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Sanctuary lesson 16

Sanctuary Lesson 16 - The Mercy Seat and the Shekinah

In the last lesson, our journey through the sanctuary finally took us to the Most Holy Place, where we learned about the ark of the covenant.  We also learned that the ark contained three items of significance: a jar of manna, Aaron's budded rod, and the tablets of stone upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments with His very own finger.  As we gaze upon the ark, you notice that there is a rather ornate lid on the ark.  What is this lid and is there any significance to it?

Let's turn to Exodus 25:17-21.

- According to these verses, what was this lid called?

  • Answer (highlight to read): The mercy seat

- According these verses, what is this lid made of?

  • Answer: Pure gold

- According to these verses, what was on top of this lid?

  • Answer: Two angels with their wings outstretched to cover the mercy seat

Let's turn to Exodus 25:22 and Exodus 30:6.

- According to these verses, what was the significance of this lid?

  • Answer: The mercy seat was where God would come down to dwell with Israel.

The mercy seat was a portable throne of sorts that was carried along the poles of the ark of the covenant.  The mercy seat was where God would come to dwell with Israel.  No matter where the ark went, the imagery of God as the king of Israel was very clear.  The mercy seat was the focus of God's saving grace.  It was here where the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the altar once a year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:14).

God would come down to the Most Holy Place in the form of a fiery cloud.  The glory of God's visible presence has been referred to as the Shekinah according to Hebrew tradition.  Although the word Shekinah is not actually found in Scriptures, its root word shakan (which means "to dwell") is often found in Scriptures (see Exodus 14:20; Leviticus 9:23-24; and Numbers 14:10 for examples).

God manifested His presence to His people in different ways in the Old Testament.

Let's turn to Genesis 15:12-21.

- According to these verses, in what forms did God's presence occur as?

  • Answer: A smoking fire pot and a flaming torch

Let's turn to Exodus 13:21-22.

- According to these verses, in what forms did God's presence occur as?

  • Answer: A pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night

Let's turn to Exodus 19:16-20; 24:16-17.

- According to these verses, in what form did God's presence occur as?

  • Answer: A powerful display of thunderings, lighting, and darkness covering the mountain

Throughout the Old Testament God guided His people and dwelt in the Tabernacle over the mercy seat.  When Jesus Christ was on earth during His earthly ministry, He was Emmanuel - God with us (Matthew 1:23).  After Jesus went back to heaven, God now dwells with us in the form of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15).

While the mercy seat and tabernacle is no longer here, we still can still boldly come to the throne of grace through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus our High Priest (Hebrews 4:16).

In the Old Testament, the sanctuary was where God dwelt with His people (Exodus 25; Psalms 77:13).  In the New Testament, Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, dwelling among His people (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:14).  In the Old Testament, the high priests offered sacrifices for sins in the earthly sanctuary.  In the New Testament, Jesus is our high priest in the true heavenly sanctuary.  In the Old Testament, the high priests offered an animal sacrifice to cover the sins of the people every year.  In the New Testament, Jesus was the perfect final sacrifice for all time.

Needless to say, as we have already learned, the ark and the contents within it also all pointed to Jesus!  Even now, Jesus is with us through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20), even to the end of the age.  Amen.

Friend, can you now see clearly that the sanctuary and everything in it points to Jesus?