"The Tabernacle: Celebrating
The God Who Comes Near"
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
The Tabernacle: Celebrating The God Who Comes Near
Lesson Eleven: The Mercy Seat, God's Chair
Key Verse: Exodus 25:8. "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."
Text: Text: Exodus 25:17-22. "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. 18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. 20 And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. 21 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. 22 And 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." Exodus 26:34. "And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place."
Introduction: It was the end of the semester, and a certain university philosophy professor entered his classroom to give his class their final exam. Placing his chair on his desk, the professor instructed the class, "Using every applicable thing you've learned in this course, prove to me that this chair does not exist." Soon, pencils were writing and erasers are erasing. Students plunged into a sea of words employed to explain away the existence of the chair sitting so conspicuously on the professor's desk. Everyone that is, except for one student. One student was finished with his paper in less than thirty seconds! His peers were astonished! When the grades were posted some time later, they were even more astonished to discover that the thirty second explanation received the highest grade! What was his explanation? Two words: "What chair?"
Our focus in this lesson is a chair. This is a chair you cannot avoid or explain away. It is a very important chair that is sitting on top of a very important box. It is God's chair!
We can become very attached to chairs. In most homes, there are chairs that are reserved for certain family members. Dad's chair is usually easy to locate. It's the one with the remote!
The Tabernacle was God's house, and in God's house, He had His own resting place or chair. This special chair is located in the most holy place, behind the thick curtain or veil. It is called the kaphar (kaw-far'), or mercy seat. The Hebrew kaphar (kaw-far') means to cover. Obviously the purpose of a lid, is to cover. God's chair formed the lid to the ark of the covenant! God sat above or upon the gold box containing the jar of manna, Aaron's rod, and the two stone tables of the law. This lid however is translated mercy seat. How do we get mercy seat from kaphar (kaw-far') or lid? There is a deeper meaning to the Hebrew word kaphar (kaw-far'). It is based on the Hebrew root meaning to pardon, to atone for, as in to cover a debt. This Hebrew word kaphar (kaw-far') is used exclusively in the Holy Scriptures to describe God's chair.
What does God's chair look like? Our text describes it. The mercy seat was made of solid, pure gold. There is no mention of acacia wood in it's construction. It measured three foot nine inches long, by two foot four inches wide. The mercy seat was adorned with two images of cherubim, which were also made of pure gold. The two cherubim were facing each other, their heads bowed in adoration. The wings of the cherubim, overshadowed or covered the mercy seat. These creatures are closely associated with God's throne. Psalm 99:1 says, "The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: He sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved." The two cherubim at the ends of the mercy seat, symbolize God's justice. Cherubim are connected with acts of justice and government. They are present to uphold God's judicial authority.
There are two cherubim here. Two is the number of competent witness. These two cherubim, guarding and overshadowing God's chair, are a reminder that God's judgment and justice must be met and satisfied! We must not forget that God's gold box, the ark of the covenant, contains a copy of the moral law, the ten commandments, which expose our sin and condemn us!
The mercy seat symbolizes God's throne, where He judges men's conduct, and it's name reflects the basic nature of God's judgments, which always involves mercy. Do you remember the occasion recorded in II Samuel 24, when God gave David a choice as to who would administer judgment upon Israel, because he numbered the people? David chose God's judgment over man's judgment. Why? Verse14 reads, "And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for His mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man." David knew that God is merciful in judgment! This does not mean that God is loose in His judgment, carelessly overlooking men's sins. Even though God mercifully forgives a repentant sinner, the sinner does not escape without some measure of judgment. David and Israel paid a price for their sin. What it means is that God's judgment is always a perfect balance of justice and mercy. It is God's nature to be merciful, rather than severe or vengeful. II Corinthians 5:18-19 reads, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." Unlike men, God finds ways to change men, so He can be merciful.
This is where God was to be found in the Tabernacle. God sat behind the veil, and actually spoke from between the two cherubim. Notice verse 22 of our text. God says, "And 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." The Lord spoke to Moses from the mercy seat. Numbers 7:89 says, "And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with Him (God), 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."
If God's seat or throne is a place were justice must be satisfied, then how could God's judgment be satisfied? How can God be merciful in His judgment? For sure, fallen, sinful men cannot begin to satisfy the justice and judgment of God.
Earlier this year in Manhattan, detective Travis Rapp was having lunch at a restaurant. As he looked out the window of the restaurant, he noticed two men wheeling a rigid, pale man down the street, on a red office chair. At first the detective was just curious. He assumed it was some sort of stunt or joke these two goof balls were pulling off, using a mannequin or dummy. The detective had seen his share of corpses, and became suspicious. A closer inspection revealed that it wasn't a joke at all. The man in the red chair was dead! His two friends were hauling his corpse to a store so that they could cash his $355 Social Security check! They were arrested before they could get the money. Minus mercy, we are dead in the chair that sits above God's law!
This is why God's chair is described as a mercy seat. The mercy seat was designed to proclaim the mercy of God. What is it that transforms God's seat from a throne of judgment, into a throne of mercy? The answer is blood! It is blood that transforms the throne of judgment into the throne of grace and mercy. Hebrews 9:22 says, "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." Whose blood?
Once a year, on the day of atonement, the High Priest (in this case it was Aaron), went into the most holy place twice; once to make atonement for his own sins, and then to do so for the people. He sprinkled blood on the top of the mercy seat between the cherubs, from each sacrifice offered at the brazen altar.
Leviticus 18:11-17 describes this annual sacred ceremony. "And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: 12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: 13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: 14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times." Aaron first offered a sin sacrifice for himself and his house. Why? Aaron was no different from us! He was a sinner, whose best attitudes, words, and deeds were as filthy rages before a God who is holy beyond our imagination! This was a fearful thing. One slip up, and Aaron was a dead man! Everyone waited in reverent, fearful silence outside the Tabernacle, as Aaron made his annual journey! Verse15 continues, "Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: 16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel."
What a powerful illustration of God's merciful and gracious provision for sin! Forgiveness and reconciliation were made possible because the blood of the sacrifice or propitiation, was sprinkled upon the mercy seat once a year on the day of atonement. The High Priest could never enter the most holy place, without the blood that covers sin, satisfying the justice of God. The sad thing about this ceremony is that it was perpetual! The blood of bulls and goats did not provide a permanent solution to man's sin!
In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Hebrew word kaphar (kaw-far') translated as "mercy seat," is replaced with the Greek word, hilasterion (hil-as-tay'-ree-on). The Greek words pronounced hil-as-mos' and hil-as-tay'-ree-on mean to conciliate or atone for. They are translated in the King James Version three times as "propitiation," and once as "mercy seat." The verb to propitiate, means to appease, to placate, to make satisfaction. The mercy seat is the place where a Holy God and a sinful people (represented by Aaron) could meet. The place where propitiation was made was at the brazen altar, but the value of that propitiation was ever before Jehovah in the sprinkled blood on the mercy seat. Psalms 85:10 says, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." There is a direct relationship between the mercy seat in the Tabernacle, and the doctrine of propitiation. Hebrews 9:5 speaks of the mercy seat. It says, "And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat (hilasterion hil-as-tay'-ree-on or propitiation); of which we cannot now speak particularly."
The mercy seat is a picture of Jesus Christ! It is through faith in the blood of Jesus, that He becomes our mercy seat! Notice Hebrews 9:11-14. "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" It is the blood of Jesus Christ that satisfies God's justice and covers our sin once and for all, forever! Romans 3:24-26 says, "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (hilasterion hil-as-tay'-ree-on; a mercy seat) through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
I John 4:10 reads, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation (hilasmos hil-as-mos'; mercy seat) for our sins." The great propitiation which Jesus Christ made through His death, is enough to satisfy the throne of God and permit Him to meet sinners in all the fulness of His mercy and grace! Titus 3:5-7 reads, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
This mercy seat is ever sufficient and present in the person of Jesus Christ, not just for our regeneration, but for our sanctification! I John 2:1-2 says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate (parakletos par-ak'-lay-tos; defense attorney) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And He is the propitiation (hilasmos hil-as-mos'; mercy seat) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
In the days of the Revolutionary War, there lived at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, a Baptist pastor named Peter Miller who enjoyed the friendship of General Washington. In the same town lived a evil, hate filled man named Michael Wittman who was constantly opposing the pastor's ministry and influence. The day came when Michael Wittman was caught in an act of treason, arrested, and sentenced to death. After receiving news of his nemesis' fate, the old preacher headed out on foot, 70 miles to Philadelphia, to plead for Wittman's life. He was admitted into Washington's presence, and at once became an advocate for the traitor. Washington responded, "No, Peter, I cannot grant you the life of your friend." The pastor exclaimed, "He is not my friend, he is the bitterest enemy I have." Washington replied, "What? You've walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon." And he did. Peter Miller took Michael Wittman from the very shadow of death, back to his own home in Ephrata, no longer as an enemy, but as a friend. Jesus Christ is the one who pleads for us before the throne of God when we sin, pointing to the blood on the mercy seat, and restores us to a right relationship with the Father!
Luke 24:1-7 records the early scene of the resurrection, as the women discovered the empty tomb. Verse 3 reads, "And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." The two men in verse 6, were two angels. Picture one angel standing at head of the stone slab where Jesus' body was laid, the other angel at the foot. Between them were the empty grave clothes of Jesus. There in that empty tomb, we are given a fresh picture of a new mercy seat. The two angels standing on either side of the accepted sacrifice that became our propitiation, the perfect, sinless blood of Jesus Christ shed once and for all, for the sins of the world!
Today, we hear people demanding justice. What humanity should cry out for is God's mercy! Have you come to God's mercy seat? II Corinthians 5:21 says, "For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."