Jews and Christians should be familiar with the term ‘Mercy Seat’. Ask anyone familiar with the word “Mercy Seat,’ and they conjure up images of the High priest entering into the Holy of Holies every year in a supernatural manner. We know that he had a sacrifice in one hand and incense in the other, and so supernaturally, the thick veil that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies was lifted so that he could enter.
Once behind the veil, the High priest placed the atoning sacrifice on the mercy seat, and the Glory of God would descend and consume the offering. The room would be lit entirely with the brilliant, radiating beauty of God almighty. The shekinah kabod would fill the whole room.
The people on the outside could see this brilliance and would be on their knees at the incredible presence of God. The High priest remained in God’s presence until it lifted. Unfortunately, this process had to be repeated year after year. The only way people had access to God’s glorious presence was through this high priest. We now have a High Priest in Jesus who has provided us continual access to the Father through Him.
The Mercy Seat
The Mercy Seat was the lid on the ark of the covenant that was surrounded by two angels facing each other. One represented the Old Testament by looking forward to the New Covenant, while the other looked back at the Old to remind us where we have been or where we have come.
The Mercy Seat was the place where the priest laid the sacrifice, and God would descend and rest. It was His throne on the earth for that period that He rested. Then, he would meet with the High Priest here. This is where God would meet with the High priest to get a ‘word’ for the people for the coming year.
“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 of Israel. (NIV)
Many other verses discuss and develop the Mercy Seat: Leviticus 16:2, 14-15; Exodus 30:6, Numbers 7:89, Exodus 26:34. This was the holiest piece of furniture in the tabernacle/temple. The Philistines once captured it due to the Israelites treating the token of God’s presence as a trivial piece of ordinary furniture. It was tantamount to idolatry since the ark itself is not God’s presence.
Later, David had the ark moved to Jerusalem after no one sought it for thirty years under Saul. They didn’t follow protocol and carried it on an ox cart. This resulted in one man’s death and another, Obed Edom, being immensely blessed.
Later, when the Babylonians surrounded Jerusalem, the ark was moved and hidden to prevent it from falling into pagan hands. The ark that Moses had built has been lost ever since. This means that there was no ark in the second temple, signifying a prophetic shift pointing to the coming of the Messiah.
The Mercy Seat In The New Covenant
I mentioned in the title that Jesus was our Mercy Seat. But first, I want to see how this was developed. The cross was the place of sacrifice. The temple veil was rent in Jerusalem at the moment Jesus died. Jesus was man and God hanging on a wooden cross. He was placed there by brass nails. This fulfilled the requirements for an altar under the Old Covenant.
He was the sacrifice, and He was God. The glory of God filled Him. When the breath left His body, He descended to hell to get the keys to death, hell, and the grave. (See Ephesians 4:9, 1 Peter 3:19, Colossians 2:15). Later we see Jesus was in the tomb for three days, and then on that Sunday morning, some disciples visited the grave only to find it opened.
11 Now, Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.NIV
Jesus was laid on a slab of rock and laid there three days. When it came time for Him to be raised from the dead, two angels appeared. That is what Mary saw when she looked in. She was the first person to see the Mercy Seat in the New Covenant. Two angels at each end where a sacrifice had been laid. The glory of God in the flesh had been there but had conquered death. Later, Hebrews tells us that Christ cleansed the heavenly copies, meaning He cleansed the actual altar and mercy seat in heaven. (Hebrews 9:23-28)
Jesus Our Propitiation
The New Testament Uses the word propitiation in several places. 1 John 2:2, Romans 3:24-25, Hebrews 9:5.
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
As the propitiation, He became the sacrifice. He is God and is the place where we meet God. He is the second person in the Godhead and offers access to the first person. Jesus also became the altar of incense which represents prayer. Thus, He is our High priest, intercessor, and the place where we meet God. Without Jesus, we have no access to the Father.
We need to take time and soak in what Jesus did for us and what He represents. I want you to know that there is no other sacrifice, and He paid it all. However, we are in a fallen world and in a body with a nature to sin. We have been redeemed or bought, and we belong to Christ. But we sin daily by simple things like gossip, pride, jealousy, and other things. So, we must daily confess our sins and repent, but know that we are always loved.
Unconfessed sin hinders our relationship and separates us from the full fellowship with the Godhead or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not legalism, but rather relationship. Be obedient but know that the price was paid, and you are covered.