Standing Before the Judge

Standing Before the Judge

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. There I will meet with you . . . Exodus 25:21-22

I’ve never stood before a judge, but I hear about the experience frequently from those in jail. Facing more jail time, or even prison, those who stand in judgment for their crimes hope, ask, and pray for the judge to be lenient. The judge’s job though, is to distribute justice, which isn’t what the offender wants. Rather, he desires mercy.

Though I’ve never stood in front of a judge, in my addiction, I did have to meet with the state medical board twice. Holding my career in their hands, they could allow me to return to work, or they could end my career. Both times, I prayed for leniency, hoping they’d see how I’d turned my life around. Once, they let me off with a stern warning. The next time, I faced significant consequences. Both times though, I pled for mercy.

God’s mercy is the message of today’s passage. In the narrative, God instructed his people on the construction of the ark, the physical manifestation of God’s presence. On the top of the ark, they were to craft a golden mercy seat, where God would sit. God didn’t call it a judgment seat. Rather, he called it a mercy seat, revealing something significant about himself. Though he did provide a lot of rules to govern their living, and though the judgment for breaking those rules was often severe, God wanted his people to know that he was also a God of mercy. It wasn’t his desire to punish, but rather to be lenient. All his people had to do, was to come before him, offering a sacrifice, and they’d be forgiven.

My immediate question upon reading the passage is this – Did God’s forgiveness get them out of Earthly consequences? Could the Israelite murder someone, then go to the mercy seat, make an offering, and be let off the hook? My question though, reveals that I’m missing the point of God’s mercy. I’m most concerned with immediate Earthly consequences, when I should be most concerned about my relationship with God. Thankfully, I don’t have to offer an animal sacrifice today. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, all I must do is go to God, asking forgiveness and I receive it. This, of course, is the amazing message of the gospel – If I desire God’s forgiveness, all I must do, is ask for it. From his mercy seat, God forgives me, restoring me to a right relationship with him, which, in the eternal perspective, is the most important thing in my entire life.

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