When David took over the throne in Jerusalem, something was missing—had been missing for 30 years—the Ark of the Covenant. Contrary to make-believe-movies, the wooden box was not magical. God ordained the construction and measurements of the ark as a visual reminder of his constant presence with the house of Israel. God wanted non-superstitious followers who would recognize him as central to their everyday routines as well as their worship times together. The ark symbolized God’s mercy and loving kindness—always among the people.
Before David’s kingship, the Philistines had stolen the ark in a battle and carried it away, but they got rid of it when they suffered serious illnesses brought about by God. The ark then spent years at the home compound of an old priest, Abinadab, and then King David arranged to bring it home. After one tragic start to return the ark to Jerusalem, David waited three months before attempting the trip again.
David invited the entire nation to join in the celebration, and told his Levite brothers to appoint men to sing “joyful songs,” accompanied by lyres, tambourines, and harps. In front of the ark, cymbals and horns announced the great event. Exuberant King David expressed great joy as the ark came into Jerusalem and he “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6: 14.).
Compare this joy-filled event—when the stolen mercy seat returned to Israel—with the days leading up to the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. Before the foundation of the world was laid, God knew that evil would enter and steal our right to eternal life, and God chose to revitalize mankind here and in the hereafter through Immanuel, Jesus, God with us. Eventually the servant Jesus would willingly take up the burdens associated with the cross because humanity needed a mercy-seat savior.
Recently I finished the book “Thin Places” by Mary DeMuth, award winning current Christian author. In her memoir, she relates glimpses into her traumatized childhood which included many rapes at the age of five and a very dysfunctional family. Today, she is a joy-filled Christ follower with a Christian husband and children. While her experiences no doubt left serious scars, she affirms that her rescue from her tragic past came in the person of Jesus Christ. He revitalized her life and changed her nature from fear to joy.
As an adult, Mary realizes that her innocence had to bear the sins of adults around her. She describes her childhood as wearing the “sin of another unwillingly like a scratchy coat in summer’s heat.” We’ve probably all had to bear the brunt of another’s sins, such as when a drunk driver kills a child. The parents bear the ill of that sin for the rest of their lives. Mary DeMuth’s wording helped me better understand that Jesus took up our sins willingly.
Jesus willingly laid down his perfect life as a sacrifice so that all sins could be forgiven and a new mercy seat be placed among us. And in the miracle of his resurrection, he also triumphed over the wages of sin—death. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “[F]ix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God” (12:2).
In Jesus’ ministry, he sometime sighed toward heaven and then performed a miracle to restore health and wholeness. Scholar Elwood Sanner calls Jesus’ sighs “wordless prayers.” As we remember the long ago events that atoned for our sins, some us will sigh on this day called Good Friday (possibly derived from an English term God’s Friday). Through our series about King David we saw his many sorrows and triumphs and we wrap up by envisioning his celebration as he returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
This Sunday, as we remember Jesus’ triumph over death through his resurrection, let us celebrate with abandon that a mercy seat in the person of Christ our Lord has entered the human story.