Exodus 25-29 (5-12-18)
Alright, grab your Bibles and open up to Exodus chapter 25, as we dig deeper into what these chapters are unfolding.
How many times have you begun reading Scripture only to run into a long line of names or details that seem really insignificant for you today? The tendency in these moments is to hit fast forward and skip down to the “important parts,” so to speak. I remember as a child trying to read through these chapters and attempting to follow an annual Bible reading plan, but every time I made it to sections of Scripture like this, I couldn’t muster up the perseverance to read on. It wasn’t until there was more God-given growth and understanding of His word that I realized how much I miss when I quickly pass over sections of Scripture like this.
One of my favorite theologians wrote something in regards to this section of Scripture that really helped me begin to see the weight of the topic in these chapters. So, I want to share his quote with you now:
“We have now arrived at the longest, most blessed, but least read and understood section of this precious book of Exodus. From the beginning of chapter 25 to the end of 40—excepting the important parenthesis in 32 to 34—the Holy Spirit has given us a detailed description of the Tabernacle, its structure, furniture, and priesthood. It is a fact worthy of our closest and fullest consideration that more space is devoted to an account of the Tabernacle than to any other single object or subject treated of in Holy Writ. Its courts, its furniture, and its ritual are described with a surprising particularity of detail. Two chapters suffice for a record of God’s work in creating and fitting this earth for human habitation, whereas ten chapters are needed to tell us about the Tabernacle. Truly God’s thoughts and ways are different from ours! How sadly many of God’s own people have dishonored Him and His Word by their studied neglect of these chapters! Too many have seen in the Tabernacle, with its Divinely-appointed arrangements and services, only a ritual of the past—a record of Jewish manners and customs which have long since passed away and which have no meaning for or value to us. But ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable’ (2 Tim. 3:16). The Christian cannot neglect any portion of the Word without suffering loss: ‘whatsoever things were written aforetime [in the Old Testament] were written for our learning’ (Rom. 15:4). Again and again in the New Testament the Holy Spirit makes figurative reference to the Tabernacle and its furniture, and much in the Epistle to the Hebrews cannot be understood without reference to the contents of Exodus and Leviticus. The tabernacle is one of the most important and instructive types. Here is such a variety of truths, here is such a fullness and manifoldness of spiritual teaching that our great difficulty is to combine all the various lessons and aspects which it presents.” – A.W. Pink
This quote was quite convicting and caused me to take a second look at these chapters. The mere fact that there is more time spent giving the details about the ark and the mercy seat than any other single thing, including creation, was a real eye-opener. This made me ask the obvious question of why? Why so many details and so much of Scripture devoted to this particular thing? What is the bigger picture that I’m surely missing?
To answer these questions, let’s look at what the different things were. The Ark of the Covenant was essentially a chest carrying within it the two stone tablets that God had written His laws upon. There were a couple other items, but for the sake of time, I want us to see that the ark is carrying the Ten Commandments. Now, what really caught my attention was that the Mercy Seat was placed on top of this ark. So, the good and right law that God gave, which we in our sin so clearly utterly lack the ability to obey perfectly, is hidden in a chest, and this chest is covered by a seat called the Mercy Seat. If you aren’t already seeing the bigger picture, let me explain this with some more detail. When we don’t obey God’s perfect law, what happens to us? We stand eternally condemned as sinners in offense to our holy, righteous, and perfect Creator! So, it makes a lot of sense that if we are ever to be in the presence of our God, we need great God-given mercy! How beautiful it is that God would show us His covering of mercy above the law He gave and in the very place where He would meet with His people.
In a very symbolic way, the mercy seat covered the people of God from the ever-condemning judgment of the Law. The custom every year on the Day of Atonement was for the High Priest to enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of animals sacrificed for the atonement of the sins of God’s people upon this very seat. See the bigger picture that we miss when we see details like this and just skip ahead?
God has made it clear that the blood of bulls and lambs can in no way atone for the sins of man (Hebrews 10:4). So, we must see this symbolism that God so graciously gave His people come into a fuller view. God is the One who sits on the Mercy Seat. The details and beauty of the Mercy Seat and the Ark it sits upon are so great, because the One who sits upon the seat is so great.
As the bigger picture comes into focus, we see how truly blessed we are to be given the fullness of Scripture and God’s revelation. We have the benefit of being able to look at God’s sovereign hand throughout history–planning, preparing, and assuring that His atonement for His people would most definitely be carried out to completion! This Mercy Seat and Ark of the Covenant foreshadow Christ and all that He would do to carry out God’s mercy upon His people. In God’s great mercy, He would save sinners unto Himself at His great cost. The blood sprinkled onto this seat pointed to the blood of God the Son that would be shed for His people. The seat that covered the Law was covered in the blood of the Lamb who fulfilled the Law for us! This is the true atonement–the true vision and fulfillment of God’s mercy unto His people. Praise God for passages like this drawing our eyes to the importance of seeing and savoring our great and merciful God!
*Special thanks to Steven Obert who helped by authoring this weeks study.
Pastor Joshua Kirstine