Church of God, Carmichael, CA

Shadows of Good Things

Or the Gospel in Type

Russell R. Byrum, 1922

[Original Page Numbers]


CHAPTER III

THE TABERNACLE AND ITS FURNITURE

(Exodus 25—27, 30, 35—38, 40)

The Ark and the Mercy Seat
( Exod. 25 :10-22 )

  Of all the furniture of the tabernacle, that of the holy of holies was the most peculiar, the most impressive, and the most significant. It consisted of two distinct articles, yet inasmuch as they belonged together they are commonly spoken of as one.

  The ark of the covenant was so called because in it was placed, and it existed as a receptacle for, the two tables of stone on which Jehovah had supernaturally inscribed the ten commandments, the foundation of his law to Israel. It was an ordinary sized, gold plated, shittimwood chest one and one half cubits, or twenty seven inches, wide and high, and two and one half cubits, or forty five inches, long. Around the top was a crown of gold, which seems to have been purely for the purpose of ornamentation, as it was on the table and golden altar. Two golden rings, with a gold covered bar, on each of the two sides furnished a means of conveying it from place to place. [55]

Ark and Mercy Seat

  The mercy seat was a slab of pure gold as wide and as long as the ark, and was laid on top of the ark, fitting down inside the crown as a sort of lid. On the ends of it, and of one piece of gold with it, were fashioned two angelic winged figures, called cherubim. These faced each other, looking down upon the mercy seat and stretching their wings out above and before them until the tips of the wings of the one touched the other's, making a sort of covering or canopy over this symbolic throne of the invisible God. "There," above the mercy seat, overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim, said the Lord, "I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel." (Exod. 25:22). There shone the Shekinah, the glory of the Lord, according to Jewish tradition. There is some ground for this tradition in the pillar of fire that led Israel through the wilderness journey and in the glory of the Lord that at different times filled or was seen on the tabernacle. There on the mercy seat, on the great day of atonement, the atoning blood was sprinkled in the very presence of God. For only there in the presence of this blood could the holy God consistently commune with sinful men.

  Typical Significance of the Ark and Mercy Seat.—We must view the ark and mercy seat together, as they were very closely related to each other, to get a clear idea of their typical meaning. The mercy seat was God's throne, with the ark for its base, the cherubim for sides and supports and their outstretched wings for a canopy above. It is doubtless here we get the beautiful expression, "throne of grace." (Heb. 4:16). It was a place of mercy.

  The symbolic and typical significance can be better understood by first getting the force of the meaning of the name of the mercy seat. It is sometimes translated the propitiatory covering. But it was not this in the sense of a mere covering for the ark. According to Dr. Fairbairn, the Hebrew name, capporeth, which means covering, is [57] never used for covering in the ordinary sense. It is never mentioned precisely as the lid of the ark. It was a place where sin was covered. The translators of the Septuagint have, with this in mind, expressed the idea very well as a propitiatory covering. It was an atonement covering. Now Jesus is the true mercy seat or propitiatory. "Being just). fled freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." (Rom. 3:24, 25). The blood sprinkled by the mediating high priest on atonement day on that pure gold mercy seat was typical of the precious atoning blood of Jesus. The mercy seat must be considered with the blood upon it, as the altar with the sacrifice upon it. So also the ark should be regarded, with the symbolic law of God in it, as a type.

  The ark was typical of God's righteous law which sinful man has violated. And the mercy seat was typical of Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of violating that law. The mercy seat was the same length and width as the ark; so Jesus' atonement is coextensive with man's sin in breaking God's holy law. It covers every sin. God's mercy through Christ is equal to his justice. What a beautiful symbol of the ground on which God offers pardon to those deserving of penalty. It is only in the presence of the propitiatory blood covering his violated law that the Holy One can commune with those who are unholy. Thank God for Jesus the "propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2).

  But what do the cherubim represent? More or less mystery surrounds both the nature and symbolic meaning of the two golden cherubim. That they were winged creatures of the angelic order seems fairly clear. These had wings certainly. Probably these are not essentially different from those seraphim of Isaiah's vision which had six wings (Isa. 6:2). They are always represented as being closely connected with the throne or presence of God or as doing his work. Certainly the close relation of the golden cherubim to the mercy seat, as well as the cherubic [58] figures worked in the hangings of the walls and in the veil, signified the fact of the presence of the invisible God.

  While we may be sure of this, yet there may be also fuller significance to them. They certainly can not symbolize agents, but must represent something different from yet analogous to themselves. When our fore parents were driven from Eden, cherubim were set at the gate to keep the way to the tree of life. They were closely connected with God's judicial government, executors of justice. Is it not possible that these beings that seem to belong to God's presence are hieroglyphs of his divine attributes such as justice and mercy? May not one of the golden cherubim of the mercy seat represent justice and the other mercy as they meet in the presence of the atoning blood of Jesus? There with eyes fixed upon the blood, justice and mercy come face to face and are reconciled together, yea, they become one, and one with the true propitiatory, the Lord Jesus Christ. [59]

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The Church of God!
Justification, Sanctification, Unity
Carmichael, California USA

5334 Whitney Ave. Carmichael, CA. 95608
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