May 16, 2021 – Exodus 25

Lesson Date: May 16, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Exodus 25:1-22; Leviticus 16:14-15; Hebrews 9:5-12

AIM: To lead students to describe the appearance and significance of the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat, and to thank Jesus Christ for being our great high priest whose blood forever paid the price for our sins.


Before class: Read the notes on Exodus 25 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the word “Mercy” on the marker board or chalkboard. Have enough copies of the “Plan of the Tabernacle” handout for your anticipated attendance.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the students’ attention to the word “Mercy” written on the board. Ask them to tell what that word means. Next, explain that you are going to give them two hypothetical scenarios, after which they are to tell which one describes mercy.

  1. A man is charged with a crime. After months of investigation the time comes for his trial. The prosecution presents its case against the man, after which the defense tries to prove the man’s innocence. At the conclusion of the trial the jury deliberates and finds the man not guilty.
  2. A man confesses his guilt and is convicted of a crime, after which he is sent to prison. Later, the governor intervenes and pardons the man. He is set free from prison.

Ask: “Is scenario number 1 an illustration of mercy?” (no, it is an illustration of justice – the man was properly tried but was acquitted of the crime; legally, he is not guilty). Ask: “Is scenario number 2 an illustration of mercy?” (yes; the man was guilty but he received mercy in the form of the governor’s pardon; a pardon does not render an individual innocent, it merely frees a guilty person from the just penalty of his offense).

Ask: “Have you ever needed mercy?” (yes). Tell the students today’s lesson is about The Mercy Seat in the Old Testament Tabernacle. We will also learn how the Mercy Seat relates to us.



  1. Review.
    • Remind the students that we are studying the Old Testament book of Exodus.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (the Ten Commandments).
  2. The Offering for the Tabernacle.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Exodus 25:1-2.
    • Tell the class that just as modern churches take up offerings from their members to pay for building projects, God told the Israelites to bring offerings to provide the materials necessary to build the Tabernacle.
    • Read Exodus 25:3-9.
    • Tell the students verses 3-7 name the items needed to build the Tabernacle.
    • Explain the following:
      • The Tabernacle was the portable worship facility God told the ancient Israelites to construct.
      • While they did not have blueprints for this structure, God showed Moses the pattern of it (v. 9) while he was with the Lord on Mount Sinai.
      • Exodus 25 – 30 contains descriptions of each part of the Tabernacle, as well as the clothing for the priests.
    • Give everyone a copy of the “Plan of the Tabernacle” handout.
    • Explain the following:
      • The Tabernacle structure (comprising the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, shown near the left end of the drawing) had walls made of wooden boards covered with gold.
      • The boards could be erected and hooked together to form solid walls.
      • The “roof” of the structure consisted of tarps made of cloth and animals skins.
      • The Tabernacle structure sat within a courtyard, which was surrounded by cloth curtains suspended from pillars.
    • Summarize: The Lord (through Moses) told the Israelites to brings offerings of materials needed to construct the Tabernacle.
  3. Description of the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat.
    • Read Exodus 25:10-11.
    • Explain the following:
      • The word ark literally means a box or chest.
      • The wood God told them to use (acacia) was very hard, heavy, and virtually indestructible by insects.
      • A cubit is about 18 inches long, so the ark was to be 3 feet 9 inches long, 2 feet 3 inches wide, and 2 feet 3 inches high.
    • Ask: “What were they to overlay this wooden box with?” (gold).
    • Read Exodus 25:12-15.
    • Tell the class they were to put golden rings on the four corners of the ark, and then make staves of wood covered with gold to go in those rings.
    • Ask: “What was the purpose of the staves?” (to carry the ark).
    • Remind the students that this entire worship facility was portable; the Israelites would spend the next forty years moving from place to place throughout the Sinai Peninsula.
    • Ask the students to look at the front cover of their Sunday School Member Quarterly. The lower right picture is a recreation of the Ark of the Covenant (one inaccuracy in this picture is that the wooden staves are not covered with gold).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Exodus 25:16.
    • Ask: “What were they going to put inside the Ark of the Covenant?” (“the testimony” – the stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments; later God told them to include a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Exodus 25:17.
    • Ask: “What were they to make?” (a Mercy Seat of pure gold).
    • Explain that the Mercy Seat formed the top or lid of the Ark of the Covenant.
    • Read Exodus 25:18-21.
    • Ask: “What was to be on top of the Mercy Seat?” (golden images of winged angels).
    • Note that the angels’ wings were to cover the Mercy Seat, and their faces were to look toward it.
    • Ask everyone to look again at the picture on the front cover of the Sunday School Member Quarterly. The picture depicts the angel figures with their wings stretched over the Mercy Seat.
    • Ask: “In that picture, where is the Mercy Seat?” (it is the lid of the ark, below the angels’ wings).
    • Summarize: The Lord told the Israelites to construct the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant, topped by the Mercy Seat.
  4. The Purpose of the Mercy Seat.
    • Tell the class the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat were undoubtedly beautiful, but they were hidden from view. No one ever went into the Most Holy Place (where the Ark and Mercy Seat were) except the high priest on the Day of Atonement.
    • Point out the Most Holy Place and the veil separating it from the Holy Place on the “Plan of the Tabernacle” handout. All the average Israelite ever saw was the outside of the structure.
    • Ask: “If you bought a beautiful new piece of furniture, would you hide it away in a back room or storage shed?” (no, you’d put it in a prominent place where people could see it).
    • Ask: “Why would God tell them to make such a beautiful and expensive piece of furniture and then tell them to hide it from view? What was the real purpose of the Mercy Seat?”
    • Ask a volunteer to read Exodus 25:22.
    • Ask: “What did God say He would do at the Mercy Seat?” (meet with them and commune with them; see Ps. 99:1).
    • Stress the fact that God promised to meet with them at the Mercy Seat because sinful humans need mercy.
    • Ask the students to turn to Leviticus 16, which describes the things the high priest was to do in the annual Day of Atonement rituals.
    • Read Leviticus 16:14-15.
    • Explain the following:
      • The high priest first brought animal blood into the Most Holy Place to atone for his own sin.
      • He sprinkled that blood seven times upon the Mercy Seat.
      • Next, he went out and killed the goat for the sin offering for the people.
      • He then took that blood behind the veil and sprinkled it upon the Mercy Seat.
    • Through this ritual God mercifully granted atonement to the people.
    • Summarize: The Lord told the Israelites that the Mercy Seat was the place He would meet with them and atone for their sins.
  5. The Significance of the Mercy Seat.
    • Ask: “The Mercy Seat was very important to the ancient Israelites, but what significance does it have for believers today?”
    • Ask everyone to turn to Hebrews 9.
    • Read Hebrews 9:5.
    • Explain that the Greek word translated Mercy Seat in this verse is the same word translated propitiation elsewhere in the New Testament. It means something that brings reconciliation, expiation, and atonement.
    • As a volunteer to read Hebrews 9:6-8.
    • Ask: “How often did the high priest go into the second part of the Tabernacle – the Most Holy Place?” (once a year).
    • Ask: “What did he take with him to atone for his sins and the sins of the people?” (animal blood).
    • Read Hebrews 9:11-12.
    • Ask: “What does verse 11 call Jesus Christ?” (a high priest of good things to come).
    • Ask: “Where does it say He went?” (into a greater and more perfect Tabernacle not made by human hands – the true Tabernacle in heaven).
    • Ask: “Whose blood did He sprinkle upon the Mercy Seat?” (His own).
    • Ask: “Did He have to repeat this every year like the ancient high priests?” (no).
    • Ask: “How many times did He offer His blood?” (once).
    • Ask: “What did Jesus obtain for us through His sacrifice?” (eternal redemption).
    • Summarize: The earthly Mercy Seat was a representation of the true Mercy Seat in heaven, where Jesus sprinkled His blood to purchase our eternal redemption.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: The Bible says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The word translated propitiation in that verse is a form of the same word translated Mercy Seat in Hebrews 9:5. Jesus Christ is our “Mercy Seat” – He provides access to God and His blood paid the price for our sins.

Ask: “Do you need mercy?” Tell the students the Old Testament Jews received God’s mercy when the high priest took the blood of a sacrificial animal and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle to make atonement for their sin. That mercy, however, was short-lived. The blood-sprinkling ritual at the Mercy Seat had to be repeated ever year. In reality, as soon as the Old Testament Jew sinned he needed God’s mercy again.

Stress the fact that Christians have it much better than Old Testament Jews. Jesus Christ came and died for our sins. He did that one time and His sacrifice never needs to be repeated. The Bible tells us He went into the heavenly Tabernacle and sprinkled His blood on the heavenly Mercy Seat, where He obtained eternal redemption for us.

Encourage everyone to thank Jesus for being our great high priest whose blood forever paid the price for our sins. Briefly explain the plan of salvation and urge any who have never accepted Christ’s merciful gift of salvation through His blood to do so now. Lead a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize 1 John 4:10. Encourage them to try to tell someone this week that Jesus Christ is our “Mercy Seat.”


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