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Exodus 25:10-22; Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

3/4 Exodus 25:10-22 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

We are in Exodus 25. We are entering now the holiest place. God has rescued and redeemed his people, brought them to himself, entered into a covenant relationship with them, and now he is giving them the gift of his presence. As King and Commander, he will pitch his tent in the middle of their camp. In God’s instructions for the building of his dwelling place, this replica of what is in heaven, he starts with the things that are closest to him, things that most immediately represent his presence. Today we enter the very throne room of God and look at the first two pieces of furniture; the container and its cover.

Exodus 25:10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. 17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

And then in Exodus 37 we see these things built to specification.

Exodus 37:1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 2 And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. 3 And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. 4 And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold 5 and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. 6 And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 7 And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, 8 one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. 9 The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.

The Chest

The most important piece of furniture in God’s tent was this box and its lid. The word translated ‘ark’ means simply a chest, a box or a container. In Genesis 50 this same Hebrew word is used to refer to the box or coffin that Joseph’s body was placed in.

This word is also used in 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24 of a chest with a hole in its lid used as a collection box for money. The ‘ark’ in the tabernacle also serves as a container; God tells Moses in verse 16 to put into this box ‘the testimony that I shall give you.’ The box was to contain the two tablets of stone inscribed with the requirements of the covenant. It was a testimony or witness of the covenant relationship between God and his people. This chest is referred to as ‘the ark of the testimony’ or ‘the ark of the covenant’. We could think of it as the container or ‘safe’ holding the official documentation of the contract between God and his people laid up in the most holy place.

A ‘cubit’ is the distance from the tip of your fingers to your elbow; about 18” long, so this chest was to be about 3′ 9” long; 2′ 3” wide and 2′ 3” tall. The box was to be overlaid with gold inside and out. It was to have a gold molding around it, and it was to have gold feet with gold rings to receive the two gold covered poles. These would serve as handles by which to carry the box, so that no one would touch the box directly. This was King David’s mistake, when he first attempted to bring the ark into the city of Jerusalem, he put it on a cart pulled by oxen. This cost Uzzah his life; when the oxen stumbled and he touched the ark, God was angry and struck him down for his error (2Sam.6; 1Ch.13). This box was holy, set apart, not to be touched by human hands. Later, (Num.4:5-6) we find that the ark was rarely ever to be seen by human eyes; whenever the tabernacle was packed up and moved, the ark was to be wrapped with the veil, then goatskin, and then a blue cloth.

Numbers 4:5 When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles.

This box, containing God’s commandments for his people was only part of this piece of furniture. The other part was its lid. Here it is called ‘the mercy seat’. This cover for the box was an elaborate thing, dimensioned to fit on top of the chest, but made of pure gold, with a winged angelic being formed at both ends.

The Cherubim

The angelic beings are called ‘cherubim’. We first meet the cherubs or cherubim in Genesis chapter 3. God had planted a garden, full of every good thing. There he placed the man and the woman he had created. He blessed them and entrusted the garden into their care. This was to be a place where God would manifest his presence, where God would fellowship with his very good creatures. This garden, if you will, was designed by God to be a temple where the man and woman could enjoy his presence, walking with them in the cool of the day. God gave them every good thing for their pleasure. He placed on them only one restriction; one tree was not to be eaten of under consequence of death. The man and the woman rejected God’s authority and chose to follow Satan’s lie rather than God’s truth. They severed their relationship with God. They could no longer enjoy his presence, but hid in fear. Their sin separated them from the holy God (Is.59:2). It says:

Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Cherubim were awesome angelic guardians protecting the presence of God. We find the most detailed description of cherubim in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 1:4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. 5 And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, 6 but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: 9 their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the likeness of human hands. 22 And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the Chebar canal. Each one of them went straight forward.

Many scholars think these creatures resemble a sphinx-like composite creature. Depictions have been found from Egypt to Babylon to Israel dating back to the 12th century B.C., giving ideas of how they might have been portrayed.

In several places in scripture God is seen as enthroned on or above the cherubim (2Ki.19:15; Ps.18:10; 80:1; 99:1; Is.37:16; Ezek.9:3; cf. 2Sam.22:11).

Psalm 99:1 The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

This is what we see reflected in the design of the cover for the ark.

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

God is not represented by the cherubim; that would be prohibited by his second commandment. God makes his presence known above and between. The outstretched wings of the cherubim serve as God’s throne.

The Cover

These angelic figures are part of what is translated as the ‘mercy seat’ in the KJV and ESV. The NIV translates ‘atonement cover’; it was translated by Wycliffe as ‘propitiatory’. The Hebrew word כפרת[kapporeth] is derived from כפר[kaphar] which means to cover over, propitiate, or atone. The name comes from the function this cover will play on the Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. …11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. 15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. …29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.

God made a covenant with his people. He knew they could not perfectly keep the terms of this covenant. So with the covenant, he provided a way for sins to be forgiven. God, enthroned above the cherubim, looks down on the covenant documents that his people promised to obey. They have transgressed his law. The wages of sin is death. Then sacrificial blood is applied to the lid that covers the law. A death has occurred to meet the just conditions of the covenant. God sees that the violated covenant has been covered by the blood and he is satisfied. Their sins are paid for and they are clean. The Hebrew word means to cover. Our English word ‘atonement’ points to the result of sins being covered. It comes from the phrase at – one – ment; harmony, unity, a reconciled relationship. Because our sins are covered, we can enjoy a favorable relationship with our covenant God.

The LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used the word ιλαστηριον [hilasterion] to translate the Hebrew word for mercy seat or atonement. This is the Greek word the author of Hebrews uses for the mercy seat.

Hebrews 9:5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

This same word is translated ‘propitiation’ in Romans 3.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

A closely related word [ιλασμος] appears in 1 John

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus is our atonement cover. His death satisfies God’s just wrath that our sins deserve. His sacrifice opens the way for God to be propitious or favorable toward us. He restores harmony and brings true reconciliation between God and man. This is what the author of Hebrews points us to when he contrasts the high priest of the Old Testament with Jesus, our greater High Priest.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. … 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus death on the cross was the final fulfillment that the sacrificial system was pointing toward. Jesus’ sacrifice of himself once for all covered the law that we violated from God’s sight. No longer do we need a human priest to go in to God’s presence for us. No longer are we excluded from God’s presence because of our sin. Our sin was finally and forever nailed to his cross. Jesus is our great and final High Priest. At his crucifixion, the curtain barring us from the holiest place was ripped from top to bottom.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

No longer is the law written on tablets of stone and laid up in a box in the heart of the sanctuary.

Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are God’s temple, God’s people, his law is written on our hearts.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment