The mercy seat was the lid or covering for the ark which contained God’s holy law. Here mercy was dispensed to man over the law which he had broken. Its length two and half cubits, and width one and a half cubits were exactly the same as the ark and sat ‘above upon’ it within the crown. In the ends of the mercy seat were two cherubim beaten out of one piece of pure gold. These cherubim stretched forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings. Their faces were looking towards each other, but bend down looking at the mercy seat. They were positioned one on the end this side, and the other on the other end on that side – or on opposing corners (Ex. 25:17-21; 37:8).
In the book The Story of Redemption by Ellen White, p. 153 she has this to say about their position, "Their faces were turned toward each other and were looking reverentially downward toward the mercy seat, which represented all the heavenly angels looking with interest and reverence upon the law of God deposited in the ark in the heavenly sanctuary. These cherubs had wings. One wing of each angel was stretched forth on high, while the other wing of each angel covered his form."
The whole of the mercy seat along with its two cherubim was to be made from one single piece of gold (Ex. 37:7). It was the only piece of furniture in the sanctuary that was made of pure solid gold (The Story of Redemption by Ellen White, p. 153). Although the candle stick was made of solid gold it was hollow so that it could hold the oil and the rest of the furniture were gold plated.
We are not told how thick the mercy seat was or how tall the cherubim were, but as gold is about twice the weight of lead they would have to be relative thin and small. Yet gold is a soft metal so it would have to be thick enough to support its own weight. Keep in mind also that two men – Hophini and Phinehas – carried the ark and it was to be born on the shoulders of the priests. (See previous study for details.)
The mercy seat represented the throne of God (Rev. 8:3). Webster’s dictionary say that mercy means – "that benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves." This is how God is described in Numbers 14:18, "The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation."
As the mercy seat was held up by the ark which contained the law, so God’s throne or government is supported or held up by His holy law of love (Ps. 97:2 ASV; Rom 13:10). It was here between the two cherubim, that God met the priests. This is where His shekinah or the glory of the Lord rested (Ex. 25:22; Num. 7:89; Ps . 99:1; 80:1). "Above the mercy seat was the Shekinah, the manifestation of the divine Presence; and from between the cherubim, God made known His will. Divine messages were sometimes communicated to the high priest by a voice from the cloud. Sometimes a light fell upon the angel at the right, to signify approval or acceptance, or a shadow or cloud rested upon the one at the left to reveal disapproval or rejection." Patriarchs and Prophets by Ellen White, p. 349 par. 1.
"God’s love has been expressed in His justice no less than in His mercy. Justice is the foundation of His throne, and the fruit of His love. It had been Satan’s purpose to divorce mercy from truth and justice. He sought to prove that the righteousness of God’s law is an enemy to peace. But Christ shows that in God’s plan they are indissolubly joined together; the one cannot exist without the other. ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’ Ps. 85:10." The Desire of Ages by Ellen White, p. 762 par. 3.
"To lift that veil, and intrude unbidden into the sacred mystery of the most holy place, was death. For above the mercy seat dwelt the glory of the Holiest-- glory upon which no man might look and live. On the one day of the year appointed for ministry in the most holy place, the high priest with trembling entered God’s presence, while clouds of incense veiled the glory from his sight." Ministry of Healing by Ellen White, p. 437.
As we have seen from these preceding studies there is a total of seven pieces of furniture that were made for the sanctuary -
- Altar of burnt offering;
- Table of shewbread;
- Altar of incense;
- Candlesticks ;
- The ark of the covenant;
- The mercy seat.
These seven pieces of furniture also represent seven different parts of Christ’s ministry –
- His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary.
- Baptism in the river Jordan.
- Bread of life.
- Intercessory prayers for us.
- Light of the world.
- He kept the law perfectly as an example to us – it was written upon his heart, and He will judge us by its standard.
- He will show mercy to all who repent and ask for forgiveness pleading that His blood covers their sins.
In the Bible seven represents completeness and is considered the prefect number.
© S. D. Goeldner
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated August, 2020.
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