The Mercy Seat

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 37:1-9

The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. (v. 9)

The final stage of the tabernacle’s construction is the creation of the ark. Its painstaking detail is indicative of its symbolic importance. The ark will go wherever Israel goes, and will be a sign to Israel and the world that God goes with them. The ark is an earthly representation of a heavenly reality: it represents the throne of God himself.

A special name is given to the center of the ark: “the mercy seat.” This name contradicts the worst fears of God’s people. His presence with Israel is characterized not by judgment, but mercy. In the wilderness, the Israelites experience one mercy after another: deliverance from enemies, food and water that appear out of nowhere, shoes and clothing that do not wear out, unceasing guidance in the pillars of fire and cloud. The Lord is a God of mercy.

Fearing God’s judgment, we often approach with trepidation or avoid God altogether. We forget that God’s name is hesed—steadfast, patient, self-sacrificial love. We forget that God sits not on the judgment seat, but on the mercy seat. When you fear God’s judgment, take these words to heart: “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God . . . Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16). —Ben Van Arragon

As you pray, approach God’s throne of grace through Jesus.