Seven spiritually significant items graced the Tabernacle. The Bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings and the Bronze Laver were in the courtyard. The Golden Lampstand, the Golden Table, and the Golden Altar of Incense were found in the Holy Place. Behind the Veil were the Ark of the Covenant and its covering, the Mercy Seat.
The priests were instructed to serve in the Tabernacle’s courtyard and Holy Place daily. But the Veil was a barrier. Only on the annual day of Atonement, only one priest entered ... only once... only one. The priest “may not come whenever he wants into the holy place behind the curtain in front of the mercy seat on the ark or else he will die” (Leviticus 16:2, CSB).
As we saw yesterday, the Ark of the Covenant was a golden chest. The lid, called the Mercy Seat, was made “of pure gold, forty-five inches long and twenty-seven inches wide” (Exodus 25:17, CSB).
On the lid, two worshipping angels were fashioned of solid gold. God instructed Moses to “make two cherubim of gold; make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end. At its two ends, make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat. The cherubim are to have wings spread out above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and are to face one another. The faces of the cherubim should be toward the mercy seat” (Exodus 25:18-21, CSB).
The most significant thing about the mercy seat was the promise of God’s presence. God said, “I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat” (Leviticus 16:2, CSB). The Mercy Seat served as the Royal Throne for the glory of God’s powerful presence.
On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest, acting on behalf of the entire nation, would take the blood of the sinless substitutionary sacrifice and sprinkle it on the mercy seat. Thus, God’s justice was satisfied, His mercy was demonstrated, and the sins of the Nation were graciously covered.
On the day Jesus hung on Calvary’s Cross, just as He completed His mission “Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed his last. Then the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38, CSB). The Veil wasn’t torn by human hands, tearing from the bottom to the top. It was torn miraculously by God’s hand from the top to the bottom.
Here’s an interesting side note: At the moment the Veil was torn, 3:00 in the afternoon, the time of the evening sacrifice, the temple would have been filled with priests! God put on an unforgettable show! The large crowd of priests and worshippers present that day could never un-see or un-hear the violent ripping of the huge curtain and the disclosure of the never-before-seen Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat covering.
The tearing of the veil was an obvious sign that Christians no longer need the human priest to enter the Holy of Holies to atone with the blood of sheep and goats. Jesus paid the final price! Now, with the price paid and the Veil torn, we may enter God’s presence with boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22).
Every Christian is a priest. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, CSB). As priests, we’re on duty every day. We must be cleansed at the laver. The light must be kept shining brightly. We must fellowship daily at His table! And we must offer up the sweet-smelling aroma of our worship and prayer!
The priest has an important job!