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THE TABERNACLE : NR 7
THE ARK AND MERCY SEAT
Scripture: Exodus 25: 10 – 22; Leviticus 16: 13 – 17
With today’s theme, we are standing on holy ground – the very holy essence of the Biblical message.

Behind the veil, there was a second room named the Holy of Holies where the direct presence of God was – separated from the people by a thick heavy curtain – a representation of the condition after the Fall. God is unapproachable.

That is the basic need of every person on earth. Mankind was created for God and by God (Gen 1-2) and now He is unapproachable. What a crisis! Therefore, man is missing out on his purpose of existence completely.

Should anyone enter behind the heavy curtain whenever they choose, they would immediately perish – like for example, Aaron’s two sons who, in the goodness of their hearts, entered to offer incense to the Lord (Leviticus 10). To enter the direct presence of the Lord without the blood of the sacrifice, meant instant death. We shall soon see why.

Besides the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, there was also the Ark of the Covenant (not Noah’s ark)! The word “ark” means chest/box in which something is placed for safety.

In the Scriptures, there are 3 kinds of arks: a. Noah’s ship, b. Moses’s basket of reeds, c. The Ark of the covenant.

The ark was a wooden box overlaid inside and out with pure gold. Inside the ark were the two stone tablets with the Law, Aaron’s rod which budded and a small urn with manna.

The Ark of the Covenant was covered by the Atonement Cover (of pure gold).

Upon the atonement cover (mercy seat) two Cherubim (superior level of angels) made of hammered gold were mounted.

God therefore continuously looked down upon His perfect Law – which was inside the ark. And the Law judged the people (gathered outside) and that is why there is a curtain that prevented them from reaching God (tragic separation), otherwise, they would die according to the indisputable judgment of the Law.

Only once every year the high priest could enter behind the curtain with the blood of the sacrificed animal and sprinkle it on the atonement cover – and remain alive! The blood then literally comes between God and the Law. And that says: Someone else died. This high priest (and the entire nation) should have died, but now another (the animal) has borne the judgment. God now sees THAT (the blood on the cover) and not the Law.

Result? The high priest (who is also condemned to death by the Law in the ark) remains ALIVE within the direct presence of God. He should have died, but thanks to the blood of the substituting sacrifice sprinkled on the cover between God and Law, he can live.

That is the essence of the Biblical message that was depicted in this way. Paradise is opened. God is once more approachable. Because the death sentence is executed and the blood is the sign thereof. God’s demands of justice have been satisfied. The prodigal son can return home and not be lost any longer – not die, not condemned any longer. Free grace by the blood of Jesus – which was represented in the blood of the animal!

Would you not join me for the next few minutes to discover and examine the message of the Ark of the Covenant and the Atonement Cover piece by piece?

A. THE TESTIMONY (That is what the ark-containing-the-law is called).

Inside the ark, Moses had to place the Testimony. Almost like a kind of safe with precious contents. It is also known as the “mercy seat of God” (according to Ex 25:11 there was a golden crown mounted on the ark) because His throne is set by the testimony.

What testimony? A testimony of how corrupt and deserving of punishment man is before the holy God (see Rom 3:19). That is why the two stone tablets, Aaron’s staff and the manna are inside the ark. It is a reminder of events in Israel’s history.

The two stone tablets are a testimony of what happened at Mt Sinai… Where God initially gave the Law to Moses – with a bitter aftertaste, because they are not the original stone tablets. They are a second edition because the first two were smashed after the golden calf episode. A testimony of the deep-seated corruption of the human heart. The two stone tablets are therefore a testimony of God’s holiness (on the one hand) and man’s sinful unworthiness (on the other hand) with which he can NOT approach God.

But there is also the urn of Manna which is just as painful testimony of how the nation grumbled in the desert in unbelief and little faith despite the miracle from Above to provide food (the manna) in the desert. Also through the manna, they are reminded of their littleness and unworthiness. The manna had to be preserved as a testimony AGAINST man.

So too with Aaron’s staff which budded. That reminds us of the time when the nation rebelled against the leaders the Lord gave: Moses and Aaron. Then the LORD showed them who it is whom HE appointed as the leader – the one whose staff budded. It was Aaron. The staff had to be kept as a testimony AGAINST sinful man.

You see what is happening here. God wants to live amongst people. He sets His throne amongst people. But, HOW does He want to associate with His people? He wants to associate with those who realise their unworthiness. NEVER are they to approach Him as if nothing has happened.

The same applies to us, even though the curtain IS torn and even though there IS complete access to God. A child of the Lord still realises his unworthiness, and therefore the possibility that there might be SOMETHING in OURSELVES why He would choose us.

Even today the TESTIMONY is still unpopular. The modern person does not want to be reminded of who/what he is. He shuts his ears. The post-modern person rejects this testimony with contempt.

B. ATONEMENT COVER.  Now, look at this miracle.

The testimony is covered with the atonement cover. The Law/Manna/Staff is hidden under the cover. And the cover is sprinkled with the blood of the sacrificed offering. The blood covers the bad memories before the eyes of God because the price of death has been paid on the altar.

Do you see the Divine wonder? God can – according to the testimony of the Testimony – not allow the law-transgressing human into His holy presence and let him live (as His love desires) because what about the testimony of the Law? He cannot merely sweep that testimony under the carpet. He cannot let the human life on as if the Law does NOT condemn it.

God, therefore, had to find a masterly way to protect the condemned guilty human AND honour the justice of the Law.

HOW? That is the question because it is a stalemate situation, which is humanly impossible to solve.

The solution is the atonement cover and the bronze altar.

The judgment of the Law fiercely rages over the substituting animal sacrifice on the altar. And the blood of the sacrifice now comes to stand on the atonement cover between God and the Law. So God does not see the Law any longer, but the blood. In that way (based on THAT) He allows sinners into His presence. And in that way, He changes the ark from a throne of judgment to a throne of grace. Thanks to the blood on the atonement cover.

The NT says (Rom 3:25) that Christ Himself is the atonement cover. Jesus’s death on the cross is what covers up the Law. The testimony is not done away with (how can it??), but it is covered with blood. But not the blood of man. The blood of the substitute.

So says the Lord: “Do not enter into My presence with so much arrogance and confidence (testimony), but do enter! Do not fear. Do not be afraid. You can be with Me (atonement cover).”

The testimony condemns man. The blood covers the condemnation and works conciliation. The blood brings about a personal relationship. Romans 8:1.

By the atonement cover, the throne of justice is changed into a throne of grace.

Therefore, the believer must never say: “Just look at the Testimony, I am not good enough for God”. It is an insult to the Lord to speak that way.

It is also an insult to the Lord when a believer arrogantly enters the throne room with a list of achievements and good works and merits. Because the Lord should take the testimony out of the safe, those achievements would look rather poor, and disappear altogether.

How does the Christian then live? Realise deep brokenness and unworthiness, BUT AT THE SAME TIME live confidently in a relationship with the Father through Jesus in the power of the Spirit. With complete confidence – thanks to the blood!

C. A VOICE COMES FROM THE ATONEMENT COVER. Verse 22: The Lord speaks from the atonement cover.

Because there is conciliation through the blood, His VOICE CAN BE HEARD. Now there is peace. Now there is a relationship. No more wondering or speculation. Can KNOW what the Lord is saying. Can hear and understand His Word. No longer distance and separation. The reconciled person does not live in darkness and error any longer. Yes, perhaps we sometimes may find the Voice too stern, difficult to understand, promises are not fulfilled, and things may look upside down. Do not become discouraged. The Word says: He is speaking from the atonement cover. You SHALL hear His voice.

Is it not a miraculous mystery THAT there may be a personal relationship between a holy God and a sinner? Even though there is a condemnatory testimony against the human? YET, thanks to the atonement cover, the gate at the entrance into paradise is been unlocked for all eternity.

The curtain is permanently torn – from top to bottom – by a miracle from Above without any human aid. It is also torn in two. Therefore conspicuously. No doubt is possible. It is also completely torn asunder. Access is complete. All obstacles are removed.

On the question of HOW the voice of the Lord comes to us and HOW He leads us, we shall get the answer next Sunday morning when we talk about the cloud of the glory of the Lord.

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category Tabernacle

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