Speaking of the privilege we have in prayer, Tim Keller has remarked, “The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 am for a glass of water is a child.” This is a needed reminder for those who, by God’s grace, have trusted in Jesus for salvation. We have the privilege of praying to the God who is sovereign over all creation.
It is easy for Christians to take for granted the privilege we have in being able to commune with God. This is evident in our casual posture toward prayer. When we wake up in the morning, when we sit down at a meal, or when we gather with other believers, do we ever stand in awe at the reality that we have access to God? We also take the privilege of prayer for granted when we fail to pray. Through Christ we have access to our Father in heaven, yet, amazingly, we remain silent, prayerless.
Of all the passages that we could turn to in order to remind ourselves of the privilege we have in prayer, Exodus 25:22 is probably not on the top of the list for many Christians. However, as David Platt reminds us below, the ark of the covenant should serve as an encouragement to regularly come to God for mercy and grace:
There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. (Exodus 25:22)
David Platt: In this passage, God is talking to His people about how they can meet with Him and receive His mercy. This kind of communion comes about as God prescribes (thus the detailed prescription for making the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle) and according to His mercy (thus the need for a mercy seat).
Don’t forget that God is holy. He is perfect, righteous, and just, which means that sinners deserve to be cast out of His presence forever. Scripture speaks of hell as a place of eternal punishment. Yet, God in His mercy has made a way. That’s what He’s doing in Exodus 25—making a way for sinners to be in His presence by His mercy and according to the way He prescribes.
God’s provision of the ark is a shadow of what’s to come in the New Testament in Christ. This is true of the tabernacle as well, for it’s design is intended to point us to our need for a full and final sacrifice in Jesus. When Jesus went to the cross, He paid the price for sinners to be able to come into the presence of God. As a sinless sacrifice, Jesus took our sin upon Himself and opened the way for you and me to come to the mercy seat of God and meet with Him according to the conditions God sets.
No sinner can just prance into the presence of God and start speaking to Him. But this is the beauty of what Scripture teaches: in Christ, God has made a way for you and me as sinners to come to Him and find mercy. This Old Testament reality should inform our perspective when we pray today.
– This excerpt is adapted from the Pray the Word podcast episode titled “Meeting with God by Mercy.”