“You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 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.” Exodus 25:21-22
As a little boy I never thought of my dad as merciful. As a grown man, looking back at my childhood, I see things quite differently than I did when I was four or five years old. Sure he had to discipline me from time to time. And, yes, there were times when it felt like I was being punished every time I turned around. Even so, as I look back I see my dad as being more than a disciplinarian waiting for a chance to apply the board of education to my seat of learning.
My father worked hard to give my brothers and I an interesting life growing up with lots of different experiences we could learn from. We never had a lot of money so the majority of those experiences came as the direct result of his personal sacrifice and creativity.
Whenever there was work to do, whether at home, or the church, or the school, or anywhere else, he was always there doing more than just about anyone else and most of those times were times for me and my friends to play, and what a great time we had.
As a father, now I realize that even in the times of disciplining my father was usually trying to get me to make choices that were more considerate of others, more respectful of other people and their property, more careful in the way I did things, and less hurtful. So even in this he was, in fact, giving me a gift of mercy.
We tend to perceive God the same way I perceived my dad when I was a little boy. We overlook, and forget about, all the blessings and opportunities we receive from him every day and focus in on those times when he’s had to step in and forcefully motivate us to reconsider the choices we’re making, often ignoring how disastrous the choices we were making were.
The sanctuary that God had the children of Israel build for him as a dwelling place for him was an instrument of salvation and a lesson book on the Gospel with the Ark of the Covenant as the centerpiece. The Ark, itself, was a miniature of God’s throne of judgement. Inside the Ark were placed the Ten Commandments. On the outside were attached the scrolls of the Law of Moses. Two golden cherubim stood at either end of the ark, one wing extended as a cover, and the lid of the ark was called the Mercy Seat.
The object and goal of God’s judgment was not to determine how much punishment was deserved but to find out how much mercy could be given. Mercy is not merciful if justice is wholly abandoned and the aims of justice are lost if it’s pursued without mercy.
The door is open now for us to find mercy at God’s throne of judgement. One day we’ll have closed the door of mercy but today it stands open. Come with me and boldly approach God’s throne and receive the mercy he’s offering.