They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.
You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:10-22 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV
In Vienna, Austria, there is a palace complex called the Hofberg. In the early 20th century Emperor Franz Joseph lived and ruled from the Hofberg. There are many rooms in the buildings, and one interesting room is called the audience chamber. People could come to the emperor and present their petitions to him. They might express a concern, thank him for something, or ask him for mercy if they had done something wrong and were facing punishment. Emperor Franz Joseph sometimes saw over 100 people a day in his audience chamber, and for that reason each audience only lasted a few minutes.
God wanted to give his people Israel a way to approach him, so he commanded his people to make the ark of the covenant and to make a mercy seat to put above it. He promised to come and meet his people above the mercy seat. The high priest would be able to to ask forgiveness for his own sins and the people’s sins there. God also spoke to Moses from above the mercy seat as long as Moses was alive.
The ordinary people couldn’t come near God’s mercy seat, and the high priest could only do that once a year. But God has given us something even better than a mercy seat of angels made with gold. He sent Jesus to be our Savior. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins, and because of that we know that we can always go to him for mercy. We can come to Jesus any time, every day, to tell him our concerns, thank and praise him, and ask for forgiveness for all our sins. Jesus is God’s mercy seat for us, a place we are always welcome to come.
Dear Jesus, thank you for dying for us and for hearing our prayers and giving us mercy. Amen.