By J. Vernon McGee
We come now to the final chapter as we consider the last of the seven articles of furniture of the Tabernacle. We have attempted to examine the Tabernacle from the viewpoint of the furniture, for it constituted the important position of the Tabernacle. The tent and coverings were primarily for the furniture. The curtains served as means of separation for the articles of furniture. The furniture has afforded us a vantage point from which to make examination of the theology of the Tabernacle. Quite properly, this discussion could be enlarged in order to take in the other phases of the Tabernacle, but there could be very little elaboration made of the doctrines examined herein which could be found in the articles of furniture.
There were two articles of furniture in the Holy of Holies. The appearance of them seemed as one, but careful examination revealed two, for the mercy seat furnished a top for the ark. They would appear to be the same thing, but they were separate and distinct. However, the instructions for both are given together. The blueprint for the mercy seat follows the blueprint for the ark:
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. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. 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. 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. 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. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cheribums which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 25:17-22)
The mercy seat was a top for the ark, but it was a separate piece of furniture. It was made of pure gold, two and one-half by one and one-half cubits. On top of the mercy seat and coming out of it were two cherubim of gold. The mercy seat was highly ornamented, and was probably the special work of Bezaleel. We are bold enough to affirm that the mercy seat was the most important article of furniture, and where all was God-appointed, it was supreme. In the instructions God interjects this revealing declaration: "And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat." On the great Day of Atonement God issued a warning to Aaron not to come at all times within the veil, "For I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat" (Leviticus 16:2). On the wilderness march it was from above the mercy seat between the cherubim that God directed Israel:
And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, 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. (Numbers 7:89)
In 1 Chronicles 28:11 the temple is defined as "the place [house] of the mercy seat."
The mercy seat is where God communed with man. It was where God was found. There is no anthropomorphic notion that God sat upon the mercy seat. He dwelt among the cherubim. The mercy seat of gold sets forth the deity of Christ again. There is a resurrected Christ upon the throne of the universe today. The Man in the glory is sitting at the Father's right hand, waiting until the time when His enemies shall be made His footstool and when He will receive the throne of David.
As we approach the teaching of the mercy seat in its primary import, it is essential to see what made it a mercy seat. In order to ascertain this, a consideration must be made of the great Day of Atonement, for only on this day did the high priest approach the mercy seat. At the time of the great Yom Kippur, Aaron, after casting lots for the scrapegoat, offered the other on the burnt altar. After offering a bullock for himself, an analogy which finds no parallel in Christ, Aaron brought the basin of blood within the veil and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat. The blood made it a mercy seat. God did not look down upon the merit of Aaron, or upon the goodness of the people, but He saw the blood. The sinning nation was made nigh by the blood. Christ is in the mercy seat today:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. (Romans 3:25)
The word, translated "propitiation" is in the Greek the same word for the mercy seat. Christ is the mercy seat today for the world. This phase of His work is enlarged upon in Hebrews 9:24-28, where Christ is seen as the sacrifice which taketh away the sin of the world.
God is propitious today toward the world. He is "mercy seated," as it were, toward it. It is extraneous to try to do something to make a ground to approach God; God has already done that work, and He is propitious to an infinite degree. God does not have to be won over by the sinner; He is already won over. God's face is not turned away from the world in anger; His hands are outstretched toward a gainsaying world, and His mighty bared-arm of salvation is revealed. When the sin of man stood between God and man, He came forth and bore the penalty that there might not be anything that would shut man out from the heart of God. He says, "Come on, come on, I have provided the mercy seat." God now can save a sinner who does no more than to trust in Jesus. That question now is, "Will ye be reconciled to God?" God is waiting, wanting, and yearning to save the last, the least, and the lost. The mighty bared-arm and the on-surging and pulsating heart of God are revealed today toward a world in sin and darkness that does not know that God loved them to the nth degree. The publican does not have to cry for mercy now, for God has a meeting place where publicans and sinners can come. There is a mercy seat in heaven. Men talk about committing the unpardonable sin today. What is this thing that they call the unpardonable sin? There is no act that one can commit today that will shut that one away from the mercy seat. To remain in a state of unbelief alone will shut one out. There is a mercy seat.
Rising, He justifies
One day He's coming --
O glorious day!
Living, He loved me;
Dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away.