God promised to be present upon the mercy seat (Exodus 25:22; see also 30:6, 36). The mercy seat was a kind of portable throne, carried along the poles of the ark and complete with an canopy of angel wings. The cherubim faced the center of the seat while their wings overspread if. The picture of God as King of Israel enthroned on the mercy seat is clear no matter where the ark might be: in the wilderness, in battle, or in his tent (the Tabernacle).
THE VISIBLE PRESENCE OF GOD
God’s presence in the Old Testament was often seen as a fiery glow accompanied by smoke or a cloud.
|Genesis 15:17||God is see in a vision as a smoking fire pot and flaming torch|
|Exodus 14:24||The LORD is seen as a pillar of fire and cloud|
|Leviticus 16:2||The LORD appears as a cloud on the mercy seat|
|Numbers 7:89||The LORD is heard as a voice on the mercy seat|
|Numbers 9:15-22||The LORD appears over the Tabernacle as a cloud and fire|
|Deuteronomy 1:33||The LORD leads Israel as fire and cloud|
|1 Kings 8:10-11||The LORD fills Solomon’s temple as a cloud|
|Isaiah 4:5||Prophecy of God as cloud, smoke and flaming fire|
|Isaiah 6:4||Isaiah sees God as smoke in the heavenly temple|
Christ is God’s presence among us. During his earthly ministry, Jesus was Emmanuel-God with us. Now that Jesus has returned to his Father, the Holy Spirit is his presence among us.
The mercy seat was also the ultimate place of appeal for God’s grace. It was the place where, once a year, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of sacrifice from the bronze altar. Only on this day, in a precise manner was God to be approached in the Most Holy Place, and only by the chosen high priest. Today, because Jesus our Great High Priest has made once for all time his sacrifice, we are urged as believers to “boldly approach the throne of grace. . . ” (Hebrews 4:16).
The mercy seat was actually the top or lid of the ark of the covenant measuring 2.5 cubits by 1.5 cubit (3 feet 9 inches by 2 feet 3 inches). It was made of gold and had two golden cherubim at either end.
Many people think of the cloud in the Most Holy Place as God’s shekinah. In a late Jewish tradition, the term shekinah became associated with God’s presence. The word shekinah derives form a Hebrew word meaning “dwelling.”
The most itself doe not appear in the Old Testament. A similar word (shakan) occurs in, for example, Exodus 14:20; 40:34-38; Leviticus 9:23; 24; Numbers 14:10; 16:19, 42.
However, in the Exodus and the wilderness experience, God’s presence was represented with the cloud during the day and the column of fire during the night.