The Mercy Seat

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Rom 3:25-28 GW  God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God's approval is given through faith in Christ's blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past.  (26)  He waited so that he could display his approval at the present time. This shows that he is a God of justice, a God who approves of people who believe in Jesus.  (27)  So, do we have anything to brag about? Bragging has been eliminated. On what basis was it eliminated? On the basis of our own efforts? No, indeed! Rather, it is eliminated on the basis of faith.  (28)  We conclude that a person has God's approval by faith, not by his own efforts.

Sometimes the newer translations, such as Godís Word, donít do justice to the original text. Such is the case in this particular portion of Romans. Paul states that God showed (by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus) that Christ is the throne of mercy where Godís approval is given through faith in Christís blood.

What does it mean to you when it is stated that Christ is the throne of mercy? If it means that Christ is the place or the person to whom we must go in order to obtain mercy and forgiveness of our sins from God through faith in Christís shed blood ...then you have done well. Thatís what this passage means. But, what is the history of this throne of mercy?

The original text states that God set forth Christ to be a propitiation. A propishi what? A propitiation. The word means mercy seat. In other places in Scripture it means an offering to satisfy the wrath of God.  

The idea of a mercy seat as opposed to a throne of mercy,  might not mean much to you and I , but it would mean much to those who are familiar with the OT. Those who Paul was writing to in Rome.

The first mention of the mercy seat is found in Ex. 25 when God was giving Moses the instructions for building the ark of the covenant. The ark of the covenant was to contain the two tablets, engraved by God. These tablets contained the information relative to Godís covenant with the Israelites. In todayís terms we would call it a contract.

Now I know we all have a Charlton Hestonish mental image of those two tablets with their Roman numerals indicating the ten commandments, but thatís not reality. The tablets likely included the ten commandments, but they also included Godís gracious covenant promises to the people.

One important aspect of the giving of the ten commandments to Moses is often overlooked. Immediately before the ten commandments were given God reminded Moses first of His gracious act of salvation or deliverance on their behalf.

Exo 20:2 GW  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.....and then He goes on and gives the ten commandments.

It is very likely that these words were also engraved on those tablets because they are the major point of Godís covenant with His people. He initiates, He declares, ďI will be your God. because I am the One who delivered you from slavery in Egypt.

He makes the same covenant with us today. He initiates the action and He says, I will be your God, because I have delivered you from slavery to sin through the blood of My Son Jesus Christ.

This is what God will do for us in this covenant. Without any merit on our own He will deliver us from the penalty of our sins. The second part of the old covenant was the ten commandments. They were an outline of what the people were to do for God.

The second part of the new covenant are the two commands that Jesus gave us. Love God, and love each other, an outline of what we are to do for Him. He said  if you love Me, if you enter into My covenant of love, you will keep My commandments.

You see there are always two parts to a contract. Here we see Godís obligation to us and our subsequent obligation to Him.  

 God fulfilled His obligation when He sent Jesus to die for the sins of the entire world. We fulfill our obligation when we believe His promise and receive Christ as our Lord and our Savior. The proof that we believe His promise is found in our obedient response to His commands.

What did these two tablets look like? First of all they were exact duplicates of each other with writing on both sides.  

Ex 32:15,16 - Moses turned and went down the mountain carrying the two tablets with Godís words. They were written on both sides front and back. The tablets were the work of God and the writing was Godís writing inscribed on the tablets.

Notice I said that these tablets were identical. God gave two identical tablets to Moses because thatís the way it is with covenants. Even today as you sign your Master Card receipt, or any other contract or covenant, you always get a copy.    

All right, now that Iíve forever ruined your image of Charlton Heston and the two tablets, letís move on. We know that these stone identical documents were placed in the ark of the covenant. Now, the lid of the ark was called the mercy seat. It was 45 inches long by 27 inches wide. It was made of pure gold.

It was pure gold because the mercy seat was a type of Christ. Once a year the priest would sprinkle the blood of unblemished sacrifices on and before the mercy seat to make atonement for his sins, his familyís sins, and the sins of the people.

It was also at the mercy seat that God promised to meet Moses.

Exo 25:22 GW  I will be above the throne of mercy between the angels whenever I meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

And it is at the mercy seat, that is in Christ, where He meets you and I today. Oh what a rich word Paul uses to show us how we can have restored fellowship with God. Propitiation...the mercy seat. Jesus, our mercy seat, did not use the blood of animals, but He shed His own blood to make atonement for the sins of the world.

And think about it, what was under the blood that was sprinkled on the mercy seat? What was under the mercy seat? It was the two tablets. The covenant of Godís grace. His promise to be our God, to deliver us from sin and it was all under the blood. In addition, the ten commandments were also in there.

The ten commandments are also under the blood. And here is where Godís covenant varies from all others. He makes the offer to be our God, He delivers us from the penalty of sin, He gives us rules to keep, but when we violate the rules He gives us grace to continue in the covenant as long as we keep applying the blood, as long as we keep confessing our sins and as long as we keep trusting Jesus as our Savior and our Lord..

1Jo 1:7 GW  But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin.

God in His great mercy,  allows for our violations of His rules to be forgiven by putting them under the blood of Jesus, who is the anti-type of the mercy seat. By anti-type we mean that he is totally against other words HE not a type of fulfillment but the complete fulfillment of mercy.

On the Day of Atonement, the people of faith in the OT knew their sins were forgiven. All their violations of the ten commandments, known and unknown were put under the blood.  Today by faith we daily come to Jesus Christ who is our perpetual sin offering, confessing our sins, and we too, by faith know our sins are forgiven.

Godís righteousness is satisfied completely at the mercy seat, in Christ, and when we surrender to Him, when we believe the promise of God, all our sins are covered under the blood of Jesus.

It doesnít matter what youíve done or how often youíve done it, by receiving Christ, you receive Godís mercy, and once you have received His mercy, you will gladly seek to maintain your part of the covenant....which is to trust and obey. If you love Me you will keep My commandments.

Paul continues:

ďIn his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past.  (26)  He waited so that he could display his approval at the present time.

The sins of the OT believers were forgiven, but it was not yet demonstrated to the world how this would take effect. That would come with the Advent of Jesus. The reason we celebrate Advent and Christmas is to mark that time when God did indeed choose to step into history and display His method of cleansing the world from sin. That was foreshadowed in the Mercy Seat.

The promise was actually realized and displayed for all the world to see in Christís suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. But the promise was in effect for all believers who trusted in the coming Redeemer and it remains in effect for those who put there trust in Him today.  Paul says,

 ďThis shows that he is a God of justice, a God who approves of people who believe in Jesus.

Was God just in doing this? Without a doubt! For the wages of sin, the price or sentence imposed against all for breaking any one of Godís rules is death.

Rom 6:23 GW  The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But what? The gift the God freely gives is everlasting life found where? In the mercy seat! In Jesus Christ our Lord!

When was the actual payment made? On Calvary, but everyone who brought their sins to the mercy seat in the OT obtained credit for forgiveness. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.

Have you ever paid off a credit card? One that you have been battling for years? Itís a great feeling isnít it? What a glorious day!

Then please note some of the final words of Jesus on the cross. Remember? He said ďit is finished.Ē In the the Greek the word is ďteleo.Ē It is a financial term, a banking term and it means ďthe debt has been paid!Ē Godís justice, His wage for sin was satisfied.  All the sins of the past, and all the sins of the future paid in full by Jesus on Calvary.

But in order for you and I to receive that forgiveness, the cancellation of our debt, we must by faith believe Godís promise. We must receive Jesus as our Savior and then we will serve Him as our Lord.  

(27)  So, do we have anything to brag about? Bragging has been eliminated. On what basis was it eliminated? On the basis of our own efforts? No, indeed! Rather, it is eliminated on the basis of faith. (Which we might add, is a gift from God!)   (28)  We conclude that a person has God's approval by faith, not by his own efforts.  

Here is Paulís marvelous conclusion to all that has preceded. We have nothing to brag about when it comes to being saved. The Law of faith excludes boasting. Because as Eph 2:8,9 states: We are saved by grace through faith and this is not our own doing it is the gift of God not of works lest anyone should boast.Ē Saving faith must be devoid of any works of our own.

There is a big debate in Christendom over what we call ďdecision theology.Ē Many times itís just a matter of semantics, but you may have heard people say that at one point in their life they heard this good news and ďdecided to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.Ē  The danger in such terminology is that it sounds like we are the ones who worked up the faith, and that turns it into a work.

In my own life, I remember using the same terminology to describe what happened to me while one day listening to Jimmy Swaggart and making a conscious decision to accept Christ.  I remember the struggle like it was yesterday.

It was like the devil on one hand telling me to not fall for this nonsense and that I would have to give up all the so-called fun things I was now doing. On the other hand the Holy Spirit just asking me to trust the gospel.  No promises of an easy life...just trust in the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

The road I had been traveling was a mess, strewn with the effects of a drinking problem and selfishness. Through the preaching of the Law I was confronted with my sins and through the preaching of the Gospel I was invited by Jesus to follow Him, to take His path.

There was a line I had to cross, a decision I had to make. Obviously,  I chose Christ and have not regretted that decision for one moment, but you know what? The more I look back at that time of my ďdecision.Ē the more I see it was God and not me.

And I have come to realize that by the time I made the ďconscious decision to accept was already a done deal. My ďdecisionĒ was just an outward statement or confession of a work that God had already done in my heart.

Had God not done that work by His grace (His divine influence on my heart.) I wouldíve never made that decision. I am too much a sinner to make that decision on my own! Satan wouldíve won and I would still be up to here in my sins.

So you see, I really have nothing to brag about. It was not a ďdecision.Ē I made, it was simply an expression of a work that God had already done in my heart. I didnít ďacceptĒ Christ, rather by Godís grace, I simply stopped resisting Him.  

Does that mean that we should not challenge people to ďmake a decision for Christ?Ē Not at all. Call it what you will, (accepting, receiving, believing,)  the grace that God works in our heart to bring us saving faith needs to be expressed.   

Faith is stirred as we hear Godís Word and it is expressed as we realize our need for a Savior. and confess it. Thatís why Romans 10:9 says:

Rom 10:9 GW  If you declare (confess with your mouth) that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved.

This is our outward expression of the inward reality that God has done in our heart. I donít know if God is doing anything in your heart or not, but if He is breaking down your resistance, if He is bringing you to that point of decision.

Stop resisting. Let go. Come to the mercy seat and surrender to Jesus and you will not be able to remain silent. You will respond by an open declaration or confession of Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

The people of the OT expressed that reality by acknowledging their sins and taking them to the mercy seat and believing Godís promise of forgiveness. It works the same for you and me. We must bring all our wrongdoing to the mercy seat, to Jesus. Give Him our sinful life and by faith receive His cleansing and forgiveness and newness of life. .

We must come to Jesus! But how can we do that? He no longer walks this earth. Itís funny when He did walk the earth people went through great lengths and great trouble just to get a touch from Him.

Were He walking the earth today, what lengths would you go to in order to ďcome to Him?Ē If you knew that coming to Him meant the difference between spending eternity in heaven or hell, what would you do?

Would you not sell all you had to pay for the journey, would you not set off at once? Would you not push your way through the crowd, lower yourself through the roof, touch the bottom of His garment, climb a tree, do whatever it takes to experience His touch.

Would you not say, ďLord Jesus save me!Ē I come not to be healed of blindness, lameness, leprosy or any other disease than the disease of my sin! My heart is diseased with sin. I am in danger of Godís eternal wrath and of eternal damnation! Lord save me or I perish!

But He is no longer here. You canít hop on a plane and fly to Jerusalem to look for Him. He is ascended into heaven. How then can you come to Him? Just by making the same plea in your heart as if He were here! Then you will come to Jesus.

Be as earnest as if there were a crowd around Him, Push through the crowd. So much in your life and in your mind is crowding Jesus out....Push through it and come to Him!  Call to Him as that blind man did, who, like you cannot see Him, cried out, ďJesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!Ē

We have it so much better than the people of the OT. They often had to journey far to see Jesus, many times they had to go a distance to come to the mercy seat. We only need to call out His name. He will come to us as if we are the only person in the whole world. He is always near, never far, and promises salvation and mercy to as many as call upon His name!

Coming to Jesus is the desire of the heart towards Him. It is to feel our sin and misery, to believe that He is willing and able to pardon, comfort, and save us. To believe that He is the mercy seat. The only place where we can experience full pardon and eternal life. Come to Jesus today! Come to the mercy seat and live!