Mercy and Grace | Day Two
By: Kate Downing | The Mercy Seat
If you have siblings, you’ve probably experienced the age-old battle over who gets to sit in the front seat. And this fight can become pretty ruthless. As the youngest of three girls, it took me many years to eventually make my way into the cherished seat. Oh, how I longed for it! Other than easy access to the radio, it wasn’t more comfortable or offered any special privileges. Rather, the seat symbolized what I longed for—authority, prominence, and victory over my older sisters.
Today we are going to talk about a seat that symbolized so much more than just prominence or authority. It symbolized the very presence and character of God. The mercy seat was the very place where the presence of God rested with His people, Israel. It is a place where His character as a merciful God is clearly seen.
Before we look at this mercy seat and why on earth it matters in our relationship with the Lord, first spend the next minute or two thanking God for the opportunity to spend time with Him today. Ask Him to give you focus and to speak to you through His Word.
Read Exodus 25:17-22.
Okay, that seems like a lot of weird information. I understand! But, stick with me here and let’s dig into what this means. First, here are a few notes about what you just read:
- God is giving Moses instructions on building and furnishing the Tabernacle—which was the place Israel gathered to worship and meet with God during their time of wandering in the desert.
- Specifically, God is telling Moses how to build the top or covering (“atonement covering” or “mercy seat” vs. 17) for the Ark of the Covenant. This was a special box or chest that would represent the presence of God among His people.
- Cherubim (vs. 20) is a name for angels
- The Testimony (vs. 21) that would be kept inside this box was the two tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments.
Read through this passage again and draw what you think this box and its cover (the mercy seat) would look like.
Why is this cover or seat important? I’m so glad you asked! Depending on the translation of the Bible you are reading, verse 17 might say “atonement cover” or “mercy seat.” For ease of talking about it, I’m going to use the term “mercy seat;” however both terms are English translations of a Hebrew word that means “to atone for” or “to make propitiation.”
To atone for something means to pay the penalty for a wrong, and to make propitiation means to regain favor or goodwill after a wrong has been done.
The mercy seat was a place where God physically demonstrated His mercy to the people of Israel.
Remember the definition for Mercy? It’s God NOT giving us what we deserve. We read yesterday that because of our sin, we deserve death (Romans 6:23). It is what we have earned. And, yet, God offers us life through the atonement of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He atoned (paid the penalty) of our sins for us. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow, but for now, it’s important that we understand that sin is costly. It can only be paid for by death.
In the Old Testament, we read that God gave His people a way to atone for their sins by sacrificing an animal. This was a temporary payment for their sins since the death of an animal could never fully cover the sins of a person. The mercy seat was the physical place where the High Priest (the most religious of Jewish men) would sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed animal to atone (pay) for the sins of the Jewish people.
Blood, sacrifice…this all just sounds very morbid. I get it! But, in reality it is morbid because that is what sin is…dark and hopeless. Sin leads to death. That’s just the bottom line. Yet, because of God’s great love, He showed mercy on those who would come before His mercy seat.
Read Exodus 25:22 again. What does God say He’ll do with Moses?
Meet with him! Girls, can you imagine how incredible it would be to meet face to face with God, to talk with and hear from God while standing in His presence? That would be insane! Here at the mercy seat, God offers to meet with Moses. Do you catch the significance? Moses did not deserve to meet with God. He was a sinner just like you and I, and yet, because of God’s mercy, he was allowed to meet with God!
Girls, the same is true for you and I! It is on the basis of God’s mercy that we can meet with and get to know God! He no longer has to be the scary God you hope will not punish you or the mysterious “man up stairs” that you don’t understand. Instead, He can become your closest friend, your greatest support, and your place of refuge in times of trouble!
It is because of God’s mercy that you can have a relationship with Him! Isn’t it a relief that it’s not based on your “goodness” or your ability to keep from sinning?
Write out a prayer thanking God for His mercy that allows you to meet with Him. Thank Him that you don’t have to be good enough to earn a relationship with Him.