The Seat of Mercy

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Exodus 25:1-22, Colossians 3:1-17, Matthew 4:18-25


The LORD said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me.
– Exodus 25:1-2

The Ark of the Covenant was a container built to hold the tablets of the Ten Commandments, God’s first laws for Israel. Its golden cover, with grand cherubim sculpted into either end, was called the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat was where God was present in the center of his people, and where sacrifices were offered for atonement of the sins of the people. All the gold for the Ark, as well as materials for the tabernacle (portable temple) which housed it – other precious metals, fine fabrics, gems, leather, spices, etc. – were collected voluntarily from people whose hearts were moved to give. This was a special kind of generosity since the people of the nation of Israel had only the possessions they had taken with them when they fled Egypt, and were a wandering, exiled people without other resources or trading partners. Each contribution was a meaningful sacrifice. What a wonderful metaphor: God’s dwelling place is created by the generosity of the community.

The Ark was secured in the innermost part of the tabernacle, and later in the temple at Jersualem, called the Holy of Holies. Only high priests were permitted to be in the presence of the Ark, and each year on the Day of Atonement they would sprinkle sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat. Flash Forward a few centuries and in the outermost part of the temple we would find the money-changers whose presence offended Jesus so much that he drove them out with a whip. What started with the generosity of the people had become a place for the powerful to exploit the poor.

Offering himself as the ultimate sacrifice, Christ fulfilled the law and made the Mercy Seat obsolete. His was the blood of the new covenant, shed for all. We are no longer separated from God by law, but redeemed to him by love. As Paul taught the Colossians, in Christ there is no male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free … inside the Holy of Holies or outside; all are equal members of the Body of Christ. Together, through our generosity and love, we are tasked with building a holy place, more precious than gold, with this new covenant at its center.

Comfort: God dwells among us.

Challenge:  When you can, work toward reconciliation.

Prayer: Loving God, I thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ. Make me a worthy bearer of his covenant. Amen.

Discussion: What divisions do you observe among the body of Christ? Conservative or liberal? Catholic or Protestant? Others?

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