The Mercy Seat symbolizes a place of atonement for the sin of man. It was the usual practice by the Israelite to appease this mercy seat for them to be redeemed. In the Old Testament record shows that the blood of animal was regularly used for this spiritual exercise. The following questions however, will serve as a nexus to unravel the mercy seat:
- What is the mercy seat exactly?
- What is the essence of having the mercy seat?
- Who sits on the mercy seat?
- Where is the mercy seat located?
- What does blood represents when appeasing or visiting the mercy seat?
- Who can visit the mercy seat?
- Does the mercy seat still exist today?
In the Old Testament, the process to cleanse man of his sin takes a ritual effort, where animals were used as a sacrificial symbol to appeal or to appease the face of God. The whole process is always done instructively, failure of which may lead to the death of the defaulter, including the high priest. “And the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times in to the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the Ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.” (Exodus 16:2)
In the holy of holies is where the Ark of God was kept and the mercy seat serves as a covering on it; nobody dare venture in there, it is strictly monitored. Indeed, it is a sacred place meant for the propitiation of man’s sin and thus highly revered.
The mercy seat was made of raw gold and its description was personally given by God. “And thou shall make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shall make two cherubims of gold; of beaten work shall 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 mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shall put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shall 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 cherubims 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.
All along in the Old Testament, the status quo to update or revalidate man’s relationship with God is by offering a burnt sacrifice in which animal blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, for atonement to take place. The process of seeking the face of God, through this mode, entails some sequential steps that must be followed, else, the burnt offering is disapproved by the mighty one (God).
So stringent were the procedures involving an high priest acting as a proxy for the lot. In other words, not every Tom, Dick and Harry can dare the holy of holies wherein the mercy seat is located. How hard it is, for men of the old ages to redeem their relationship or to validate their rapport with the ancient of days.
So hard it was, for just anybody to roam anyhow in the highly revered place of God (Tabernacle), without being killed. The presence of God is incorruptible; there was indeed, high intolerance for bullshit, now synonymous with men of today. Even the appointed priest in the person of Aaron did his job carefully, lest, he would be consumed by the fire of God. This spiritual exercise by the children of Israel take place randomly but consistently to invite the presence of God and to receive from Him. What is clearly set out from this spiritual exercise is that, God Himself had to come down from His throne in heaven to sit on the mercy seat which lies on earth. One can then say: the throne of God was transferred from His abode in heaven, down to earth, to attend to His creation.
As a reminder, the mercy seat covers the Ark of Covenant and on it are two cherubims carved out on the lid(front), serving as a veil or a watchman role for the mercy seat. But glory to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, all these stringent procedures and a symbolic golden mercy seat were rendered invalid. It soon became antiquity or obsolete for man to offer a burnt sacrifice or perform a ritual exercise for his redemption to be guaranteed or even considered, as the case may be.
Consequently, a new dawn is here; the era of burnt sacrifice is over. The holy of holies is no more restricted. The veil covering the holy of holies is torn. The two cherubims need not be around. The mercy seat need not a physical setting for propitiation or expiation to take place. Venturing to the place of the mercy seat, also, need not any human high priest to serve as an intermediary. The aforesaid conditions are gone, and gone forever, but mind you? The same God still exist; He is still the unchanging changer. He has the prerogative to do and undo.
In other words, the process of getting a reprieve for our transgressions still remain same, although less stringent, thanks to Jesus — the new high priest who pleads on our behalf, for God to have mercy. Man need not worry about any ritual or sacrifice; man need not perturbed of coming to the holy of holies where the mercy seat is located. Holistically, Jesus is the mercy seat. The mercy seat exists in Jesus today. He represents that sacrifice that was previously routinely done, but now irrelevant.
Making an allusion to this effect, Paul in Philippians 2:6-11 said: “. . . Who, for being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The blood of bullocks, goats, calves was usually sprinkled by Aaron on the mercy seat to appease the face of God. All that is unnecessary now; the blood of Jesus has done it just once and that is it! It’s all over, it’s settled, it’s finished, it’s done, and we are redeemed forever! Oh, oh my my, I feel like shouting as I am writing this. Can you join me to say yeah! Say whoa!! Say oh my God, Jesus did it, wow!!!
OK, thanks, let’s further. The mercy seat is a place of mercy, love, attention, communion, conviction, confession, redemption, validation, and reconnection. The mercy seat is such an important place to visit because it is necessary and all sense of necessity must be exhibited by everyone towards it.
In the song of one of my favourite minister (Don Moen), from which this title was inspired: “Come running to the mercy seat where Jesus is calling, His grace will be your covering, His love will flow freely, and it will provide your healing. He said you could come in to His presence without fear, in to His holy place, where His mercy hovers near.” Why must I or you come to the mercy seat?
The reason why blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat is because, in it is life. When there is no more blood, the life of a man automatically comes to an end. And for a soul that committed sin, God said he must die. God can never have a relationship with an unpurified soul; hence, an atonement through the blood of an animal was needed for that soul to die, though not physically but spiritually.
In significant of this, the physical death which man hitherto escaped was finally borne by Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Lamb seated upon the throne, eventually blots out this barrier to have a communion with God. His blood, which He shed on the cross of Calvary, symbolizes or is a replica of that same blood sprinkled by Aaron on the mercy seat. But His blood is of a higher dimension, of a higher quality. Higher quality in the sense that, Jesus blood has no blemish, His blood is devoid of any sin.
What this is saying is that, a PURE BLOOD had to or was needed to confront a PURE GOD. So, when God was confronted by a spotless blood, He had no choice but to yield to the demands of this blood on behalf of man. And that was how the blood of Jesus nailed it once and for all, for that needful (now needless) routine ritual exercise to appease the face of God.
Therefore, there is no more excuse, barrier, condition for man to be killed by the wrath of God. There remain no more sacrifice; there remain no more ritual, what could be bigger than the death of the Special One on the cross of Calvary? The mercy seat is now devoid of those unpalatable, complicated procedures which existed during the time of the law. The time of self-righteousness is over. The love and grace of God is here, for man to historically guarantee his place in the heart of God. However, we still groove, we wallow in the wilderness and faced with series of dissuading factors of doom, which inhibits His blood (Jesus’) to flow freely, for the purpose of redemption and restoration. As for me, I am running to the mercy seat, because in Him – the Lamb seated upon the throne, my sin was forgiven. I surrender! What about you?
Paitor Odun is an advocate of good news and a praise and worship leader.
As a kid, he was an active member of a children group involved in the spread of the gospel. He attempts to bring back that zeal through this platform. Feedback—firstname.lastname@example.org