“Now when Moses went into the tabernacle of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim; thus He spoke to him.” Numbers 7:89
When we walk into His tabernacle to speak with God, it is then and only then – there and only there, that we find a mercy seat. It is not that way with man. When we walk into man’s tabernacle we find a judgment seat. Even the Twelve couldn’t wait for the twelve thrones they were promised. They set up thrones of their own and immediately started handing down selfish sentences – fire on Samaria and to a Roman soldier, mutilation.
In the world around us, or even in nature, there is no seat of mercy. Oh, there may be a seat of medicine – some form or fashion to fix something, but there is no mercy. Many times, when we go to the doctor with a physical problem we hear the words, “We’ll just have to let nature take it’s course.” The problem is that even though Nature normally tends to bind up broken bones and heal fleshly wounds, one wouldn’t necessarily call or consider this a “mercy seat.” Nature says to us, “I will heal you and then I will love you.” It’s not necessarily indifference, but I don’t think I would consider it to be a mark of the Infinite. The reason why all of this is insufficient is because it doesn’t meet my fullest need as a human being. I need to be loved unhealed. I need to be loved in my rags, in my wretchedness.
To pull from the tale of the Prodigal, must I first hear music and dancing before I can arise and go to my Father’s house? That’s the way that it would work if Nature were my father, but my Father calls out to me in His fullness, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Thankfully, the One who sits upon the Throne doesn’t call the white-robed crowd, but those clothed in sackcloth. Thus, I don’t have to wait for the music or the dancing. I don’t first have to receive the ring or the robe. I can come dirty. In fact, I must come hungry, sick and poor. The call comes from the midst of the Mercy Seat, “Don’t wait until you’re well. Don’t delay until you can find suitable clothes. Don’t put of coming to Christ until everything is just right. Come now! Come just as you are! Don’t wait for just the right robe, come wearing your grave-clothes.” In my mind, this is one of the greatest truths taught in the Bible. It is in reality the Gospel’s unexpected element – the call and comfort of Christ’s Mercy Seat.
Nature gives no such call. Man doesn’t extend that kind of an invitation. It’s not found in his creeds. It’s not found in his confessions or conformations. Only One has made that paradoxical proclamation. Only One has dared to declare such an original statement. It is He who spoke as no other man has ever spoken.
Jesus has spread before us something totally unexpected. Something totally novel. Something never conceived before. The wise men may have brought treasures to spread before us – gold, frankincense and myrrh as well as the light of the stars of the night sky, but something was missing. There was no mercy seat. What they brought was for those who were already healed. Pearls for the purified. Hopes for the hopeful. Robes for the reformed. But sadly, there was nothing for the leper, nothing for the dying, nothing for the lost. But Jesus spreads His mercy before us and reveals His true treasure. A ring for my dirty hand, sandals for my soiled feet, and a robe for my wretched body. And He has not stopped with me. He has sent His call out to the highways and hedges. It’s not a call for those who can give, but to those who have nothing to give. It’s not a call, a cry, to those who have the promise or the power of life, but to those who are already dead. It’s not a call to those who have seen the King in all of His beauty, but to those who are blind. It’s not a call to those who have heard the Master’s marvelous, majestic music, but to those who are deaf. It’s not a call to those who have run and won, but to those who can’t even walk. It’s not a call to those who show the fruits of repentance – it is a simple call to lowly sinners. That’s why it is only in His tabernacle – His presence – that one will find the mercy seat.
“Jesus, thank you for your mercy. Thank you that you called out to me and told me to come just as I was so that you could make me what you wanted me to be. Thank you for this most unexpected element of Your gospel.”