And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. (Exodus 25:18-19)
In Hebrew, what we refer to as the mercy seat, is called ha’khaporet. This term comes from the same Hebrew root word from which we get kippur (as in Yom Kippur) which means “to cover” or “to atone.” Of course, this concept was prominently displayed on the Day of Atonement. Rising up from the mercy seat were two golden cherubim who, facing each other, “guard” the Presence and the Testimony.
The first mention of these creatures is in Genesis 3 when, after Adam’s failure to do what God had instructed him, they were posted to guard the way to the Tree of Life. Considering that the Tree of Life was emblematic of the Word of God, it is easy to see why cherubim were placed upon the mercy seat — they were “guarding” the Presence and the Word of God that was represented by the Ark of the Covenant.
Of course, we know that God doesn’t need a bodyguard and, yet, there is something very important being conveyed to us through this idea. Consider that, where the different components that made up the Sanctuary and its furnishings are concerned, the nearer an object was to Most Holy Place, the rarer and costlier the material. On the outside in the court, things were made of earth, woven cloths and brass but as one moved inside, things were made of gold — gold that had been refined with fire.
The word cherub is related to a Hebrew word that means to “draw near.” That they were positioned upon the mercy seat speaks to the notion that the cherubim represent those who are striving to draw near to the Creator in order to have a more intimate relationship with the Almighty. Those who desire to move beyond the courtyard and be “vessels of honor” must go through the refiner’s fire. There is no other way if we are to draw near to the Creator.
Furthermore, as we draw nearer to Him, it becomes necessary for us to recognize the responsibility to guard that which He entrusts to us. So then, just as the cherubim upon the mercy seat, let us continually set our face toward Him and be steadfast to remain by His side as we guard the precious treasures He has shared with us.
Blessings and Shalom,