When things fail on earth, nothing fails in heaven!
In Psalm 80 (a psalm of Asaph) the writer opens with this statement: “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned above [or “upon,” per the ESV] the cherubim, shine forth!” (NASB). Depending on when in Israel’s history the writer of this psalm composed his work, it was a poignant song indeed. Recall that in a sense Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, literally sat enthroned above the cherubim as he dwelt with his people. The Ark of the Covenant – the visible symbol of God’s presence with Israel – had as its top a single carved piece of piece of acacia wood, overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:10-22). Per God’s command, the crafters of the Ark carved the top into an ornamental “mercy seat,” with two cherubim on either end. The figures of the cherubim faced inward, toward the mercy seat, with their wings spread to cover the seat itself (imagine the exquisite craftsmanship!). God said this of the mercy seat: “There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel” (Exodus 25:22, NASB). Yahweh was present with his people as he sat symbolically enthroned upon, or above, the cherubim whose wings covered the mercy seat of God himself.
Now, in the sad course of Israel’s history, by circa 586 B.C. (if not before) with Nebuchadnezzar’s burning of Jerusalem and its temple, the Ark of the Covenant ceased to exist on earth. No, it’s not tucked away in some U.S. Government warehouse, despite what Harrison Ford might lead you to believe. Did God, did Yahweh, cease to be the God who sits enthroned above the cherubim in the day of the Ark’s destruction? Such a failure would suggest a failure in God himself. It would suggest that Yahweh is not, and never was, the all-powerful, sovereign God of the universe that the Hebrew Scriptures declare him to be. Of course, the answer to this question is, “No”, praise God!
The failure on earth – because of sin – of Israel and its Ark changed nothing in the heavens. Israel’s descent into defeat and chaos because of rebellion against God only pointed all the more to the reality, power, mercy, grace, and judgment of Yahweh who sits enthroned above the cherubim. We know this because, as Hebrews says, the things of Israel’s earthly worship – tabernacle, temple, Ark, etc. – were only “copies,” only earthly shadows, of a heavenly reality (Hebrews 9:23-24). Thus, the Ark of the Covenant depicted as a tangible symbol what is spiritually true; God sits enthroned above the cherubim. Ezekiel saw and testified to this reality. He described seeing living creatures, cherubim, over whose heads “there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal…And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne…and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance…Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ezekiel 1:22b, 26, 28; ESV). The copy may perish, the earthly shadow may disappear, but the heavenly truth of God and his power stands inviolable. It is not changed – God’s glory is not affected – one iota by “success” or “failure” on earth.
Why is this truth worth a moment to meditate on? Well, isn’t it helpful, isn’t it comforting, isn’t it bracing to know, beyond the reach of doubt, that when things fail on earth (including when we fail), nothing fails in heaven? Isn’t it a rock in times of trouble, a light in dark places, to know that God sits enthroned above the cherubim, come what may? If your citizenship is in heaven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then the world can go to “hell in a handbasket,” but you need not be shaken. You can live with grace, mercy, confidence, hope, joy, and love, secure in the knowledge that he who sits above the cherubim, he who occupies the mercy seat, has, and will, shine forth!
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” – Psalm 46:1-3 (ESV)