“And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.” (Exodus 25:21)
There was only one seat in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and it was God’s. When the priests ministered in either section of the tabernacle, they always remained standing. They were never seated for any reason. Besides being God’s exclusive resting place there, what else do we know about this holy “seat?”
It was the covering (the lid, if you will) for the Ark of the Covenant, a box roughly 4½ by 2½ feet, made of wood and overlaid with gold that denoted the presence of God in their midst. The covering—the Mercy Seat—was made of pure gold, with two golden cherubim on either side that covered the Ark with their wings. Inside the box were three things: the broken tables of the Law, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna. It was the only piece of furniture transferred from the Tabernacle to the Temple, where it housed only the tables of the Law.
There is much symbolism for the Church of Jesus Christ to be found in the Tabernacle and it’s furnishings, as the book of Hebrews points out so vividly, but I want to draw your attention to only two aspects of God’s mercy seat that spoke to my own heart recently.
First, as I said, the Mercy Seat belonged to God alone. Obviously, it speaks of a place of authority, as in “the seat of government.” When there is a question of who had the final authority on any subject, the answer was, and always will be, God. We may not agree with God’s judgments, but He is the judge of all the earth, and He is right (Gen. 18:25), especially when it comes to how we must approach Him. Once a year, the Ark was approached by the High Priest, who brought blood with Him to sprinkle on the Mercy Seat (Lev. 16:14). There was no other way. And our only route of entry to the presence of God requires the same thing: Blood. Remember I said that the Ark contained the broken Law? Well, the blood-sprinkled Mercy Seat covered that Law. The Blood of Jesus Christ, Who fulfilled the Law, is the only thing that can neutralize the penalty of its demands against us; and now redeemed sinners, you and I can n come boldly to God’s Mercy Seat and commune with Him. (“And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat…” Exo. 25:22).
But wait, there’s more!
When someone offers to sit down and talk to you, it’s a sign you will have his or her undivided attention. Of course, God didn’t have a human form in the Holy of Holies, only appearing as a cloud (Lev. 16:2); but that cloud served to assure Israel that God was with them in the camp. And our cloud of witness is the indwelling Spirit of His Son within us that cries, “Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:6). Now, when we approach God as Blood-washed believers, He’ll be there. He won’t be standing around, shifting from one foot to the other, impatiently. He’ll be seated. And it’s not for nothing that He chose to call His chair a “Mercy Seat,” because that’s what He dispenses from there: mercy. Mercy that is great (Num. 14:18), abundant (1 Pet. 1:3), tender (Psl. 103:4), rich (Eph. 2:4), new every morning (Lam. 3:23), high as heaven (Psl. 103:11), and filling the whole earth (Psl. 119:64). God may not give us everything we want, but He will always give us mercy. He can’t help Himself; it’s part of His character (Exo. 34:6; 2 Cor. 1:3). And when He refuses us, it’s only because of His mercy (Psl. 84:11).
So come to your God of mercy, dear friend. Approach His Mercy Seat with a confident heart and a Blood-cleansed conscience. He is in the seat of authority and you have His undivided attention. And best of all, there is a fresh supply of mercy just waiting for you there.
“Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel;
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.