In our day, as we look back over the centuries of religious history, we are apt to lose our way with regard to understanding the true, and successful approach to God. On this matter, let me begin by speaking of the matter of MERCY, for an understanding of it is paramount to coming to see clearly God’s way in our approach to Him.
In Genesis 3, we find that God put Cherubims “at the east of the garden of Eden…and a flaming sword…to keep the way of the tree of life.” (v.24) We might say that they were “guardians of the way,” vigilantly protecting that way to the tree of life. In Exodus 25, we find the Cherubims mentioned again, but this time, not guarding the way to prevent passage, but to oversee the welcomed passage…passage into the very presence of God. The Lord has instructed Moses as to how to make the Ark of the Covenant…and that Ark is to be carried with NO human hands touching it…it is GOD’s covenant, holy, perfect, and complete. But on the top of that covenant is to be placed a “mercy-seat,” with Cherubim (howbeit “made” and covered with gold…), with “…wings on high, covering the mercy- seat with their wings.” (v.14,17,19) It is by making “the mercy seat,” and placing it on top of the Ark of the Covenant, covered (protected against every foe…), that God reveals to us the way into His presence, and, entrance into that covenant relationship with Himself. The Lord then tells Moses, “…and THERE I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the Cherubims…” (v.22) The point is this: God meets us on the basis of His mercy. Indeed, all of His ways are mercy and truth.
When Bartimaeus, the helpless blind beggar of Jericho heard that Jesus was passing, what did he cry out? “Jesus, thou Son of David, have MERCY on me.” (Mk. 10:47) This cry would not be overcome by those who would silence him. The result was that Jesus called him, and healed him. When the Lord Jesus used the example of a Publican, when speaking of true righteousness, He directed the attention on what the Publican was praying, as he beat his chest, being overwhelmed by his need, “God be merciful to me a sinner!!” (Luke 18:13) The Lord would then say, “…this man went down to his house justified…,” he being helpless and hopeless.(v.14) Now, what is God saying here about the mercy-seat, the way and attitude of mercy? He is saying in part what the hymn writer said: “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Mercy means that I have nothing, am nothing, can do nothing…and that, unlike “grace” which is unmerited favor, “mercy” means that God will meet us when there is absolutely nothing I can offer Him that is acceptable, and declare that there is NO basis for Him responding to my plea, but that “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote, “…let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain MERCY, and find grace to help in time of need.” (4:16) Here is the way to God…coming “just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me…and that Thou bidst me come to Thee…O Lamb of God, I come.” Let me conclude with a stanza of a great hymn, which seems to sum up our consideration of the matter:
“Approach my soul, the mercy-seat, where Jesus answers prayer. There humbly fall before His feet, for NONE can perish there.” (John Newton)