Looking to the Hebrew Scriptures, we see God’s commitment to mercy displayed through the ancient sacrificial system. And an integral part of the sacrificial system is what’s known as the mercy seat.
The Throne of Grace Scripture Reference
“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.” Hebrews 4:16
Mercy and Grace
Mercy and grace are the “true north,” so to speak, of God’s character. Both convey His heart towards His children in a way that wrath, though warranted, does not. God actually delights in showing mercy and grace, and He does so abundantly.
Many times we are not even aware of the profound magnitude of God’s mercy. Other times, we are transformed by the realization of it. And He is also a God of grace. He knows we are weak and broken, but it is His grace that gives our lives worth.
What is the Mercy Seat?
The mercy seat was the closure, or covering of a holy box, called the Ark of the Covenant. It housed, among other things, the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The tablets with the Ten Commandments stored underneath bore witness to the sin of the people. One could say the mercy seat served as a type of lid. But as far as the Ark of the Covenant is concerned, the words covering and shield are more appropriate to describe the purpose of the mercy seat.
Above or rather on the mercy seat the blood of sacrifice was sprinkled by the High Priest for the atonement of sin. This is why emphasis is placed on the word covering. The mercy seat was the place of transference of sin for forgiveness, of reconciliation between God and His people.
Joseph Prince puts it this way: “As long as the blood was there on the mercy seat, He [God] saw only the blood and accepted the people.”
Difference between Mercy and Grace
Sometimes the two words are used so synonymously that you may have wondered if there is in fact a difference in their meaning. Well, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a difference – and not just a small one.
Although both relate to God’s unlimited goodness, mercy and grace describe different aspects of just how loving and compassionate He is.
First off, let’s recognize these words in Hebrew. Mercy is pronounced rachamim, which is very closely linked to compassion. Meanwhile Hebrew word for grace, which is hesed, sometimes gets translated into favor.
Already these synonyms clarify a lot. While mercy points to a loving forgiveness of wrongdoing, grace goes a step further. It is ‘unmerited favor’, as many are quick to point out. Which means, we experience the wondrous goodness of God that we absolutely do not deserve.
Are Mercy and Grace… a Person?
The Ark of the Covenant was kept in the most sacred chamber of the Temple, called the Holy of Holies. The High Priest was the only person permitted to enter, and only once a year. On Yom Kippur, he would intercede for the sins of the people.Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for the mercy seat is “kaporet”, which has the same root as “kippur”. Which means atonement.
The one who became our atonement is Jesus – He became our covering and our shield.
Romans 3:25 says that Jesus is “our mercy seat because of His death on the cross. We come to Him for mercy, for God has made a provision for us to be forgiven by faith in the sacred blood of Jesus.”
How beautiful it is to contemplate on the fact that Jesus’ very blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, the throne of grace. He is making intercession for our sins before God! His flawless sacrifice made it possible for God’s presence to be in our midst.
The Perfect Sacrifice
Through the blood of the Messiah, God does not see our sins when He looks upon us. Jesus’ covering puts us in right standing before God, once and for all.
The Messiah perfected and satisfied the sacrificial system that the Father established in the Hebrew Scriptures.
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?” (Romans 9:22-23)
In light of the beautiful truth, let’s draw near to the throne of grace and worship together:
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