of God, for the blood letting is over, for the perfect blood has been found.