Unless we were planning to take up where Indiana Jones left off searching for the ark of the covenant in a U.S. Government warehouse we might not think that the description of this lost ancient artifact matters much to us today. Yet at one time it was the most important piece of furniture in the tabernacle and later the temple because it was the footstool of God’s throne on earth. The tabernacle and its furnishings are earthly replicas of heavenly reality and so this morning we are gathered before the heavenly throne where our merciful king sits. Other than seeing a glimpse of heaven as we hear these verses it is important for us to believe what the making of the ark represents for these passages show us what God is like and how He interacts with us. Therefore, we are going to focus today on how these two accounts describing the ark of the covenant show us that He is our merciful king. Sure you may think that Almighty God is merciful but I want you this morning to imagine what that means and meditate in your hearts on His mercy toward you personally. Now I cannot do that for you. But if you trust in Jesus Christ then you can choose today to do so. And as a result you may even feel His mercy afresh or you may not feel it at all, but no matter what or how you feel you can grow in your faith that God is your merciful king. Attend to these words as if you were searching crates expecting one of the crates to hold the ancient ark of the covenant.
God is a merciful king toward you because even though you fell with Adam, you are alive in Christ today.
God was extremely merciful to let the tabernacle and its furnishings go forward after the fall of Israel involving the golden calf. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights as a test for Israel and they epically failed that test. They chose open rebellion against the true and living God by setting up their own religion with a golden calf in the place of the gold-covered ark. But instead of destroying all Israel and starting over with Moses or even letting them live but refusing to go with them, the heavenly king of Israel went ahead with His plan to live with them. He was merciful to them in much the same way that He had been merciful to Adam and Eve by not putting them physically to death when they rebelled against His word by eating the forbidden fruit and as God had been merciful by guarding the way to the tree of life using cherubim so that they would not be able to eat and forever remain in this fallen state. God didn’t put an end to Adam and Eve nor to Israel because He resolved to send His Son.
God in His mercy sent Jesus Christ who passed every test and died on the cross in our place. Thus we fell with Adam in the old order but everyone who trusts in Jesus has moved from wrath to grace – from the old order to the new creation – the old things have passed away, the new things have come. Better yet because Jesus did not fall we can never fall back from being in the new creation into the old order. You do not need to live life afraid that some misstep is going to land you back in the old order. It is not as if God is waiting for your to fail a test and then send you into exile. God isn’t angry with His church not because we are faultless but because His wrath has been completely spent on Christ as our substitute. To be sure, your old self will continue to sin and there may be times where you feel like you are being cursed by God but don’t trust your feelings and don’t let your sins define you, believe the gospel which says you are really and finally “OK” with God. It may sound too good to be true, but it is the good news that we know to be true.
God is a merciful king toward you in Christ because He continues to forgive your sins.
His mercy toward Israel was especially on display in the way that His ark has what we call the mercy seat. The mercy seat is meant to be the throne of God and the ark itself is the footstool. But the fact that we call it the mercy seat points to forgiveness of sins and protection from the power of sin. The reason that God went ahead with the tabernacle plan was in order to atone for the sins of Israel. On the Day of Atonement, the mercy seat would be sprinkled with the blood of a sacrificial animal in order to point to Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, who would cover their sins once and for all.
And right now Jesus is interceding for you at the mercy seat in heaven that has been sprinkled with His blood and when you confess your sins God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. This is the mercy of God. Jesus did not die only for your past sins, nor only your present sins, but even your future sins. I mean this not generally speaking but this is the mercy of God toward you personally. Meditate in your hearts upon that. You might not feel like it, but it is the good news and He gave you the faith to believe it – to believe in Him. Indeed, the more you ponder this in your heart the more it will lead you to express your gratitude by giving thanks in song, reaffirming your covenant with God by saying the profession of faith, interceding in prayer for others, and giving generously from the heart. These are all opportunities to approach the mercy seat and the ark of the covenant to give thanks to God for His mercy. These are all practical ways to apply this good news before you even leave this room, but they are also practice for applying it during the week. For all week long we can strive to worship God with our whole heart, try to do the right thing out of thanksgiving, and remember that no matter how we mess up or fall short we have an Advocate with the Father. And having found that ancient treasure, not the copy that Indiana Jones wanted to find but the original in heaven, we can share the riches of God’s mercy with the world. Glory be to God! Amen.