At first glance this seems to be a strange, and even startling, place for the Holy God to meet with a sinful man. I say that it is startling because fellowship normally requires that there be a similarity in the natures of two or more persons. So, it would seem at first that the mercy seat would be the last place that one would find an affinity between God and man. It certainly suggests that there are two extremes that meet at the mercy seat – the Righteous God and a conscious sinner, the Almighty Judge on the Great White throne and a convicted criminal before the bar of justice. It is a startling scene indeed.
We might understand it if God had appointed a place of fellowship somewhere else. It would not be beyond expectation for God to set up a place to meet under the twinkling stars where our finite hearts beat with a sense of the infinite. We could easily accept that God would call us into the presence of greatness where the spirit of man could forget its own limitations. It would even make common sense for God to meet with us in those times when we hunger and thirst after righteousness because that would imply our need and capacity for communion with Him. But for God to call us to communion with Him in the very moment of our moral conviction, that there would be fellowship with the Lord in that day when we fully understand that we are clothed in nothing more than filthy rags, that is strange and startling indeed!
What is it that convicts man? What makes the human heart cry out for mercy? It is the realization that He is in the presence of absolutely pure and undeniable holiness. The stunning whiteness of God’s throng is only visible to such an eye as is emerging from the darkest and dirtiest of waters. Truly, I am never nearer to God than when I, like Isaiah, cry out, “Depart from me O Lord, for I am a sinful man!” I am nearer to God at that moment than I am standing under the sparkling stars of the night sky. The stars reveal something that is beyond me, but the realization and conviction of sin shows something that is inside of me.
It is well said that “there are some colors that are only brought to light by a cloudy day.” I think that this is nowhere more true than in the realm of the mercy seat. I never knew how little good there is in me until I realized my own worthlessness in His presence. I am not brought humbly into His presence through increased riches, but through the realization of great poverty. It is through divine light, not personal darkness that I am brought to my knees. It is the brightness of His holy face that makes me fully comprehend my own sinfulness and causes me cry out for mercy.
My Lord comes to me on the waves of my storm-tossed soul. It is in the billows that He draws close. The first proof of His presence is found in the storm of my heart, for it is through the tossed waves of my conscience that I know that He’s near. When He’s not present there is no wind or waves in my soul. But, when His feet touch the waters of my heart a storm arises – the storm of my conscience. The thing that just yesterday seemed to be completely harmless today is seen as a great danger. The works that I gave a passing, approving glance at just yesterday, today seem to be completely worthless and totally wicked. The mountains have become valleys, the droplets have turned into seas, and simple indulgences have become cardinal crimes and cause me to beat my chest and cry, “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am a sinner!”
This was the hour of my fellowship with the Father. It wasn’t the hour that brought me into fellowship, it was the fruit of my fellowship with Him. It was His presence that stirred the sea. It was His hand that pulled aside the veil to reveal the mirror that revealed me. I no longer stand trembling in front of the mirror for even though it shows my rags and my poverty and my wickedness, it also ensures my humility in the presence of Holy God. I have come to realize my worthlessness in the presence of His righteousness. I have comprehended my nothingness through His nearness. I have seen my poverty in His presence. I have spied my shadow in the light that shines forth from Him. I have learned of my weakness with the passing of His wing. I have found that I am frail, so very frail, by coming into contact with His fire. It is in the sanctuary of God that I am convicted of my sin and it is through running to the mercy seat that I find fellowship with Him.