“They shall make an ark of acacia wood….Then you shall make a cover of pure gold….You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the cover….There I will meet with you, and from above the cover, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant, I will deliver to you all my commands for the Israelites.” – Exodus 25:10-22 excerpts
Mystery might be good for mercy, I think.
Take the Ark of the Covenant. They kept it in the innermost part of the Temple, far from public view. Only one guy got to approach it, and him not very often. When he did, he had to do all kinds of preparations, and then make sure the room was shrouded in incense smoke. Mysterious as heck.
In time, the people would come to call the be-cherubbed ark cover “the mercy seat.” It became the place from which not command, but mercy, proceeded. Apparently, the cloud of unknowing, the shroudedness of the place made it easier for the people to imagine God being merciful.
Contrast this with modern life, especially online. Everybody has access, everybody can see everybody. No mystery at all, unless it’s how they decide what ads to show you. No lack of “information,” no lack of loudly-proclaimed opinion. No lack of tweets and thinkpieces to make you an expert. No lack of people telling you that if you don’t take a position you’re bad. What there is a lack of is mercy; since we all know so much, we’re all entitled to mercilessness. Who needs mercy when you have justice, perfectly informed and vehemently expressed?
God, apparently. Because though the mercy seat may have been shrouded in unknowing, God’s perception isn’t. God knows more than the entire Twittersphere and blogosphere put together, and still chooses mercy. And if God, who numbers hairs on heads and searches hearts, can be merciful, maybe you—who after all move through the world as one enshrouded by ignorance and bounded by mortality, no matter how well-informed you are—could admit that most of the world is actually a mystery to you, and try mercy, too.
Grant me mercy, oh God, some for myself and some to spare for others. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.