It becomes to us the place of mercy. It is the mercy-seat.
But there is another fact. You remember that there was a time when the Philistines captured the ark, and they put it in the temple of their god, Dagon. They looked into the ark to see what was in it. Here is fleshly curiosity, and approach, and interference with the things of God; not the approach of a penitent sinner, not the approach of a worshipper, not the approach of those who recognise the meaning and value of the blood of Jesus Christ, but simply the approach to this which represented Christ on the ground of no sense of sin, no confession of sin, no acknowledgment of the fact of cleansing by the precious blood. To those Philistines who so approached the ark it meant judgement: they were smitten with plagues, and their god Dagon came crashing down to the ground, broken to pieces in the presence of this ark.
their god Dagon came crashing down to the ground, broken to pieces in the presence of this ark.
The Lord Jesus is thus in type set forth as having a twofold effect according to our attitude towards Him. If our attitude towards Him is that of sinners recognising the value of His blood for our salvation and our cleansing, penitent, confessing, then we meet God and all the power of the Name of God in mercy, it is to us a mercy-seat where we find grace to help in time of need. But if our attitude toward Christ is that which is marked by an absence of the sense of sin, and need of salvation and cleansing, then Christ must mean judgement and destruction to us sooner or later, for He must be effective. God will see to it that, having sent His Son, He will be effective and sooner or later He will be our Advocate or our Judge.
God will see to it that, having sent His Son, He will be effective and sooner or later He will be our Advocate or our Judge.
You will probably have heard the story of a great English judge, Sir Monier Williams. There was a time when he was one of the most clever advocates of the British Bar. A man who was in serious trouble came to him when he was advocate, and asked him to take up his case. Sir Monier Williams took up his case, though it was a desperate one, fought the case in the courts and got him through. Some years afterwards the advocate had been exalted to the place of a judge, and the same man got into trouble again and went to him and said, Sir Monier Williams, you remember me, and how years ago when I was in trouble you took up my case and got me clear. I am in trouble again, and I have come to you to do the same thing again. But Sir Monier Williams turned to him and said, My friend, in those days I was an advocate, today I am a judge, and that makes all the difference. I cannot take up your case now: I have passed beyond the stage of an advocate, I have come to be a judge.
I have passed beyond the stage of an advocate, I have come to be a judge.
You see, the Lord Jesus now is our Advocate with God, He that lives to make intercession for us in virtue of His precious blood. Today it may be grace, it may be mercy; the day is coming when He will be judge. It will be too late then for an Advocate, He will stand to judge in that day. You see there are two facts dependent upon our attitude toward the Lord Jesus as set forth as the ark and the mercy-seat, where God and man are brought together in oneness.
You see there are two facts dependent upon our attitude toward the Lord Jesus as set forth as the ark and the mercy-seat, where God and man are brought together in oneness.
Having said that word concerning salvation, we pass on to the fuller meaning and value of that which is before us in relation to the Name and the testimony of Jesus. This testimony of Jesus in the power of the Name is deposited in the church; that is, the Lord’s people according to His intention are meant to be the repository, the vessel, in which this testimony to the Name of the Lord is placed. Just as the ark was placed right at the centre of the whole multitude of Israel, and everything was focused upon that ark and concentrated there so the testimony of Jesus in the power of the Name of the Lord is committed, is deposited in the midst of the Lord’s people, and is intended by the Lord to be an effective, a vital thing. There is all the difference between the truths about the Lord Jesus, both as to His person; that is, as to the union of humanity and deity in His person, and all other things about Him as to His work, His atonement, His blood, His Name; as teachings, as parts of a Christian doctrine and creed held by Christian people; and the fact of the living Christ in the power of the supreme, the transcendent Name operating actively in the midst of the Lord’s people. These are two different things.
These are two different things.
The Lord never intended just to deposit so many truths with His people, so that they should recite them, and say they believe this, and that, and something else, though they may all be quite true, and all relative to Christ and to God. What He intended was that the living, vital, active, energetic testimony of the Lord Jesus should be in the midst of His people, that there should be this thing in power, so that any Philistine approaching should meet the impact of God in the church, and penitent sinners coming should find mercy, salvation, deliverance. God has deposited the testimony of Jesus in the power of the Name with His people, and His intention is that His people should be the vessel in which the power of the truth should be found: an active thing, an energetic thing, a thing which registers something of influence and effectiveness amongst the people of God.
Having said that we are able to look again at this story, and understand it, and allow its message of warning to come to our hearts.
First of all note David’s mistake. David’s mistake has been the mistake of Christendom, and is the mistake of so many of the Lord’s people at different times. What was David’s mistake? David’s mistake was this, that he proceeded as though the testimony of the Lord was an organised movement to be carried forward by natural energies. He started with a consultation with men. They agreed, and then they made a new cart. They put the ark of the testimony thereon, and two men to drive it. The illustration is a perfect one. It is quite obvious as to what the mistake was. The cart was a contrivance of man to carry that which was of the Lord. Men are constantly seeking new carts for the things of the Lord; that is, a new method, a new piece of machinery, a new movement, a new organisation, a new enterprise, into which, or upon which to place the things of God, and it is a provision made by man for the things of God. That was David’s mistake, and that is our mistake very often, and that has been the mistake of Christendom. That danger is an abiding danger, never very far from the things of God. There is no doubt that the Lord would have the ark brought into its right place. There is no question of the Lord’s will for having His testimony where it ought to be, placed and not displaced. In other words, there is no doubt about it that He would have His Son, Jesus Christ, in all the power of the Name established at the heart of the life of His people. That is all right, but so often running very close to what is really a divine desire, a divine purpose, the will of God, there is this peril of bringing it about by man’s means, in man’s ways, according to man’s ideas, as though it were something that man could really arrange and organise, just as they arranged that cart. They put it together, they brought its parts into an organised whole, and that is how we have been mistaken, and that is the danger which is always near a true work of God. It is just arranging it, that is all, just planning it, just organising it, just providing something out of our own minds, our own thinking, our own counselling, our own judgement for the carrying of this thing of God, this testimony of the Lord, something ordered and put together by man.