Listen to audio above while reading the transcript below (also available for download in PDF at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)
I’d like to share this verse from Acts 26:18 and I’ve broken it apart just to pull out little statements, “I’m sending you to open their eyes,” and then it says, “to turn away unto.” I heard the tape from last week, and I understand that Paul was a great blessing here; turning away unto. Well, that’s what that verse says, and then it says, “that they may receive.” The Word goes out to open the eyes, and then you turn away unto, and then you become receivers. With that in mind let’s commit our time unto the Lord Jesus.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege we have to meet in this home, to trust the indwelling Holy Spirit to turn our eyes in a fresh way to the Lord Jesus. Once again, Lord, we commit out time to You, and we do ask that we might behold Christ, and in such a way that we would never be the same. We thank You in advance that You delight to do this for us, and especially for Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen
I’m thankful that the Lord His servant, Paul, and I know you’ve been blessed by that, and I have also. Anyway, let’s get back into Exodus. You know we approach things; we’re studying Exodus to see Jesus, and it would be a shame if all you learned was the book of Exodus. We don’t need just facts, we need to behold the Lord.
In our study of the book of Exodus we’ve come to the last section. In lesson #23 I handed an overview, a summary of what we would be following. I want to review that with you, just to identify where we are in our present study. We’re in the last section of the book of Exodus. We call it chapters 13-40, the outworking of redemption by blood. In other words, if I enter into those first twelve chapters, the reality, that I’m redeemed by power and blood, what will be true in my life? What will my live look like? The answer is it will look like the end of the book of Exodus.
You remember that this is Old Testament, and being so, it’s stories, it’s redemptive history. There’s no difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament as far as the message is concerned. It’s the same message, but one gives it in story form, and one gives it in fully developed form. Actually, it’s broken down a little more than that. I like to call the Old Testament the seed, and then the gospels the bud, and then the epistles and Revelation the full blossom, the fully developed form.
Just to review glance quickly, if I’m saved by power and blood I’ll be guided by the Lord, illustrated by the Shekinah glory cloud, and the pillar of fire by night. If I’m saved by power and blood I’ll have supernatural joy in my life, illustrated by the song of Moses and the dance of Miriam. If I’m saved by power and blood, I’ll have every need provided by the Lord, illustrated by the manna, the quail, the water out of the rock, the supernatural provision of clothing and shoes, and so on. If I’m saved by power and blood, I’ll have victory over all my enemies, illustrated by the victory over Amalek at Rephidim. And then we just finished our discussion about the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. If I’m save by power and blood, I’ll be able in a New Covenant way to obey the Lord. You’ll be able in a New Covenant way to obey the Lord.
Although there is necessarily some overlapping, we’re going to look again at Exodus 25 – 40, and our focus will be on the tabernacle. As you come to the end of Exodus you have the tabernacle, and it’s the last outworking of redemption. If I’m redeemed by power and blood, I will enter into worship, I will enter into a union with the Lord Jesus. The book of Exodus ends with that great revelation of worship.
You might think that because this morning we’re beginning the section on the tabernacles, which actually, just for interest, is one third of the entire book of Exodus, just on the tabernacle, it’s a huge section, you may think we’re going to begin with the tabernacle. You’ve heard many things about the tabernacle, and I’ve shared some, and it’s a house made out skin, and there are courts and rooms, and there is furniture, and duties of the priest, and the food of the priest, and the dress of the priest, and the sacrifices, and so on. We’re going to get to the tabernacle; this is the tabernacle section, but not this morning. I’ll tell you why.
Exodus 25:10, “They shall construct an ark of acacia wood, two and half cubits long, one and half cubits wide, and one and half cubits high.” Isn’t it strange that before God gives the dimensions of the tabernacle, He tells us about the Ark of the Covenant? Now, if someone was going to build a house, would they begin with a piece of furniture and say, “Okay, now build a house around the piece of furniture?” Because that’s exactly what God did. I can’t picture someone saying, “I have this special dresser handed down from great-grandpa; build a room around the dresser or cabinet. I want you to build that room to make sure that rug fits perfectly into that room, or fit this table.”
Probably my Lillian would build a house around a piece of furniture, but I think it’s very unique that the Lord begins with first build the ark, and once you have that important piece of furniture, build a sanctuary around that. That becomes central, and because God starts with the Ark in the tabernacle section, and not the tabernacle, I thought it might be good if we began starting with the Ark, and then build the tabernacle around that wonderful piece of furniture. We’ll look at the tabernacle in some detail.
Although this is the tabernacle section, and although we’re going to begin by looking at this precious Ark of the Covenant, I want to make a couple of observations about how we’re going to look at the tabernacle when we get there. There is so much written about the tabernacle, and perhaps you are familiar with it, especially among the brethren writers. I have a whole section of my library which is just brethren writers, and they just love to talk about the tabernacle. In fact, the tabernacle is one of the most important pictures of Christ in the Old Testament, and I think I can prove that to you, which we’re going to look at next time. I want to see why God instituted the tabernacle and what is pictured by the tabernacle. Let me make two introductory comments about the tabernacle as a whole, then how I will approach it, and then how we can begin the transition to the study of the tabernacle.
The first principle, and it’s repeated many times, over and over again, is a strict detailed design, a pattern that God handed down from heaven. The tabernacle was not man’s idea. It was God’s divine idea. Listen to Exodus 25:9, “According to all I’m going to show you as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so, you shall construct it.” God is very intent, “I’m going to hand a blueprint down, follow it; don’t add to it and don’t subtract, follow it.” Exodus 25:40, “See that you make them after the pattern for them which was shown to you on the mountain.” Some people think that Moses actually had a vision of the tabernacle completed on the mountain, like Noah had a vision of the Ark completed long before he started to build it. That’s a possibility.
Exodus 26:30, “Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you’ve been shown in the mountain.” That repetition, “According to the plan, just so, follow the pattern,” is mentioned also in the New Testament when Stephen was reviewing the history, you remember. Acts 7:44, “Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern that he had seen.” Hebrews 8:5, “There are those who offer gifts according to the Law, who serve a copy and a shadow of heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, ‘See,’ He says, ‘That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” I think that’s enough to let you know that God had a blueprint, very detailed, very specific and He said to make sure that you construct the tabernacle just so. We’re not going to look at all that now, but I want you to know that what we’re going to study is from God’s heavenly viewpoint, from His blueprint, and it pictures something very, very precious and wonderful.
The second principle and general observation, Exodus 25:8, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” Whatever else the tabernacle pictures, and it will picture other things, but whatever else it pictures, it pictures God’s desire to dwell with His people, “That I might dwell among them.” Exodus 25:22, “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 I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” God said, “I want to dwell with My people; build a tabernacle. I want to meet with My people; build a tabernacle. I want to reveal things to My people; build a tabernacle and the way I describe it.”
Exodus 25:8 again, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” And those there are going to be many details about this tabernacle, it’s God’s heart, so get the bottom line, God wants to dwell with His people. He wants to meet with His people, He wants to reveal to His people. That’s the purpose of it, and that’s God’s heart. God is the architect of the tabernacle, and He wanted that home to live in, to dwell in, to travel in, to reign from, to rest in, and to manifest Himself through. We’ll get into a lot of that. It was His prerogative to design a house that He wants to live in, and He did.
I think I need to tell you in advance about the approach that I’m going to take. My approach might disappoint some who have already studied the tabernacle and the great details of the tabernacle. I told you that the pattern that God handed down was very precise, very detailed, and He warned not to depart from any of those details. Every detail was necessary. Because of that, because there is so much detail in the blueprint, the majority of my commentators on the tabernacle, and a great many Christians besides, try to find a spiritual meaning in every little detail of the tabernacle, not only the big things, like the courts, that’s big, or the furniture, that’s big, or the materials used, that’s big, or the services of the priests and their dress, that’s big. But I’m just going to machine gun some of the other details in the blueprint. I read the blueprint. There are vessels, pins, pillars, bars, boats, praise, snuffers, hooks, poles, cords, pots, pans, curtains, skins, colors, the kind of wood, gold, jewelry, veils, oil, and spices; all that is in the blueprint. And God said, “Don’t depart from it.”
I’m not criticizing, I promise you I’m not, those who see spiritual truths in all of those many details, but I’m just confessing to you up front that I have not been able to make my own what a lot of the commentators claim they’ve seen. I’m not saying they haven’t seen it. Maybe they have, and maybe that’s down the road, or maybe God will show me in heaven, but a lot of that I haven’t seen. In my own heart I have found that it’s very profitable to go forward with certainty, and not possibility, not probability. I have found that when I’m reading this commentary and that commentary and they look at this and argue about it, when you are arguing about something that’s not certain, it’s distracting. I’ll tell you; I was not looking forward to teaching the tabernacle because of all that I’ve been swamped with, and I knew there was so much. How in the world am I every going to present it? I think the Lord has checked me on that, “Give what you’ve seen, and then stop.” So, that’s what I’m going to do.
I think God is practical. I think that’s one of the big principles. Many of the details have to do with practicality. It was a tent. You say that it’s a tent, but if you read the blueprint, three of the tent walls were made out of wood. That doesn’t sound like a tent. That sounds like a building. So, they hung a curtain on both sides, so it looks like a tent, but that’s stability. I don’t know if there is a spiritual meaning, but it held it together. The sedum wood is described as indestructible wood, translated from the Greek in the Old Testament as indestructible wood. It was unusually durable, there’s no question about that, but it was also the wood that was common in that area at that time. They say, “Well, indestructible wood, that’s a picture of the humanity of Christ. And it was overlaid with gold, and so that’s a picture of the deity of Christ. He’s God and He’s man.” That may be. I’m not saying it’s not. It may be that, but I don’t want to give just what may be. There are things in this tabernacle that are crystal clear, and so my approach is going to be crystal clear.
My guess is, if He did it today in our culture and this geography, He might have chosen maple or oak or some other kind of wood. I don’t know. Maybe He would have chosen nails and staples and canvas instead of skin. I don’t know that. But if you see the humanity of Christ in the wood, and if you see purity and divinity in the gold, and if you see blue as the heavenly color, if you see authority in the word “crown”, the crown around the incense and a crown around the table, a crown around the Ark, if you see authority and royalty in that, I’m not going to split hairs, and I’m not going to war with you. Share it with me. I’ll enjoy hearing that. That’s fun to sit around and discuss, but for our purposes in our study of Exodus I want to go forward with certainty, with what is absolutely clear.
Many of those details I think have to do with the fact that this Ark, not only the Ark, but this tabernacle also had to be carried in the wilderness, and some of the rings were important for that. It had to be easily assembled and it had to be easily disassembled, and it had to be weatherproof, and some of it is so practical. I’m not saying there is no value because everything was overlaid with gold, it is valuable, everything is valuable, but I think some of it was very, very practical. I think if we stick with clear scripture, we’ll have plenty of blessing, and then on your own you can meditate on those things. I’m going to lay great stress on the pattern, on the blueprint, and I’m not going to depart from the details. I’m going to stick with the details but I’m not going to try to put a spiritual meaning on every detail that I haven’t seen yet. I’m not saying there is none; there might be. Some of these Godly writers, they’ve been down deeper than I’ve ever been and stayed down longer than I’ve ever been and come up with more than I’ve ever seen. So, study those things, but I’ll share what’s on my heart.
I’m going to avoid a lot of the details, as I said. For example, the cubit, do you know what a cubit was? It’s a measurement from your elbow to the tip of your finger which is about 18 inches. So, they say a foot and a half was the cubit, but then according to 2 Chronicles 3:3 there was a sanctuary cubit, and that was the distance from your finger to your elbow plus a palm. So, that’s twenty-two inches. When it says cubit, you don’t know if it’s twenty-two inches or eighteen, so a lot of this is vague. We don’t know exactly the size of some of these things, so I’m going to leave aside the silver bonds and the brass sockets and the pegs and the rings and the gold chains, and I’ll leave that to all you hermeneuts to dig into.
Let me give one illustration for the perfect design, the main design for the tabernacle. This whole square is the outer court. The outer court was a rectangle divided exactly in half. I had Lillian draw an X in each half to identify the center. This is the gate of the outer court, and in the very center of the outer court was the brazen altar of sacrifice. Then in the very center was the Ark of the Covenant. So, the two main pieces of furniture were right in the center of this outer court, and then once you got this precious piece of furniture, God said, “Build a sanctuary around that.” That was the throne room and that became the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. What I wanted you to see here is that in the design God made central the two chief pieces of furniture, the brazen altar of sacrifice and the Ark of the Covenant, and around that God said, “We will build the sanctuary, the tabernacle of the Lord.” I wanted you to just see that.
This morning we’re going to leave the tabernacle, focus on the Ark, and then we’re going to come back, Lord willing, to the tabernacle. As I go through this, I know many of you have studied the tabernacle and all of the furniture and you’ve probably seen a lot that I haven’t seen yet, and so on, but I am not taking for granted that anybody knows anything. All of us have not had the same opportunity to grow up in Sunday school or with an open Bible, and so I’m going to present this as if you are hearing it for the first time. I want you to just step by step to see that God said, “Before you begin, build this Ark,” and I want to show you God’s pattern for the Ark of the Covenant.
Exodus 25:10, “They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and half cubits long and one and half cubits wide and one and a half cubits high.” Once again, the cubit is up to grabs, give or take about four feet long and two feet high and two feet wide. The word ark is different than the word used for Noah’s ark. You just need to know it’s a different word. The Ark of the Covenant is not a boat. It’s going to be different. There were three parts to the ark, and I’m going to describe each of the parts.
First, there was an open box, a chest, a coffer, four feet long and a couple of feet high and wide. If you think of a toy box without a lid, or a hope chest without a lid, or a crate without a lid, it’s just a box. That’s what it was. You need to see that. Quite apart from the material it was made from or what was overlaying the material I want you to think in terms of a box four feet long and two feet high.
The second part of the ark was what sat on top of the box, the cover, the lid. Exodus 25:17, “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and half cubits long, one and half cubits wide.” What you need to know about those cubits is that it’s exactly the same size as the ark. In other words, all along the top this seat fit perfectly on the top, and if you moved the box it would slide off. It’s that perfect; it’s the same size. The box had a cover, a lid made of pure gold, and that lid has a name. It’s called a seat, a mercy seat. It’s estimated that much gold that is described weighed between three and five hundred pounds, just the lid. Remember that they’re carrying this thing on bars and remember there are tables of stone inside adding to the weight. We’ll get into that in another connection.
The word lid or mercy seat comes from a word which means to cover. Some people think that it covered whatever was in the box, and it did, but that’s not the meaning of the Hebrew word to cover. The meaning of the Hebrew word to cover had a spiritual meaning, to cover sin. That’s the covering. It also covered the items that were in the box. Before I mention the details of the seat, let me ask this question. I’m not a carpenter, but if I made you a box and I put a seat on it, what do you think that box would be used for? It would be used to sit on, and because it’s hollow, probably to store things in, as well. I think if you made me a box and put a seat on it I’d think you made me a chair, or a stool. I’d say, “Thank you very much for this box with a seat on it.”
I call attention to this because I think some folks try to dig down so deep that they miss the heart of God and the obvious things. That lid was not an ordinary lid. It was pretty fancy. Listen to this, Exodus 25:18, “You shall make two cherubim of gold, and make them of hammered work at 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.”
From each end hammered out from that solid piece of gold were a cherub on each end; cherubim is just plural for cherub. There was a cherub and a cherub, and if it’s a chair, then that would be a fancy arm to the chair, and their wings met over the top, and that would be a canopy over the top of the chair. You’ve got a box, you’ve got a seat, you’ve got fancy arms, and you’ve got a canopy over the top. Exodus 25:20, “The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward covering the mercy seat and their wings facing one another, the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat.”
The cherubs were not made by themselves and then later attached to the seat in some way. It was one piece of gold, and it was all hammered together. God had to give the special Holy Spirit to two men to be able to take that piece of gold and to be able to hammer out this beautiful cherub on each side from the mercy seat. If you picked up the seat you picked up the cherubim; they are connected but they aren’t attached; they’re all one piece. It’s a marvelous piece of design.
Moses doesn’t in Exodus spell out what the cherubim looked like. You know you have a full description of cherubs in the book of Ezekiel, and they had four faces; they have the face of an ox, an eagle, and a man. They all had four wings and they had human hands under the wings. They’re described in great detail in Ezekiel. Some say that the Exodus cherubim were not as elaborate as the Ezekiel cherubim. They only had one face. Sometimes when you see a picture of the Ark of the Covenant, like the one I showed you, there is just one face, and they’re looking down. I don’t know if they had more than one. That’s another illustration of those who want details. I’ve got one book that, “It’s so important if you are studying the Ark you need to understand each face,” and then they go into the meaning of each of the faces, and so on. What I want you to see and what I want my heart to see is Hebrews 9:5, “Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.” What does this and that mean? I don’t know, but they were cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.
Why such a fancy box, such a fancy seat, such beautiful arms of that seat, such a glorious canopy over the top? What kind of a chair is that? Psalm 80:1, “Give ears, shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock, you who are enthroned above the cherubim; shine forth.” Psalm 99:1, “The Lord reigns. Let the people tremble. He’s enthroned above the cherubim; let the earth shake.” You say that it’s a chair. Oh, it’s more than a chair. It’s a throne. It’s a throne of King Jesus. It’s a picture, and that’s why God said, “That is central. Get to the heart of the Lordship of Christ and build around that.” That’s the point that He’s making. 1 Samuel 4:4, “The people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Hosts who sits above the Cherubim.”
When God gave the command, He commanded Moses in Exodus 25:12, “You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten it on its four feet; two rings shall be on one side, two rings on the other side of it, and 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 with them.” We’ll see in another connection how important it was that only the priests were allowed to carry this ark. I want you to picture what we have here. We have a throne and it’s being carried by holy priests; that will becomes very important in a future study.
That’s why I think this piece of furniture was made before the tabernacle and before the Holy of Holies. We hear so much about the Holy of Holies, and rightly so. It’s a perfect cube. There are only three cubes mentioned in the Bible. Are you familiar with that? There’s the Holy of Holies, the New Jerusalem, and the love of God in Ephesians. What made it holy? The answer is that the throne of God was there. That’s what made it holy. King Jesus was there. If the throne of God was not there, that Holy of Holies would have been no more holy than a closet that contained stuff. The Holy of Holies would just be an ordinary room, without the throne of God, just like heaven; heaven would be hell if Christ were not there.
When they left Mt. Sinai, Numbers 10:33, “They set out from the Mount of the Lord three days journey with the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord journeying in front of them for the three days to seek out a resting place for them.” The King went first to seek out a resting place for His people. When they went to war, Numbers 10:35, “It came about when the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, oh Lord, let Your enemies be scattered. Let those who hate You flee before You.’ When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, oh Lord, to the myriad thousands of Israel.’” When they went to war, the ark went out first; God goes to battle. When they came back; “Come on back, oh Lord, and just reside with Your people.”
When they camped, at all times the tabernacle was right in the center, and then there were three tribes on each side, all around the tabernacle. He’s central; He guided them, He protected them, He dwelt with them, and the King is in the middle. Now only when the camped, but when they marched the ark stayed with the tabernacle in the middle, six tribes in front. Don’t forget you’ve got about three million people, a million and a half people in front, then the tabernacle, and a million and half people behind. That’s quite a parade. The ark was always in the center. Nothing is more central than the Lordship of Christ, not only in the tabernacle, but in my life, and in your life.
I told you there were three parts of the ark; we only looked at two. There was the open box, and then there was the lid with the fancy arms and canopy, but there’s a third part. Exodus 25:11, “You shall overlay it with pure gold inside and out, and you shall overlay it, and you shall make a great gold molding around it.” KJV says, “A crown of gold,” and every place it says molding KJV says a crown of gold. I know when you hear the word crown you think royal, royal crown, especially since we’re talking about a throne, King Jesus. You would think of a crown. But in this case the word crown is not referring to royalty. It’s the word for molding. It’s the word for around the table; it went around the Ark of the Covenant. My guess is to hold the lid on, because the lid was exactly the same size, and if they’re carrying that around, and they’re jostling that thing, it could slide off. There was a molding around it to hold it on. When we come to the altar of incense you are going to see the molding, the very fancy gold molding. Those are the three parts; the open box, the seat with it’s arms and canopy, and then the molding that went around the box.
I know those of you who have studied this are anxious to get back to the mercy seat because there is such wonderful symbolism in that mercy seat. It’s well known, and if you don’t know let me share it with you now, that the word mercy seat in the Greek Old Testament is exactly the same Greek word as propitiation in the New Testament. Listen to Romans 3:24&25, “Being justified by a gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” Let me read it another way, “God displayed publicly as a mercy seat.” Jesus is called the mercy seat. It’s the same word. If you are going to enter into the reality of the symbolism you need to see that the word propitiation just means to appease, to satisfy, to turn away anger, to atone. I like the way some have described or spelled the word atone; they broke it apart. If you break the word atone apart, it’s at one, so He brings us together; we’re at one. Christ is called the mercy seat because He brings us together with God.
The precious blood of Christ, according to the record, turned what would be a judgment seat into a mercy seat. I’ll just tell you this straight up, you wouldn’t want to meet King Jesus on any other basis than the blood of Christ. And I wouldn’t want to meet King Jesus on any other basis than the blood of Christ. That is powerfully illustrated in the word lamb. Listen to John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’” Praise God for the Lamb, but then listen to Revelation 6:15, “The kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders, the rich, the strong, every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, and they said to the mountains to the rocks, ‘Fall on us, hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.’” Wrath of a Lamb? Just think about that word picture; same Lamb that takes away the sin of the world, but if you reject that Lamb, then one day you’ll cry for rocks and mountains to hide you from the wrath of the Lamb.
Praise God that He’s our mercy seat, and we take His mercy for granted. We are so familiar with the grace of God. We know that it’s a throne of grace, and we come running up to the King on the throne and climb on His lap and play with His beard, and He’s so familiar with King Jesus, but it’s all because of the mercy seat.
Let me make a couple of observations about the cherubs in terms of the mercy seat. Why is the mercy seat called mercy and not judgment seat? The answer is because every year once a year on the day of atonement, listen to Leviticus 16:15, “He shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood what he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in from of the mercy seat.” Every year that mercy seat was stained with the blood of the animal sacrifice. That mercy seat became the blood-stained mercy seat, and you have to understand it that way. That’s why there can be propitiation, and that’s why there can be a bringing together.
I want you to note the posture of the cherub as they were hammered out in that picture. Exodus 25:20, “The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward covering the mercy seat with their wings facing one another, the faces of the cherubim are to be turned to the mercy seat.” Symbolically speaking, the cherubs can’t get their eyes off the blood-stained mercy seat. They’re staring at the mercy seat. This awesome focus on the mercy of God, His unbounded limitless mercy, the highest beings God ever created are the cherubim, and the cherubim are now pictured sitting on this mercy seat, and they’re awestruck by looking at the blood.
It’s not only the cherubim but angels themselves; listen to 1 Peter 1:12, “It was revealed to them,” the Old Testament prophets, “That they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preach the gospel to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things to which angels desire and long to look into.” As you know, I find great benefit by tracing things back to first mention. The first time something is mentioned in the Bible I think is unusually important. Then when it’s mentioned in an incomplete way, that’s unusually important as well.
What is the first mention of the cherubim in the Bible? The answer is Genesis 3:24, “He drove the man, and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way of the Tree of Life.” The first mention of the cherubim after man’s sinned and was kicked out of the Garden, the cherubim were stationed as guards at the entrance of the Garden to guard every way into the Garden, not just the door, but every way into the Garden. They had rotating flaming swords and I picture these cherubim with the rotating flaming swords as if to say in a challenge, “You want to get to the Tree of Life? You’ve got to come through us.” Good luck with that. Imagine these cherubim with the rotating flaming swords guarding every way possible into the Garden of Eden.
Let’s say a politician tried to get in. He’d be incinerated in a moment and cut to shreds. Let’s say that a religious leader tried to get in or a rich man or a beggar or a poor man or a child? Nobody could get in. The cherubim were associated with God’s holy judgment. Now they get a new assignment, overshadowing the mercy seat. That’s new to them, and they were constructed in such a way that they couldn’t get their eyes off the blood-stained mercy seat, so precious was that mercy seat. This is the throne of the holy God, the seat of mercy. It’s not wonder that we’re so familiar of the only time in the Bible, Hebrews 4:16, that it’s called a throne of grace. Every Christian is familiar with the expression, “throne of grace.” Why are they so familiar with it? It’s only mentioned once in the Bible. How come everybody knows it? It’s because everybody needs it, and that’s why they know it. It’s so precious. Hebrews 1:18, of the Son, “Your throne, oh God, is forever.”
I wonder if dear Mary Magdalene on the morning of the resurrection, Easter morning, when she looked into that empty tomb, listen to John 20:11&12, “Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping, and as so as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb. She saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been laying.” I wonder if that slab on which Jesus was laying with an angel on this side and an angel on that side, I wonder if Mary was staring at the mercy seat after the resurrection? Again, it’s not a certainty, but it’s something to think about. Anyway, the throne of God has a seat of mercy and 100% everything depends on that seat of mercy.
It was all made out of gold. Gold is precious. As far as human life is concerned, physical things, it’s a wonderful measure of something precious, but it falls short of the blood that it was picturing. 1 Peter 1:18&19, “Knowing you were not redeemed with perishable things, like silver or gold, from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a Lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” There’s nothing that can picture the blood of the Lamb for preciousness.
I want to look at one more thing. I told you it was a box with a seat on it. The seat was separate from the box; it could be lifted off. The box was hollow, and it could store things. Sure enough, we know things were in the box. Throughout the Bible the ark has many titles. I’m not giving the references, but I’ll give you the titles. It’s called the ark of the Lord, the ark of the Lord of all the earth, the ark of the God of Israel, the holy ark, the ark of God’s strength, but the most common title is the Ark of the Covenant or the Ark of the Testimony. More than a hundred times it’s called the Ark of the Testimony.
Where did it get that name? Exodus 31:18, “When He had finished speaking with him on Mt. Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone written by the finger of God.” Verse 16, “You shall put into the ark the testimony which I will give you.” That’s where it gets the Ark of the Testimony, the Ark of the Covenant, because the Ten Commandments were put inside that box. Exodus 25:21, “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give you.”
The Ten Commandments were not the only thing that was in the ark. As far as the full purpose of God, it’s summarized in Hebrews 9:3&4, “Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense, and the Ark of the Covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant.” So, in addition to the Ten Commandments there was a golden jar of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. Those three things were inside under the blood sprinkled mercy seat: the Ten Commandments, the manna and Aaron’s budding rod. That’s tremendously instructive and it would be fun to go through the stories and give you that but let me just give you the principles with each story.
What is the principle of the Law being in the box? Well, the Law is just the will of God; it’s the commandments of the Lord. The principle is obedience to the will of God. That’s what’s pictured there. What’s the principle of the manna? The answer is that it’s provision. It’s how God provides for us, and that also was under the blood sprinkled mercy seat. What’s the principle of Aaron’s rod? The answer is supernatural fruit; a dead twig sprouted and bore fruit by the mighty miracle of God.
I want to take you back to that truth that we’ve talked about. The ark is a picture of a throne, and on the throne King Jesus, and Jesus is pictured by the ark. He’s the mercy seat, and in Jesus under the blood are the Ten Commandments. Don’t try to obey God apart from the mercy of God under the blood in Christ Jesus. In Jesus is all provision; don’t look for any provision apart from the blood sprinkled mercy seat and in the Lordship of Christ. In Jesus is fruit, under the blook sprinkled mercy seat and in the Lordship of Christ. Those things are in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 40:7, this is a Messianic passage, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it’s written of Me, ‘I delight to do Your will, oh My God. Your law is within My heart.” The law is in the heart of Jesus. You say, “Well, the law is in my heart.” No, the law is in His heart, and He is in your heart. That’s not the same thing. May God show us the difference! Just so, He’s the true bread from heaven. John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger. He who believes in Me will never thirst.” In Him is fruit. He’s the vine. John 15:4, “Abide in Me and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Hosea 14:8, “From Me,” says God, “comes your fruit.”
The ability to obey God, the ability to have all of our needs met, whatever they may be, and the ability to be fruitful is all in Jesus; it’s all in the Lordship of Christ. It’s in His throne and it’s by His mercy and it’s under the blood and it’s by the grace of God; outside of Him you can never obey God. Outside of Him I can never obey God. Thousands of Christians say, “I’m just going to do the will of God; I’m going to follow God’s will,” and they are absolute strangers to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Oh, they’re going to fail. They’re not going to be able to obey God. You can’t lift a finger to obey God until you know Him as your undisputed King, until He is living in your place in your life. Then you may obey the Lord.
Thousands of Christians have tried to find contentment and provision and they run to this counselor and run to that counselor, and they try this program, and they try that program, and they think there is satisfaction in family, and they think there is satisfaction in vocation, and they think there is satisfaction in vacation and social expression and education and church and all of that kind of thing. I’ll tell you, satisfaction is in Jesus, and if you look for satisfaction after you’ve found Jesus, you are seeking a lie, I’m seeking a lie.
How many Christians just want to bear fruit for God, and so they say, “I’ve got to work on these spiritual disciplines, and I’m going to have to get up early, and I’m going to have to witness, and I’m going to have to be a good steward, I’m going to have to pray, and I’m going to have to fast, and I’ve got to pray for another blessing.” It’s all in Jesus. That’s what the ark is. The ark is the throne of God, King Jesus, and in Him everything I need for obedience and everything I need for all my needs being met, everything I need to have a fruitful, abundant, satisfying, content life is all in Jesus under the blood-sprinkled mercy seat.
You say, “Well, we’ve looked at the ark.” No, not yet. Lord willing, next week I’d like to pick up and drill down a little more because there is more about this ark, and we need see that before we come to the sanctuary and the room buillt for it.
Father, we can’t praise You enough for our propitiation, for our Lord Jesus, our mercy seat, for the blood that He shed, the precious blood, for all the things found in Him, for how central He desires to be in our lives. Lord, take us forward in all that’s pictured by this wonderful Ark of the Covenant. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen