Mercy Seat

Exodus 25:1-22
1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. 3And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, 4blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, 5tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, 6oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 8And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. 10“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. 11You 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. 12You 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. 13You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. 17“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. 18And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19Make 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. 20The 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. 21And 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. 22There 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.
Now that God has established His Covenant with the people He spends a considerable amount of time addressing their worship lives.

Worship is the first, most basic response of a true believer to the true God. It should begin immediately upon conversion, continue with regularity and consistency throughout the rest of life, and will be continued forever in heaven. It is clear from the Scripture that God enjoys being worshiped and expects his people to find joy in worshiping him as well. Worship should bring pleasure and benefit both to the worshiper and to the true, divine object of his or her worship. In the Old Covenant everything associated with worship had to partake of proper symbolism, so that the presence of God, the purity of God, the superiority of God, and the nature of his salvation could be communicated visually and, at least sometimes, even tactilely, to his people. The tabernacle, its furnishings and implements, and those who facilitated worship were expected to reflect the only intelligent God in his covenant relationship to his specially chosen people.
Stuart, D. K. (2006). Exodus (Vol. 2, p. 562). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

First, God engages the people in the building of The Tabernacle. This portable worship center became the heart of life for the Children of Israel. In order to have the materials to build this important tent, a collection was taken. The Egyptians had showered the Hebrews with gold, silver, fabrics and other valuables as they ran from captivity. Now those riches were going to be employed in the construction of a place to worship the God who had saved them.

Central to their new worship lives was the Ark of the Covenant. This important piece of antiquity is now lost to us as it was stolen from the Temple when the people were taken from their country (on several occasions) because of their idolatry. There are legends and theories as to where that Ark might be today, but none of them are substantiated including a few who believe God took the Ark up to His heaven because it was constantly lost while in our hands. After the final sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the Ark was no longer necessary as Jesus’ blood was the ultimate and final offering necessary for our sin.

What God begins here with the people is a well-structured, highly ritualized worship life that should carry them throughout their lives with Him. There are numerous positive benefits to liturgy and ritual in life. When we are scattered and distracted, the ritualized can come and bring order back into our minds and hearts. God is worthy of our attention and making worship habitual and frequent places Him where He belongs on our priority list – at the top. The building of the Ark will receive a great deal of clear instruction in the coming chapters. And the Ark plays heavily in the history of God’s people as they move forward from this point. I often think that there was great benefit in having that physical, tangible object to represent the presence of God in their midst. We have the power and presence of God on the inside now, because of the work of the Holy Spirit. That is truly a superior relationship with God, but sometimes it is a little more difficult to pin down because we attach our feelings to that relationship and if “I’m not feeling it” then worship become more of a struggle. I’m fairly certain God could level the charge at us that our worship lives are weak and infrequent. And of course He would be right about that. As we read through these detailed descriptions of what He expected from the Children of Israel in the desert, we might face some challenges to our own worship practices, and that would be a good thing to ponder.