The common connection between mercy and all its shades of meaning is favor or blessing. When the blind asked for mercy, they asked for a favor/blessing. When the guilt person pleads for mercy, they plead for a favor. In either case, the favor sought is sought based upon the goodness of the one being besought and not the goodness of the would-be recipient. In other words, mercy appeals to the heart of the one having the power to grant the favor and not upon the standing of the supplicant.
Yesterday, we noted that the term mercy is sometimes used in a formal and legal manner. We will pursue that line of reasoning today and for a few messages yet to come. Probably the first such biblical usage of the term was in connection with the instructions for the building of Tabernacle. God instructed Moses with great specificity how he was to construct Israel’s portable place of worship. Included within those instructions were the detailed directions for an item called a mercy seat. This item was to be housed within the innermost sanctuary (the Holy of Holies), a place that only the High Priest was authorized to visit and that only once per year.
The function or significance of the mercy seat is derived from a few explicit statements as well as several implicit ones. The mercy seat was a notable place, a place from which God spoke and a place where His presence was manifested (Exodus 25.22 & Numbers 7.89). Again, the physical surrounding of the mercy seat we so sacred that only the High Priest could approach unto it and then only with the sprinkling of blood to atone for his sins as well as the sins of the people (see the entirety of Leviticus 16). In addition to being a place from which God spoke, it was also a place where atonement was sought and where propitiatory actions were conducted in a highly regulated and regimented manner. The ceremonies themselves were quite enough to declare the uniqueness of the mercy seat, but add to that the fact that God’s presence was manifested there and we have an insider’s glimpse of just how special the mercy seat was to the nation of Israel!
As one can readily see, this usage of the word mercy in connection with religious rites and atonement is one which demands that we see the word mercy in a formal and legal manner. God is not only the Father of mercies in that He bestows all manner of physical blessings/favors, He is also the Father of mercies in as much as atonement and the religious rites associated with it came from His direct and explicit commands. The mercy seat was itself a product of His edict. The sprinkling of blood on the Day of Atonement was at God’s behest. The restrictions pertaining to the Holy of Holies as far as who could and could not enter there was strictly as dictated by the covenant God made with Moses and the people of Israel.
God’s greatest gifts are not physical in nature; God’s greatest gifts are of a spiritual nature! Mercy is one of those gifts. In keeping with what we have noted thus far, mercy is obtained through the goodness of the grantor, and not the goodness of the one seeking it. When we ask for mercy, we ask a favor based upon the character of God and not upon our own. Mercy is a gift to be requested, not a right to be demanded or taken for granted!
1. Where was the mercy seat located? Who received the initial instructions regarding the mercy seat?
2. Upon what day could the High Priest approach the mercy seat?
3. What was required of the High Priest as he approached the mercy seat on that day?
4. What factors would have added to the feelings of awe that must have been connected with the mercy seat?
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