Monday, November 12, 2012
The Mercy Seat
I opened a Bible the other day to a random page and found myself near the end of 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament. David is giving instructions to Solomon about building the temple. The plans include “the room for the mercy seat.” The phrase awakened a joy in my soul that there was such a place called a room for the mercy seat, and there arose in my spirit a longing to be in that room.
I am no Bible scholar, and my reaction was uncomplicated by specific knowledge of the meaning of this phrase. The image in my mind was of a seat bathed in light. If I sat on it, I would receive the mercy of God. I would be filled with the basic goodness of the universe. My spirit would be purified and mercy would spill over like a golden fountain, flowing wherever I had held judgment and condemnation, washing away everything that was born of fear, imbuing what had been dark with a light so brilliant that nothing was left in shadow.
My curiosity led me to an earlier description of the mercy seat in Exodus. There, God is speaking to Moses, telling him to build the mercy seat of pure gold and to place it above the ark of the covenant, in the most sacred, inner room in the temple. “There I will meet with you,” promises God.
Ah, just as I thought. The mercy seat is the thin place where we encounter the divine (by whatever name we choose). God does not meet with us on the seat of judgment, or the seat of vengeance. There is no separation here, no hatred, no fear. Only mercy, only love, only light.
I have held this image in my heart the last few days as I have struggled to forgive and release a situation that continues to churn in my spirit. When I feel myself sucked back towards that whirlpool of anger and blame and fear, I picture myself on the mercy seat, opening my soul to God, asking for mercy for myself and for those against whom I harbor thoughts of separation and judgment.
The true gift of grace is that the line between giving and receiving it immediately disappears as soon as mercy is asked for or offered. Mercy never flows only one direction, but washes over both the giver and the recipient.
Imagining myself on the golden seat of mercy is humbling. God’s grace is so exquisite, the basic goodness of the universe so sublime, that my grievances simply melt away. I am bewildered that I ever thought them important, worthy of my attention and energy. What are they compared to the glorious freedom of forgiveness?
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. –Lewis B. Smedes
related posts: Righteous Unforgiveness; Forgiveness, the Final Frontier