“And you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width.” Exo 25:17
What is a mercy seat? In these blueprints for the Tabernacle which YHVH is giving to Moses, it was the golden cover for the ark. The ark is called the ark of the Testimony or the ark of the Covenant, because inside the ark, Moses was to place the two stone tablets upon which God had written with His own hand, the Ten Commandments. The covenant God had made with Israel, was that they would be His special treasure, His holy nation and kingdom of priests, as they kept His commandments. The mercy seat would have the golden cherubim of one piece with it, whose outstretched wings would cover the seat.
“And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exo 25:22
The tabernacle is to be built so that God Himself will have a sacred place to dwell among the children of Israel. The place of His presence, then, is above this mercy seat.
“Mercy seat” in Hebrew is kapporeth, Strong’s H3727. Its translation is derived from its primary root word, meaning to cover over or to make atonement. I cannot help but think of Noah’s two sons, who “covered over” their father’s nakedness and so preserved his honor and dignity. And whenever I think of Noah’s two sons doing that, I cannot help but think of Pro 17:9, “He who covers a transgression seeks love.”
Isn’t it something, that what was to be inside the ark, were the tablets of the Testimony containing the Ten Commandments, the Law or Torah of God which we are to obey, which makes us a holy nation in the face of all the other unholy nations? And covering over the Law, and by implication the transgressions of it, is the mercy of God! God covers over our transgressions of the Law with mercy, because He is seeking love!
If anyone has also been reading along in Matthew, we just read a few days ago that Jesus told His disciples that since the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses, that they were to do as they say, but not as they do. We learned that ‘sitting in the seat of’ was a Hebrew idiom which meant the place of authority. And this is why kingdoms have thrones upon which the king sits. When a king sits upon his throne, he is wielding that kingdom’s authority.
I always wondered why the lid of the box or ark, was called a seat. The Hebrew dictionary says of kapporeth, that it was considered the throne of God – the seat of His authority. That is why it is a mercy seat, and not a mercy lid. So what the Hebrew is teaching us, is that mercy is covering over the Law of God – and the mercy comes from the throne of His authority, just as the Law comes from the throne of His authority! This is the gospel of grace, that we have been taught is non- existent in the Old Covenant – not so!
For further study: Mark God’s paragraph divisions in these chapters. What are the topics or themes of each paragraph? Are they divided and combined as we would divide them using human logic? What is Scripture teaching us, by dividing and combing the paragraphs this way?
Finding Messiah: We first think of the mercy seat as the reference to Messiah in these chapters. But in fact, every article of the tabernacle prophesies of Messiah. He is Emmanuel, God with us. The entire tabernacle is being built so that YHVH may dwell among His people. The tabernacle itself is a prophecy of Messiah, because through Him, God dwelt with man on the earth for the space of 30 years, and through Him and the Spirit which He poured out, God dwells within us, with His people.
For further reading:
The Tabernacle (Introduction) – Brad Scott
To read the entire series on the Tabernacle, which I recommend, please go to this table of contents page, scroll down to Tabernacle, and read each successive teaching.