Exodus 25:17-22 God's
Throne of Grace - His Mercy Seat
Many scholars have
observed that almost all expressions employed in
describing the significance of the tabernacle are
also used in reference to heaven. That is because
the earthly tabernacle was patterned after the one
in heaven (Exodus 25:9, 40; 26:30; 27:8; Numbers
8:4; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:11-12).
How is it possible for a
thrice holy God to dwell in the midst of a sinful
people? God's arrangement in both the Old and New
Testaments is by means of the blood of the
sin-offering sprinkled on the Mercy Seat--God's
throne of mercy.
The throne of God is a
blood sprinkled throne. There is no other approach
to a holy God.
Nothing was left to
chance in something as serious as a holy and
righteous God meeting with sinful man. This was
serious business. The Tabernacle symbolized the only
way in which a guilty sinner could approach God.
God revealed the way of
approach for man in the books of Exodus and
Leviticus. Man can come to God only through the
shedding of blood. We have observed incipient
teaching on this subject in Genesis 3:21; 4:4;
8:20-21; 15:12ff; 22:8ff, and Exodus 12:13, 23.
The clear teaching in the
Tabernacle symbolism is the atonement for the guilty
sinner on the Mercy Seat. God declared His holiness
and revealed the purpose of redemption. He declared
how He could be a just God and at the same time
justify the guilty sinner (Romans 3:26-30).
The Tabernacle vividly
pictured the place of sacrifice in the flowing and
sprinkling of the blood and the coming of the
perfect Lamb of God that would take away the sin of
the world. Inwardly it symbolized the place where
God met with sinful man on the Mercy Seat.
The Tabernacle was
composed of two rooms separated by a thick veil or
woven curtain. The first room was entered from the
outside and was called the Holy Place. The second
room was entered through the Holy Place and was
called the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies. There
was only one piece of furniture in the Holy of
Holies and it was the Ark of the Covenant with the
Mercy Seat on top of it.
THE ARK OF THE
The Ark of the Covenant
was a chest about 23 inches wide, 39 inches long,
and 23 inches high, made of wood and covered inside
and out on all sides with gold. Inside this chest
was a golden jar containing manna, the two tablets
of the Law and Aaron's budded rod. The chest was
mounted on four legs and had four rings for two
gold-covered poles by which the ark was carried.
King David called the Ark "the footstool of our God"
(1 Chronicles 28:2).
The Ark contained the
testimony of God to Israel. The Ark of the Covenant
was "covered on all sides with gold, in which was a
golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which
budded, and the tables of the covenant" (Hebrews
9:4, NASB 1995). The service of the Tabernacle was
meaningless and valueless without the Ark of the
Covenant. It symbolized the place where God upon His
throne met with His people.
Jewish scholars have
often noted the Ark was a symbol that God was
present among His people and that His covenant
blessing was resting upon them. The whole sanctuary
was built for no other purpose, but to be as it were
a house, a habitation for the Ark (cf. Ex. 26:33).
The Ark contained the
tables of the covenant or Ten Commandments that
expressed the obligations of the chosen people of
God. Christ is the only person who has ever lived up
to demands of the law.
The Ark also contained a
pot of manna as a testimony of God's provision for
His people during their forty year journey before
they entered into the Promised Land. It foreshadowed
Christ as the Bread of Life. The daily provision of
manna was God's grace meeting the need of His people
in the wilderness.
The third item was
Aaron's budded rod that reminded the people of the
revolt against the leadership of Moses and Aaron
(Num. 17). Aaron's rod had brought forth buds, and
blossomed, and yielded almonds. It was a testimony
against the rebels. The dead rod of almond wood came
to life and bore fruit, just as God's chosen Messiah
came to life after His crucifixion and bears fruit
The Ark is known by
various names in the Old Testament. It is "the ark
of the testimony" (Ex. 25:22), "ark of the covenant"
(Num. 10:33), "ark of the covenant of the LORD"
(Josh. 3:17), "the Ark of God" (1 Sam. 3:3), "the
Ark of the LORD God" (Yahweh) (1 Kin. 2:26). It is
"the holy ark" in 2 Chronicles 35:3, and "the ark of
Thy strength" (Ps. 132:8).
It was carried about in
the wilderness from one camping place to another
with two golden covered poles born on the shoulders
of the Levites (Ex. 25:12-15; cf. 2 Sam. 6:2-11).
The Ark of the Covenant
typified the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The
Mercy Seat is where God received the representative
of His blood-cleansed people. It was the place or
THE MERCY SEAT
A solid slab of pure gold
formed the lid on top of the Ark, and it was called
the Mercy Seat or kapporeth. It was the
cover, or lid placed on the Ark and signified the
covering or removal of sins by means of expiatory
sacrifice. The Mercy Seat signifies the place of
propitiation. It received its name from the blood of
propitiation which was sprinkled on it on the Day of
Atonement (Lev. 16). It is the place where
justice and mercy meet. The blood of the innocent
victim on the Mercy Seat met the holy demands of
God's Law. The Old Testament throne of grace was the
place where God exhibited His presence, and met man
in His grace.
The chest lid of solid
pure gold was 23 inches x 39 inches and the most
valuable of all the holy vessels. It had two
cherubim (pl. of "cherub") facing each other molded
onto the lid. These golden cherubim probably
resembled winged angels in God's presence
symbolizing His holiness.
describes the Mercy Seat.
You shall make a mercy
seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and
one and a half cubits wide. You shall make two
cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the
two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one
end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make
the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its
two ends. The cherubim shall have their wings spread
upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and
facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to
be turned toward the mercy seat. You shall put the
mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you
shall put the testimony which I will give to you.
There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy
seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon
the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about
all that I will give you in commandment for the sons
The Mercy Seat was God's
throne here on earth in the midst of His chosen
people. Within the Holy of Holies was the Shekinah
glory, which symbolized in visible representation
God's presence between the cherubim over the Mercy
Seat. In the sprinkling of the blood on the Day of
Atonement, a holy God met sinful man on the Mercy
The Tabernacle made it
clear that the sinner could not approach God in his
own merit. He stood condemned in the eyes of God.
"The soul that sins will surely die" (Ezekiel 18:4).
"The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). That is
not the figment of the imagination or the paranoia
of a sick mind. It is the objective truth. Sin
separates man from God. A holy God shut sinful man
out of the Tabernacle by the walls and the veils.
Our sins shut us out from the presence of a thrice
Only on the Day of
Atonement, Yom Kippur, once a year, did a sole
person enter the veil of the Holy of Holies and
sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Mercy
Seat (Leviticus 16:13-16). "Moreover, he shall take
some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with
his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also
in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of
the blood with his finger seven times" (Leviticus
16:14). It foretold in picture form the day when our
Great High Priest would enter the veil and make
atonement for our sins. The blood of the sin
offering was sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat which
constituted Yahweh's throne. There His infinite
holiness and justice met with His mercy. God was
satisfied with the substitutionary sacrifice for
CHRIST IS OUR MERCY
Upon His throne of grace,
the LORD God met sinful man at Calvary. Jesus Christ
shed His pure holy blood for our sins once-for-all
turning away the wrath of God and tearing down the
wall that separates us. At the cross God judged and
dealt with our sin. Cf. Hebrews 10:10-14, 19-31;
Romans 5:8-10; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:13.
Christ is our Mercy Seat
(Romans 3:24-25). He is our "propitiatory
sacrifice." The believing sinner is "justified as a
gift by His grace through the redemption which is in
Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a
propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to
demonstrate His righteousness, because in the
forbearance of God He passed over the sins
previously committed . . . "
The Greek word translated
"propitiation" or "a propitiatory sacrifice" in
Romans 3:25 is identical to the one translated
"mercy seat" in Hebrews 9:5. Our sins were removed
by means of the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Christ is our Mercy Seat by virtue of the
propitiation which He offered to God. He is our
"propitiation" (1 John 2:2; 4:10). He is the
sacrifice that satisfied the offended justice of
God. The righteous demands of God were met and
satisfied by the death of Christ on the cross.
"He (Christ) had to be
made like His brethren in all things, so that He
might become a merciful and faithful high priest in
things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for
the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). "He Himself
is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours
only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John
Jesus Christ entered a
Tabernacle not made with hands. "Now the main point
in what has been said is this: we have such a high
priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of
the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister
in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which
the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is
appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it
is necessary that this high priest also have
something to offer" (Hebrews 8:1-3). "But when
Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things
to come, He entered through the greater and more
perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to
say, not of this creation; and not through the blood
of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He
entered the holy place once for all, having obtained
eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:11-12).
What does God see when
you go into His presence? He sees the blood of Jesus
(10:19-22). When He sees the blood He knows all His
claims against us have been met at every point and
His righteousness has been exalted by the death of
Jesus. He no longer has judgment against us. He
invites us to draw near to Him.
Jesus Christ is our
propitiatory sacrifice. He is the only means of
turning away the righteous wrath of God toward the
offending sinner. The pagan idea of propitiation is
not found in the New Testament concept of
propitiation. Man in his sinful nature cannot change
the disposition of a holy and righteous God. Sinful
man cannot bring a holy God into a favorable
attitude. God is propitiated by His own provision
made in the vicarious, substitutionary expiatory
sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ at Calvary. Man
sinned and brought upon himself the wrath of God.
Jesus annuls the power of sin to separate God and
man. Jesus Christ is our covering for sin. His one
sacrifice embodies all of the symbolic sacrifices in
the teachings of the Tabernacle.
"In this is love, not
that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His
Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John
God's wrath is His
settled, controlled, holy antagonism against all
sin. The propitiation is the appeasement of the
wrath of God by the love of God through the gift of
God. Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest and at
the same time the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
God took the initiative in His sheer unmerited love
and turned His own wrath away by His own blood.
God's perfect justice has now been satisfied. Our
sin debt has been dealt with in full payment. The
holiness of God is now satisfied. Therefore God's
wrath has been turned away. Thank God! If we choose
to go to hell it is because of our own choice. God
has made perfect covering of our sins on His Mercy
The apostle Paul
summarized beautifully what God was doing. "God was
in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not
counting their trespasses against them, and He has
committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though
God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on
behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him
who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2
Corinthians 5:19-21). A righteous and holy God sees
the blood of Jesus that has made atonement for our
sin, and He sees the believer clothed in the perfect
righteousness of Christ.
God came to where man was
to meet him in fellowship. When the sinner could not
go to heaven because of his coming short of the
glory of God, God in the person of His Son came from
heaven to earth "that He might bring us to God" (1
Peter 3:18). God issues an invitation for each of us
to "draw near with confidence to the throne of
grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). Let's "keep
on drawing near" with confidence to the place where
God meets us in Christ.
"Jesus Paid It All!
All to Him I owe."
25:17-22 God's Throne of Grace - His Mercy Seat
Christ in the Old Testament