I have always wanted to see God. I am sure I am not alone in this desire. We know in the scriptures that Moses asked to see God, Exodus 33:18. Actually, Moses entreated God with a craving that begged for a favorable response. When reading this account today it seems a brazen request, after all, Moses had quiet the amazing experience with God in the “burning bush,” and in meeting with God amidst thunder and lightning atop Mount Sinai, how could he imagine more. Yet in Exodus 33:18 Moses puts forth this entreaty, “Please show me Your glory.” God does not think it vain or out of order. God actually draws close to Moses and answers that request. From the description in Exodus 33:17-23, God showed His glory to Moses.
Jesus Reveals God
Our deep yearning to see God with spiritual eyes, to plumb the depths of His character and nature is available through word pictures God has scattered throughout scripture. Many of these word pictures are seen in Jesus.
In Hebrews 1:3, the scripture clearly states that Jesus “is the radiance of His (God’s) glory, the exact representation of His (God’s) nature.” So if I want to see God then I need to look more intently at Jesus.
A Place to Meet God
A very revealing image of Jesus starts back in the Old Testament in Exodus 25. God gave Israel specific instructions for building the Tabernacle which was a portable dwelling place for God and a house for worship which later would be replaced with the temple. Within that “dwelling” was a specific place where sins would be atoned for and where God would meet with man.
This separated area of the tabernacle/temple is known as the “Holy of Holies.” The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies. The “Ark of the Covenant was a gold covered chest that contained the rod of Aaron, the tablets of the Law, and a jar of manna. These items represented the covenant of God with Israel. Placed atop this chest was a covering, a seat made of gold with two golden cherubim (angels) on each end of the seat. This covering is referred to as “the mercy seat.”
In Exodus 25: 22 God states that this is the place where he will meet with Moses and speak to him from above the mercy seat. (“There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony; I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.”)
Each year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood of an animal for the atonement of the sins of God’s people (Lev 16:1-17). Earlier it was noted that the mercy seat was the covering for the ark in which was the tablet of the Law, or the commandments. The blood of a sacrificed animal was sprinkled on the mercy seat by the high priest before God as atonement for the sins of the people. Therefore, the mercy seat, which covered the demands of the law, was the place of atonement where God and man could meet; they could be together in fellowship.
Jesus –Our Mercy Seat
In Hebrews 9:5, the writer talks about the Holy of Holies and the mercy seat. The Greek word hilasterion is translated mercy seat. Hilasterion was used in the Greek Old Testament as the equivalent of the Hebrew word (kapporet) for mercy seat. In Romans 3:25, this word hilasterion is translated propitiation or atonement, and it is used to describe Jesus.
“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25
A form of the word hilasmos, with the same meaning as hilasterion is used in reference to Jesus in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Also see 1 John 2:2).
I believe the Holy Spirit specifically selected a word for the covering on the ark to identify what Jesus is to us. Jesus is the true, living – mercy seat. He is the mercy seat sprinkled with His own blood. You and I can come into the presence of the most Holy God in Jesus our mercy seat. Jesus is the place we can meet with God. Through our faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice, He opens the door for us to come into the presence of God.
I don’t know about you, but this is good news to me, because ever since I was a young girl I had a longing to know God, to see Him, to be with Him. I used to sit in a sanctuary amidst candles and incense, staring at the statutes and pictures of God thinking if I just sit quiet enough and meditate enough maybe He will come and meet with me and talk to me. I did not understand much about a Holy God and sinful man back then, but this picture of the mercy seat and its fulfillment in Jesus opens the way for this to be true for me. I see myself standing with Jesus before the throne of God enjoying fellowship with Him. Picture that!
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16