In reading detailed descriptions in the Bible, lists of laws, or genealogies, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the text. Often, people attempting to read their entire Bible get bogged down in these portions of Scripture and lose their resolve to remain faithful to God’s Word. What I typically recommend for these passages initially is to quickly skim them and move on. Don’t feel guilty; simply continue the next day: persevere. Through repeated readings of these parts of the Bible, there will come a time when God will reveal a deeper meaning when it’s useful for you to know it.
The descriptions in the passages of today’s reading can certainly cause one to question their intent in this noble effort of consuming all of God’s Word. But, let’s take a moment and see something more that we might have missed.
The description of the constructing of the Ark of the Covenant has much symbolism, which can help us to better understand God’s character. The very name, the Ark of the Covenant is important. A covenant is a promise; in this case it is the testimony of God to His people. What is that testimony? It’s shown in the context of the passage.
Inside the ark, the two tablets of the Law of Moses are placed. The Law is the testimony of God revealing His will to mankind as to right behavior before Him. It is His promise that if man follows God’s Law, he will be in right relationship with Him.
Notice where the Mercy Seat is placed. It is placed above the Law. This is symbolic that God’s mercy trumps the Law. Look at what it says in Micah 6:8:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
John 15:12-13 puts this into concrete terms for us:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
God’s commandment – His Law – is actually one of love and mercy.
It is on the Mercy Seat that God Himself sits. At this seat of Mercy is where God meets us.
The cherubim are throne guardians. They likewise are a symbol of God’s mercy. When Adam and Eve sinned and God required them to leave the Garden of Eden, He placed cherubim before the entrance to keep them from returning. In their human, sinful condition, they could no longer come into God’s presence without immediately dying. The cherubim mercifully kept them from making such a drastic error.
The gold that overlays everything represents God’s purity and glory. It is symbolic of His refining fire. By going through that fire, man can be purified of his sin and once more come before God.
Note that the Ark resides in the Most Holy Place. It is only there that God resides. For us to meet Him there, we must be redeemed of our sinful nature and become holy ourselves.
How do we do this? How do we meet these criteria of following the Law and receiving His mercy?
For the ancient Israelites, it meant sacrificing animals and shedding their blood so that it might cover their iniquities. Hebrews 9:22 instructs us that:
“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
Over the years, the Hebrew people killed a lot of animals to get temporarily right with God! But, then came Jesus.
Jesus became the sacrificial lamb who died once for all that our sins could be permanently removed. They weren’t simply covered by His blood, through Jesus. When we believe in and trust Him, God removes and forgets our sins as far as the east is from the west Psalm 103:12).
What a glorious, loving, and merciful God we serve!