The Tabernacle – The Mercy Seat

The Mercy Seat

Exo. 25:17-22 Exo. 37:6-9 Rom. 3:21-28

A. the cover

1. the word

Heb. kapporeth – cover over ( Gen 6:14 ) Gk. hilasterion – propitiation

And thou schalt make a propiciatorie of clenneste gold Wyclif, 1395

Thou shalt make a Mercyseate also of pure golde Coverdale, 1535; also Bishop’s (1568), Geneva (1587), AV (1611)

2. the material

pure gold – without any alloy or mixture

signified more than a simple cover; the chest was gold overlaid, the lid solid gold

3. the purpose

Lev. 16:1-28

The place where the blood of the sin offering is sprinkled

B. the cherubs

1. unity with the cover

not afterthoughts or accessories

integral part of the cover and its purpose

2. guardians of the throne

guard the tree of life

God is the one who “dwells between the cherubim” Ps. 80:1 , 99:1 ; Isa. 37:16 ; also Rev. 4:6-8

Cherubim are mentioned in at least thirteen books of the Bible. They are connected primarily with the holiness and righteousness of Jehovah, and are often mentioned in association with the throne of God. They are described in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10. Believers’ Bible Commentary

C. the presence

1. I will meet

by appointment – God’s

safe only on God’s conditions – see Lev. 16:2

2. I will speak

A promise , bringing heaven down to earth, surmounts the whole. God adds, ‘There will I meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the Mercy-seat. The anxious soul will often breathe the longing thought, ‘Oh! that I knew where I might find Him.’

Reader! there is no doubt. The spot is fixed. Come to the Mercy-seat! There God is present to hear, to answer, and to bless. There He will open all His heart, and deal as friend with friend, in all the freeness of intimate love. Then linger not. Plead Christ, your law-fulfilling righteousness. Claim Christ, your law-appeasing victim. Show Christ as set forth of God to be an atoning sacrifice, or Mercy-seat, ‘through faith in His blood.’ As you draw near, God will draw near to you. In Christ you come. In Christ He meets you. The Mercy-seat joins you to God. The Mercy-seat joins God to you. Henry Law

D. significance

1. atoning cover – propitiation

Romans 3:25 tells us that God put forward Christ as a “ propitiation ” (NASB) a word that means “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.” Paul tells us that “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26). God had not simply forgiven sin and forgotten about the punishment in generations past. He had forgiven sins and stored up his righteous anger against those sins. But at the cross the fury of all that stored-up wrath against sin was unleashed against God’s own Son. …Three other crucial passages in the New Testament refer to Jesus’ death as a “propitiation”: Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; and 4:10.The Greek terms (the verb ἱλάσκομαι, G2661, “to make propitiation” and the noun ἱλασμός (G2662) “a sacrifice of propitiation”) used in these passages have the sense of “a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God-and thereby makes God propitious (or favorable) toward us.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

2. throne – justification

“Justification is a judicial act of God, by which, on account of the meritorious work of Christ, imputed to a sinner and received by him through that faith which vitally unites him to his substitute and Saviour, God declares that sinner to be free from the demands of the law, and entitled to the rewards due to the obedience of that substitute.” James Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology

The hilasterion unites as symbol the different elements of the atonement. As the covering of the ark of the covenant itself, it is the throne of the divine government of the cherubim above, and the preservation of the law, with its requirements, below. But with the sprinkled blood of expiation, it is a sacrifice offered to God, and therefore the satisfaction for the demands of the divine law below. Philo called the covering of the ark of the covenant the symbol of the gracious majesty. J. P. Lange, Romans 3:25

Thus the footstool of God, rather than being a throne of judgment is instead a throne of grace where he declares the sinner righteous on the merits of the sacrifice whose blood was sprinkled on the throne.

3. place of meeting – reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

How was it possible for the thrice holy God to dwell in the midst of a sinful people? The answer is, On the ground of accepted sacrifice. His throne was a blood-sprinkled one. This is shown us in Leviticus 16:14, already quoted. The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled upon that Mercy-seat which constituted Jehovah’s throne, and there that blood was left under His searching eye, as the abiding witness that the claims of His justice had been met, and that He could righteously dwell in the midst of a people who had broken His law-righteously, because their sin had been put away. A. W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis

4. worship

Here in the Most Holy Place is the confluence of the elements necessary for true worship to occur. Without the atonement cover and God’s acceptance of the sacrificial offering, everything else in the Tabernacle is without value and purpose. Only when God’s wrath has been satisfied can he justly declare that sinners are righteous with regard to the requirements of the Law and thus fit for his holy presence. Both of these elements are essential precursors to God reconciling us to himself and, having done so, graciously meet with us, reveal his glory to us, speak to us, and commune with us.


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