There is a trend today where people have neglected the reading and study of the Old Testament, because…well…because it’s old. After all, now we have the New Testament, the gospel, the work of Christ, and the teachings of the apostles to explain it. What do we need the old covenant or old stories?
The truth is the gospel is preached throughout the Old Testament, from the first promise of the coming of a redeemer in Genesis, to the glimpse of the gospel in the sacrifices, Tabernacle and Temple, the types of Christ we see in the Passover, the lives of Joseph and Isaac, and so much more. Within the Old Testament we see God’s unfolding revelation of who He is, what pleases (and displeases) Him, and His ways with mankind, especially His people. In fact, viewing the New Testament without the lens of the Old Testament is somewhat like seeing things on a black and white TV. When the richness and color of the Old Testament is added, the picture we see has far more clarity, definition, interest, and meaning.
Therefore, we see the importance of songs like Mercy Seat. It takes us back to very early in God’s ways with His people, and reveals to us the wonder that His plan all along was to provide mercy for His lost people. He didn’t wring His hands at the sin in the Garden and say, “I need a new plan,” He had one from before the beginning. When Israel sinned, He didn’t despair of choosing the descendants of Abraham as the chosen vessel for the Messiah, He demonstrated through them that He had a plan of redemption in mind all along.
To know that Jesus died for our sins is vital, but it is also the black and white version of the plan of salvation. To realize that this was symbolized thousands of years before in the Passover, the Lamb, the various sacrifices, and the sprinkling of blood on the Mercy Seat, once a year on the Day of Atonement is redemption in full color, because it shows us the heart of God all along has been to reclaim His people, eradicate the obstacle of sin which keeps us back from His holiness, and draw us to Himself. To read of Mary coming to the tomb (John 20:11) and seeing angels at either end of the place where Jesus laid is to see the color of the Old Testament Mercy Seat shining in the New, and be even more in awe of God’s plan all along.
The Mercy Seat itself was a beautiful cover atop a box, or ark (Ark of the Covenant), which contained the original stones upon which the 10 Commandments had been carved by God. The cover had exquisite golden angels on either end, whose wings reached out towards each other across the top. Most of the time it was kept hidden in an inner chamber behind 4-inch thick curtains. The chamber was entered only once a year by one man—the sitting High Priest—and then only with the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. This inner chamber, called the Holy of Holies, was a symbol of the manifest presence of God, and could only be entered with that blood of atonement. People knew of the Mercy Seat, but its wonders were hidden from their view and experience. In the same way, Jesus’ beauty, His glory, was veiled while on earth, and only revealed after the cross. It was only in retrospect we can understand that God intended that Jesus’ blood to be sprinkled on the Mercy Seat for our forgiveness. It is only by the post-cross revelation that we can finally realize that He IS the Mercy Seat–both our atonement and God’s presence with us.
C.H. Spurgeon points out that we can come with confidence to this seat (this throne, if you will), because, for the redeemed, it is a Mercy Seat, not a throne of judgment. If we trust that Jesus’ sacrifice was, indeed, sufficient to cover all our sins, we can come running to that Mercy Seat. We no longer have to stay outside of the Holy Place or the Holy of Holies, because that veil, that thick curtain was torn, from the top down, by God Himself, to allow us to enter His presence. He made a way for us to enter into the Holy of Holies because of the finished work of Jesus. In fact, it is His great desire that we do come boldly to that throne of grace, to that Mercy Seat, and cast ourselves there in humility, gratitude, and worship.
As I have said in the past, Jesus paid an incredible price in order that He could restore us to an intimate relationship with the Godhead; He will not hold us at arm’s length when we come sincerely seeking Him. In fact, He has told us that those who come to Him He will in no way cast out. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. If we draw near to Him and He will draw near to us. And, as I have also said before, even when we know we have displeased Him, the safest place to be from the righteous anger of God is in His arms. When we have wandered or sinned, His desire is for us to return, to run to His Mercy Seat and meet Him there. Because of Jesus blood of atonement, sprinkled on the Mercy Seat for us, we can forever enter the very presence of God.
He not only wants us to run there, but to dwell there in His presence as much as we can. So let us run to that precious Mercy Seat, assured that we will be welcomed because the blood of Christ is sprinkled there for us. Let us enter with our grateful praise, and linger there in His loving presence.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
Have questions about this blog? Email the author here.