Exodus 25:17
Exodus 25:17-22
The ark already indicated as the repository of the two tables, is now further indicated as the resting-place of the mercy seat and the cherubim. Thus there was presented to the thoughts of the people a Divinely constituted whole, a great symbolic unity which set forth the glory and the mystery of God's presence as no unaided human conception could have done, however sublime, however sincere. The ark, the mercy seat, and the cherubim once made and placed in position, were hidden away from the general gaze. Bezaleel looked no more upon his handiwork. But though the things behind the veil were themselves hidden, yet their general character and relations were known. Hidden in one sense, in another sense they were all the more manifest just because they were hidden. It was perfectly well known that behind the veil God made himself known as the God of the commandments, the God of the mercy seat, the God shining forth between the cherubim. The proximity of the mercy seat to the tables of the law was an excellent way of showing that the requirements inscribed on these tables were to be no dead letter. If they could not be honoured by a heartfelt and properly corresponding obedience, then they must be honoured by a heartfelt repentance for transgression, an adequate propitiation, and an honourable forgiveness. There was a place for profound and permanent repentance, and a place for real and signal mercy to the transgressor: but for a slurring over of disobedience there was no place at all. Very close indeed are the law and the gospel. The law, when its comprehensiveness and severity are considered, magnifies the gospel; and the gospel, when we consider how emphatically it is proclaimed as being a gospel, magnifies the law. Then we have also to consider what may be signified by the presence of the cherubim; and surely we shall not go far wrong in connecting these golden figures here with the presence of those awful guardians who prevented the return of Adam and Eve to the scene of earthly bliss which they had forfeited. The presence of these cherubim suggested a solemn consideration of all that man had actually lost; God looking from between the cherubim, was looking as it were from the scene of the ideal human life on earth; that life which might have been the real, if man had only persisted according to the original injunction of his Maker. Thus the cherubim are associated, first with the barrier against return, and then with the working out of a plan for glorious and complete restoration. There is here no word of the flaming sword. The cherubim seem to be regarded as contemplative rather than active, somewhat as St. Peter phrases it when he speaks of things which the angels desire to look into. Over against the delight of those faithful ones who guarded Eden, we must set the thought of those in whose presence there is such inexpressible joy over the repenting sinner. God looked forth from between these symbols of the unsullied creatures who serve him day and night continually, and towards those people whom, though at present they were disobedient, carnalised, and unsusceptible, he nevertheless called his own. Sinners may be so changed, renewed, and energised as to be joined in the most complete harmony of service even with the cherubim. - Y.

Put the mercy-seat above upon the ark.
It was a leading and distinctive feature of Jewish worship that no image was to represent Jehovah, and yet the Jews were taught that the omnipotent God resided, specially in the Tabernacle, or Temple, of their nation, and special rites and prohibitions guarded it, as if the great King were indeed there.

1. The Jewish holy of holies was empty of any image of Deity, and was entered by the high-priest alone, and by him only once a year. The centre of interest in the room was the ark of God, a chest of acacia wood, about four feet long and two feet six inches broad and deep. It contained the tables of testimony, the written agreement or covenant between God and the people of Israel.

2. That was not all. The lesson taught at Sinai was not all that the Jewish ark taught, for the ark had a lid or covering known as the "mercy-seat." Inside the ark and below was the law; above and upon the ark was that vacant space associated, through the sprinkling of blood, with the covering or forgiving of the people's transgressions; and with this seat of mercy and pardon above, rather than with the seat of law below, the presence of God was associated. The material arrangements taught the Jews great spiritual lessons:

(1)That the law had been broken.

(2)That mercy prevails over law.

(3)That the mercy-seat needed to be sprinkled with blood.

(T. M. Herbert.)

Although there is but one piece of beaten — or very pure and malleable gold — yet the plate, or lid of the chest, is obviously distinguished from the cherubim; and therefore let us treat them severally.

I. It is obvious that the deposit of the tables in the body of the ark is no guaranty of their protection and safety, so long as there is no cover to it. The precious contents are still exposed, though nearly surrounded with golden walls. But place on it this plate of solid gold, of adequate thickness, and of length and breadth fully commensurate with the chest itself, and of course with the tables within, and you complete the idea of protection and safety. What then does this shield of protection physical represent in the typical or symbolical substance? The answer cannot be mistaken; Jesus Christ is the Protector and Fulfiller of law. He only does all things well. Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. He is the Lord our Righteousness.

1. The law prohibits certain things from being done; and it must be specially noted, that the Decalogue presents law to us in the negative form chiefly; eight of the Ten Commandments are formal negations, yet involving substantial affirmatives. A ninth also, viz., the Fourth Commandment, is largely a negation. The Fifth alone is purely affirmative. In this form our Redeemer fulfilled all law; He did no evil, nor was guile found in His mouth.

2. But the Divine law is not a mere negation. Law is positive. It requires active exercise of all the talents bestowed, and it exhibits positive benefits as the rewards of active obedience. Thus did our Redeemer fulfil law. The only positive word of the ten, He observed rigidly — He was obedient to His parents until He began to be about thirty years of age. Equally full and complete was His compliance with all positive requirements of law. As is the mercy-seat to the material substance of the tables, so is Christ to the moral and spiritual substance of the inscribed law.

II. We proceed with the cherubim. "The generic meaning of the Hebrew word cherub, the plural of which is cherubim, is not settled with.certainty. Some critics refer it to an Arabic source, and infer the meaning to be nearness, contiguity — hence, a minister or servant; and thus cherubim are the servants of God. Others deduce it from two Arabic words which signify 'as' or 'like to a boy' "They are most probably correct who form the word from a Hebrew term that means to ride (raukab) by an interchange" of two of the letters. We have the original and the derived word brought into immediate connection in Psalm 18:10. "The Jehovah rode upon a cherub, and did fly." With a very slight modification, the word here translated, rode, is used to signify the car or vehicle of the cherub, in 1 Chronicles 28:18. What then are the Mosaic or Sinaitic cherubim designed and adapted to set forth?

1. They spring from the mercy-seat, are a unit with it, and are upheld by it. Here are symbolized —(1) The issuance of the messengers of salvation from the Saviour Himself.(2) They are of the same piece of gold; this teaches the official unity of Christ and His ministry.(3) Permanent and constant dependence; as the cherubim rest their weight on the mercy-seat, so ministers of the gospel depend upon Christ.

2. They have the human form and face. These proclaim the intelligence and kindly sympathies of the men who minister in holy things.

3. They have the lion-face — the courage necessary to meet and defy danger and death.

4. They have the ox-face — patient endurance of labour and toil.

5. They have the eagle-face — symbol of intelligence and lofty aims.

6. They have the wings, which spread out over the mercy-seat, and betoken their readiness and ability to waft to all the world the glad tidings, that the law has been fulfilled and justification secured to all who believe in their jewel-crowned King.

7. They have their faces turned downward to the mercy-seat and the law it covers. This indicates their chief study of these things, into which the angels desire to look.

8. Their faces are turned inward, which teaches the restrictions and limitations of that dispensation; whereas those of Ezekiel and John turn outward and in all directions; because the times referred to by their ministry are aggressive; the Sinai restrictions of the Abrahamic covenant — that middle wall of partition is broken down and the Abrahamic covenant goes forth to make Abraham the father of many nations, the heir of the world.

(George Junkin, D. D.)

I. WE HAVE HERE THE VERY CORE OF THE SYMBOLICAL ORDINANCES OF THE JEWISH CHURCH. At this point all the interest of the dispensation is concentrated. The days of that people's life as a spiritual community all array themselves around that day, when their high-priest, their daysman — who represented their nation in shadow, as Christ, in substance, represents the world — entered that inner sanctuary with the incense of his people's prayers and the blood of his people's sacrifice, and received commission from the Lord God who dwelt between the cherubim, to lay the sins of the nation on a victim, who should bear them into the wilderness away. Here, then, is the focus of the spiritual power of the dispensation, I mean its power to order man's spiritual relations with all things and with God. And hither, to this mercy-seat above the ark, we are to look — if my principle, that this is a typical people, typical of you and me, be a right one — for those elements of the good word of God to the men of that dispensation, which relate it to the universal gospel of God to man and to all worlds — God's method of "reconciling all things to Himself."


1. What is the supreme symbol here? The last, the highest, the crown of the whole, is the mercy-seat. And this appears to me to mean more, infinitely more, than a promise of forgiveness, upon certain terms. The fact that with the mercy-seat God completed and crowned the symbolism of the Jewish dispensation; that He only felt it fit to be His habitation and organ of expression when that mercy-seat was set there over the ark; that till then it was a mere shell of a dispensation — as Adam's body was a mere shell of a man until God had breathed into his nostrils the breath of life — but that when the mercy-seat was set, it became capable of entertaining the Divine glory, and became, in fact, inspired; this fact, I say, is the broad, grand declaration to Judaism of the essential nature of God. It was the utterance to that age, of the word which by ten thousand half-articulate voices has been uttering itself to man since the first days of the creation, and has now become fully articulate in Christ — God is love. The truth is the same for them and for us; the substance of the proclamation is the same; the difference lies here, they heard the word, and saw the glory, but "Hereby know we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us."

2. Beneath the mercy-seat, within its bosom, as it were, was the ark of the testimony, and in it the word of the law. The image here reveals a harmony — the tables of stone in the ark, the mercy-seat above it, crowning it, and the glory of the Lord enveloping the whole. The two ideas are inseparable — mercy and righteousness — when we connect them with the Divine name. "Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other," in every manifestation of the love of God to man.

3. The third lesson of the symbol, perhaps the highest, is to be gathered from the contemplation of its unity. We have considered it in its parts, but it is essentially one. An ark, with a mercy-seat above it, the cherubim shadowing both, and the Divine glory, the light which was the sign of God's personal presence, bathing the whole. It tells us that mercy only crowns us fully with its benediction, when the Divine testimonies are hidden within the heart. Man is the true Shekinah. The glory shines from him when the Word is enshrined within him. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." In Him it is no law of words addressed sternly to the understanding, but a law of life shrined lovingly within the soul.

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)

There was no seat in the Tabernacle for the priests, because their work was never done. They stood to minister in the holy place. "And every priest standeth daily ministering, and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man (Christ), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:11, 12). The: only seat there was belonging to the Tabernacle was the mercy-seat, the throne of God really, where mercy reigned. Mercy signifies goodness bestowed on the unworthy and undeserving. The mercy-seat represented Jesus Christ, "whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation" or mercy-seat, "through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins" (Romans 3:25). Jesus is the true mercy-seat or throne of grace, where "grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life" (Romans 5:21). This is the throne we are urged to approach boldly, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). God has two thrones, a throne of mercy and a throne of judgment. He now sits on the throne of mercy, dispensing mercy and grace to every one that comes to Him. That seat will soon be removed, and the judgment seat will be put in its place, and God will sit upon it to judge all men according to their works.

(G. Rodgers.)

Our mercy-seat, our reconciliation-residence is Jesus, the Divine Saviour, the God-man mediator. And all the typical teachings of this branch of our subject may be drawn out in the attempt to answer one question, viz.: What sort of a mercy-seat have we in Christ?

I. In replying to this inquiry, I desire to show that we have in Christ, in the first place, AN AUTHORIZED MERCY-SEAT. He who occupies this mercy-seat is "a just God and a Saviour." No violence is done to any principle of honour, or of justice in the government of the universe by the dispensing of grace from this mercy-seat. The Divine law is magnified and made honourable. Every attribute of the Divine character is vindicated.

II. But I observe secondly of the mercy-seat which we are bidden to approach in Christ that it is an ENCOURAGING MERCY-SEAT. Christ, in the glory of His finished righteousness, is the medium through which God looks at all His believing children. He sees them only "in the face of His anointed." Hence it is said of believers in Christ that "they are righteous" in God's sight, "even as He," etc. Christ "is righteous."

III. But thirdly I observe respecting this mercy-seat that it is FULL OF PRIVILEGE FOE THE PRESENT. Suppose you were travelling in a foreign land. You are cut off from intercourse with all whom you most love on earth. There is only one channel through which you can hear from home, and obtain the supply of all that is necessary to meet your daily wants. How precious that channel of communication would be to you! How you would prize it! How anxious and careful you would be to keep it open! The thought of having it interrupted, or cut off, would be insupportable to you. Yet this is but a faint image of the Christian's position here in the world, and of the relation of the mercy-seat to Him.

IV. There is only one other point of view from which we may glance at the mercy-seat, and thus contemplated it shines before us as BRIGHT WITH HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. Hitherto it has always been true of Jehovah that, "verily He is a God that hideth Himself." But the time cometh, when of all that pertains to the character and work of God, it may be said, "There hath been nothing hid that will not be made manifest." "What we know not now we shall know hereafter." The true Shekinah upon the mercy-seat will have no single dark point connected with it. Over all its outspread surface the cloud will be lighted up with the splendours of Divinity. You have often seen a mass of clouds in the western sky, unillumined by the sun's rays, as the day was drawing to a close. You know how dark and unattractive that mass appeared. But presently you see the sun pass behind it, and what a wondrous transformation is wrought in its appearance! How radiant the whole mass becomes! How every point in it glows and sparkles with the splendours of the sun that shines through it! So will it be with the cloud upon our mercy-seat. When Jesus was on earth the coarse garments of humanity were upon Him. Then the shekinah cloud was dark. But the redeemed shall look upon that cloud again amidst the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Then all darkness will have passed away. The sun of uncreated Deity will be pouring all its brightness through it.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

I. THE DESIGN OF THE APPOINTMENT. "And there I will meet with thee." Meeting with God — communion with God; and instruction from God — these are in the text the declared purposes of the solemnities observed before the ark, and they are also the great objects to be always associated with the public assemblies of the Christian Church.


1. It was altogether of Divine appointment.

2. Another significant fact is that the name "mercy-seat" is manifold in its meaning. By St. Paul, in Romans 3:25, the mercy-seat is called a propitiation. The mercy-seat is the place of propitiation, whither the sacrificial blood was carried, and the red showers were cast around by God's high priest. "There I will meet with thee," saith the Divine word. Only through a sacrifice can God be approached. The mercy-seat is also called a "covering," because, as it concealed in the thick darkness the contents of the ark, it so became an emblem of the completeness of the process of Divine forgiveness (Psalm 32:1). The Hebrew word for the mercy-seat is Capporeth, derived from Caphar, a covering, the word which, in Genesis 6:14, represents God as directing Noah to pitch the ark within and without. About eighty times the word is used in the Old Testament, and is rendered in our version atone, or atonement. Thus early, even, as the ministry of Noah, the doctrine of shelter through substitution was preached to the world. The position occupied by the mercy-seat is equally significant; it was "upon the ark," within which was contained the handwriting of God — the covenant; the promises of God, and His requirements.


1. To the mercy-seat we must resort to obtain the assurance of the forgiveness of sin.

2. To the mercy-seat we repair in all times of trial and distress. So long as communion with God is unimpaired we have a specific for all human woe.

3. Thither also we repair for renewed supplies of grace and strength. We can only rightly perform our work for the Lord, as we obtain from Him fresh impartations of heavenly power.

4. It is thither that we must by faith bear the wants of the Church and the world.

(W. G. Lewis.)


1. It was intended as a covering to the ark, the latter being overlaid, and the former made of pure gold. In the ark, covered with the mercy-seat, were deposited the two tables of the law, given to Moses at Mount Sinai. This rich and splendid symbol afforded a striking representation of the incomparable worth and excellence of the Saviour, who in due time should become the true propitiatory. The way of salvation by the cross of Christ, agrees with the strictest principles of justice; and to justice and equity it is frequently ascribed, as well as to the richest grace (Psalm 1.5, 6; Isaiah 1:27; Romans 3:25).

2. As the mercy-seat covered the ark, so the cherubims of glory covered, or as the apostle expresses it, overshadowed the mercy-seat. To this the apostle Peter seems to allude, when he speaks of the angels as looking with eager expectation into the wonders of human redemption (1 Peter 1:12). The holy angels love the Redeemer, worship Him, and rejoice in the reconciliation of sinners to God through Him.

3. The mercy-seat, and cherubims overshadowing it, formed a glorious throne, in which the Shekinah or visible presence of the Deity resided; and hence the Lord is said to dwell between the cherubims (Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 37:16). Thus all the gracious manifestations of the Divine nature are through the Redeemer.

4. The most solemn acts of worship, under the Levitical dispensation, had a more immediate reference to the mercy-seat. All of which prefigured the substitution of Christ in the sinner's stead, the necessity of His atonement, and the bearing away of the sins of His people which were laid upon Him.

5. The mercy-seat was the fountain of all good to Israel; from hence proceeded their choicest blessings. There it was that God gave an audience to His people, and a favourable answer to their prayers, through the medium of an intercessor; and though they were not permitted personally to approach, yet all their supplications were directed towards it. Nor can a word of mercy or of peace be heard, or any prayers be answered, but through Christ, who is our mercy-seat.

II. THE PRIVILEGES CONNECTED WITH THE MERCY-SEAT, AS THE MEDIUM OF APPROACH TO GOD: "There will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee."

1. "I will meet with thee," saith the Lord. Not as He once met Moses at the inn, and sought to slay him; nor as the angel met Balaam, with a drawn sword in his hand; nor as the Lord once threatened to meet with Ephraim, as a bear bereaved of her whelps. But as an affectionate parent or tender friend, which implies a drawing nigh on one part, and sensible manifestation on the other.

2. "I will commune with thee." Communion generally denotes that tender intercourse which one person has with another; and here it is expressive of that sacred fellowship which subsists between God and His people. This puts the greatest honour upon the creature, and discovers the most amazing condescension on the part of God.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

1. Is there a mercy-seat? and may we bring our sins, our wants, and sorrows to it ? Oh, let us avail ourselves of the inestimable privilege. A seat of mercy in a fallen world! how does this bespeak the character and benignity of God! Why will ye die?

2. Is it possible to realize communion with the Holy One in our present lapsed and miserable condition? There will I commune with thee, is the promise of His grace. Let then the children of God seek the closest intimacy with, the Father of their spirits. The glorious brightness of the eternal Godhead is attempered to our enfeebled powers in the human sympathies of the man Christ Jesus. His bosom is the bosom of a friend.

3. Will the Lord open unto us His word, and reveal unto us the purposes of His love? Yes; He will do so, if ye will wait in meditative and prayerful expectation upon Him (Psalm 62:5).

4. Amidst the painful bereavements and separations we are often called to experience here, may we entertain a well-grounded confidence of a blessed re-union in eternity? Assuredly we may. All Israel had but one seat of mercy: God in Christ is also the sinner's friend and the mourner's comforter. In meeting Him, we meet each other in Him. All the sun's bright rays of light centre in a common focus: all believers are but the several radiations of a single Saviour, and all will converge to that central Lord again.

(W. Mudge.)

The etymology of the word cherub being lost, the name renders us no assistance in the interpretation of the symbol. It is noteworthy, however, that Ezekiel applies to similar composite figures the appellation "living creatures"; and St. John a similar designation, unfortunately translated "beasts." Following this clue, we inquire if there is anything in the composite form itself to carry us onward in this line of interpretation. The cherubs of the Tabernacle are not described in the specifications, but mentioned as if the form were already so well known as to need no delineation for the sake of the general reader. Doubtless the artists were furnished with minute directions. The living creatures seen by Ezekiel are described by him with considerable amplification (Ezekiel 1:5-25). They were compounded of four animals — ox, lion, eagle, man, — each excelling in some one life-power. The combination suggests a being, real or ideal, uniting in himself the qualities in which these four different manifestations of life are severally eminent. The human form is the ground-work of the composition; and the additions to it are suggestive of an improvement on man by adding to his faculties those in which other animals are his superiors; as, e.g., the power of vision and motion peculiar to the eagle, the strength of the lion, and the submission of the ox. The cherubs seen by St. John in the Apocalypse were different in appearance from those described by Ezekiel, each having for its ground-form one of the four animals already mentioned; but the recurrence of these four, notwithstanding this diversity, confirms the deductions already stated. The idealization of earthly creatural life by the combination of its highest manifestations was projected into shape as a composite animal figure, not constant in form, but varying as one element or another prevailed in the ideal conception. The presence of all these four animal forms in the visions both of Ezekiel and of John, renders it probable that the four were wholly, or in part, contained in the cherubic figures of the Tabernacle. Was, then, this idealization of life designed to represent beings actually existing in the high grade of life, or did it point backward to what man was before the fall, and forward to what he is to be in the restored paradise? There is no passage of Scripture which indisputably teaches the actual existence of beings represented by these composite animal figures. In most cases, cherubs appear in scenes which are plainly symbolic or poetic. The passage in Genesis 3:24, properly understood, affirms of the cherubs only that they were placed in the east of the garden, or near its entrance, for doubt- less Eden, like the Tabernacle in the wilderness, fronted the rising sun. The inference is that they were placed there to have the same significance as they had in the Tabernacle, in the Temple and in the Apocalyptic vision of heaven. If, under the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, these composite figures symbolized humanity redeemed, sanctified, and glorified, probably they had a parallel meaning when employed in the symbolism of earlier times. What they signified in the Tabernacle and in the Temple being the very point to be illuminated, we pass at once from the first scene in the history of redemption where they appear, to the vision of heaven in which a Christian Hebrew beheld these symbolic beings before and around the throne of God (see Revelation 5:9, 10). What clearer evidence than this do we need that the composite animal figures of Hebrew symbolism represented humanity raised from its death in Adam to fulness of life in Christ? They were "living ones" because Christ having died for them, and risen again, had made them partakers of His life.

(E. E. Atwater.)

That it cannot be the angels, who are intended by these mysterious representations, is rendered perfectly clear when you consider that they were part and parcel of the ark itself. They were not something placed upon it, or added to it, but they were something made of it, or for it. They were beaten out of the very materials of the ark itself. The same gold which covered the mercy-seat was wrought out into the form of the cherubim. This could have no significancy as applied to the angels. They are indeed "ministering spirits unto the heirs of salvation," but they stand in no such intimate relation to the covenant of redemption as is indicated by the position which the cherubim occupied. There can be no question on this point. It is not the angels who are represented by the cherubim. To whom then, or to what do they refer? They are doubtless to be regarded, not perhaps as actual existences at all, but as symbols of the glorious qualities or attributes of Christ our Saviour, in carrying on the great work of our redemption, and of attributes or qualities which His ransomed people shall share with Him in the glory of His heavenly kingdom. Let us look then at the qualities indicated by the four-fold faces of the cherubim.

1. The first is the face of a man. This stands before us as the natural, and admitted index of knowledge, or intelligence. And this we know is a quality or attribute which Christ, in His position as our Redeemer, the crowning glory of our ark of the covenant, possesses in the fullest measure. "In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

2. But the cherubim are representative of our humanity in its glorified state. And looking at it from this point of view we may gaze upon the "face of a man" in this mysterious symbol till it seems to have a voice and utterance, and to speak to us in eloquent terms of the grand disclosures, the marvellous unfoldings, of what are now hidden things, awaiting us in that bright world to which we are hastening.

3. The second face which the cherubim bore was "the face of a lion." Two qualities are here indicated, viz., courage and majesty. Now the great Captain of our salvation, in the campaign which He undertook, when He resolved to put down the rebellion which had broken out in this province of His Father's dominions, afforded the grandest exhibition of this noble quality which the world or the universe has ever witnessed. And this quality is a characteristic of redeemed humanity as well as of Him who redeemed it. It applies to true Christians even now. "The righteous are bold as a lion," says the wise man. But it will apply to them much more truly hereafter. It is said of them that — "they shall have boldness in the day of judgment." But "the face of the lion" was indicative of majesty as well as courage. This is the halo round Christ's character — the radiance formed by this shining forth of His own glory. He is "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person." But this is a quality, too, which will mark the condition of the redeemed, in the glory of their future state. True, with them it will not be an inherited, but an imparted quality. In themselves, of their own, they have nothing attractive, or majestic. But they do have that imparted to them, by their glorious Lord, which makes them so.

4. The third face which the cherubim bore was "the face of an ox." The quality which this represents is, manifestly, that of strength for service. This, we know, is a glorious attribute of our Divine Redeemer. It is one which He possesses, too, in absolute perfection. But it symbolized the same quality as marking the condition of His people in that glorious kingdom to which it is His gracious purpose eventually to bring them. It is the covenant privilege of the redeemed, even now, in the imperfection of this fallen state, to be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." They "take hold of His strength," and this enables them to mount up with wings as eagles, to "run and not be weary, to walk and not faint." But the ark, and the cherubim upon it, point us onward to the heavenly world. It is a quality, or property, of redeemed humanity in the glory of the resurrection state to which the symbol now before us refers. There will then be bliss in every service, and rest in every motion.

5. The last face associated with this mysterious symbol was "the face of an eagle." Now, one of the things for which an eagle is remarkable, is its keenness of vision. And all the power, or quickness of vision, which the eagle possesses is but a symbol of a corresponding attribute of character pertaining to Christ. His eyes are in every place. "He seeth the end from the beginning." He knoweth our necessities before we ask.

6. But how does this apply to the redeemed in the glory of their future state (see Hebrews 6:5)? which certainly refers to faculties, attributes, or qualities, mental, moral, or physical, to be possessed by the redeemed of Christ amidst the glory and blessedness of the world to come. Again, when I read Isaiah 33:17, I feel that, if I am a believer in Jesus, I have here a promise, in symbol, of such an enlargement of perceptive faculty and power of vision as quite passes my capacity at present to comprehend.

7. But quickness of motion, or speed of flight is another characteristic quality of the eagle. And this we know is a quality which strikingly marks the character of Christ in carrying on the work of our redemption. It was so when He was on earth. What He did for those who sought His gracious intervention, He did quickly. This quality marks His character still. It is only by the practical development of it that He can make good His word when He engages in one place to be to all His people "a very present help in trouble"; and in another to be always "a God at hand, and not afar off"; or when, in still another place, His promise runs — "Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear." It is clearly manifest how "the face of the eagle" upon the cherubim points to this feature of our Lord's character.

8. But what bearing has this on the position of the redeemed in glory? I answer, a very natural and necessary bearing. It teaches us that quickness of motion, or speed of flight, will be a characteristic of that state.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

It is very instructive to observe that the first time we read about the cherubim is in Genesis 3:24, where they are seen with flaming swords guarding the way to the tree of life, and ready to destroy any man who might be bold enough to try and force his way through to that tree; and the next time we read of them is in (Exodus 25), where they are guarding the throne of mercy; and here, blessed be God, they hold no flaming swords in their hands, but they are bending over the mercy-seat, and looking at the blood sprinkled there. They are not looking under the mercy-seat; there was the law, the ministration of death. They do not turn their faces eastward and look out at the people; had they done so, they would have beheld a multitude of sinners: but they look at that which conceals and covers up the ministration of death. Their eyes are fixed on the propitiation for sin — on that which is an atonement for sin. They are looking at Jesus; there they find their joy and rest. And I would look where they look: my mind would be occupied with that which gives joy to the highest rank of angels, the ministers who stand nearer to the throne of God than any other beings in the universe.

(G. Rodgers.)

There I will meet with thee
I. To the Jews, GOD SET APART ONE SPECIAL PLACE FOR SACRIFICE, ONE SPECIAL PLACE FOR CLOSEST COMMUNION, AND HE WHO WANTED SOME DIRECT ORACLE FROM GOD MUST GO TO THAT SPOT TO GET HIS ANSWER. The oneness continues, but now it is not oneness of spot, but it is oneness of path. And there the spot lies, at the end of the path — it is one path. All the oneness of the types of the Mosaic law go to make the oneness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as on that one grand spot, "between those cherubims," God declared He would meet and commune with Israel, so now, at that one spot, Christ, God covenants that He will meet with you, and commune with you. Christ is God's mercy-seat. Christ is the gold of His Deity, and the wood of His humanity, and all to enshrine, to keep the law, the law for man. In after times, two other things were placed in the ark, of which we will not speak now — the rod of Aaron, emblem of the eternal priesthood of Christ, and the pot of manna, showing that Christ is the bread and the nourishment, the sustenance of His people in the journey of life.

II. IT WAS UPON SUCH A MERCY-SEAT, GOD SAID, "I WILL MEET WITH THEE, AND COMMUNE WITH THEE." You see, then, that your interviews with God, your holy communings, depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ. According to your views of Christ, according to your nearness to Christ, so will be your experience here in private of communion with God. Accustom yourself to lay out in order the ark, and all that went to make that mercy-seat, and that glory, and those communings. And the more you lay out in order before your mind the attributes, and the glory, and the work of Jesus, the more you will hear still small voices, the more you will enjoy those "times of refreshing," the more God will reveal Himself to you as He does not to the world, the more you will "acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace." If you have not real communion with God, the reason lies simply there — Christ is not in His place — the ark is not set up — you are not honouring Christ — you have low views of Christ — you have been looking at wrong things — you are expecting communion apart from your Saviour.

III. THERE COULD BE NO TRUE THRONE OF GOD IN THE WORLD, IF MERCY WERE SEPARATED FROM JUSTICE. But now it is just in God to be merciful, because of the deep things that that ark tells us. Therefore if any of you are worshipping God in fear, if there are any downcast and depressed, any who think they hear condemning sounds, any to whom God presents Himself in the light of a Master, One whom they fear, remember, God sits upon a mercy-seat. It is in mercy He communes with you. He has no word but mercy. Judgment is a strange word. He loveth mercy — mercy dwells with God — it is all mercy. Go to Him for mercy, let it be a poor sinner communing with his God upon a mercy-seat.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. That in Christ we meet with God as a Being of IMMUTABLE RECTITUDE. In Christ the moral law was —

1. Perfectly embodied;

2. Powerfully enforced.

II. That in Christ we meet with God as a Being disposed to EXERCISE CLEMENCY.

1. Christ is the highest expression of God's mercy.

2. Christ is the greatest demonstration of God's mercy.

3. Christ is the mightiest agent of God's mercy. The messenger of infinite love.

III. That in Christ we meet with God as THE LORD OF ANGELIC INTELLIGENCES.


I. In the mercy-seat, or in Christ, we meet the LAW OF GOD.

1. Christ gives a new view of law.

2. Christ introduces a new relation in reference to law.

3. Christ creates in His people an affection for the law.

II. In the mercyseat, or in Christ, we meet the MERCY OF GOD.

1. The atonement of Christ is the medium for the exercise of mercy.

2. The atonement of Christ is the evidence of the value of mercy.

III. In the mercy-seat, or in Christ, we meet the GLORY OF GOD.

1. This may be applied to the very essence of God.

2. Christ in the Scriptures is represented as reflecting the moral attributes of God.

IV. In the mercy-seat, or in Christ, we meet the ANGELS OF GOD.

(Caleb Morris.)

Birds cannot converse with men unless they had a rational nature put into them, nor can men converse with God unless, being made new creatures, they partake of the Divine nature. Communion with God is a mystery to most; every one that bangs about the court doth not speak with the king; all that meddle with holy duties and, as it were, hang about the court of heaven, hath not communion with God; it is only the new creature enjoys God's presence in ordinances, and sweetly converses with Him, as a child with a father.

( T. Watson.)

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