As you probably know, the nation of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years. But just forty days out of bondage, they came to a place called Mt. Sinai. The Ark of the Covenant was built during their time at Mt. Sinai, in accordance with God’s directions, by a guy named Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur. He also constructed the Tabernacle, which was a portable Temple they used to house the Ark while they traveled in the desert.
The Ark was a chest, as described in Exodus 25, approximately 4 feet long, a little over 2 feet wide and a little over 2 feet high. It was constructed of acacia wood and overlaid inside and out with pure gold. There were golden rings cast into the corners which receive the golden overlaid poles used to carry it. There were two cherubim with stretched out wings facing each other, hammered from pure gold, which was then made a part of the solid gold lid, which was the same size as the chest. This was placed on top of the chest…and God called it the “mercy seat”. This is the Ark of the Covenant…to be situated in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple.
Exodus 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
When the Tabernacle was built, only the high priest could go into the Ark’s presence once a year, to sprinkle the blood of the offering onto the mercy seat, to atone for the sins of the people. But while they wandered in the desert, where ever they went, the Ark and the Tabernacle went with them. The Ark was carried by the Levite priests about 800 yards, 8 football field lengths, in front of them, and was always concealed with skins and blue cloth;
Not even the Levites who carried it could look upon it. Later, when the temple was built by Solomon, the Ark was placed behind a vail of thick linen; some say it was three feet thick; Jewish tradition would put it at the “thickness of a man’s hand”. But there is no mention of the thickness in the description, only the glorious beauty of the veil, in 2 Chronicles 3:14.
And he made the veil of blue, purple, crimson, and fine linen, and wove cherubim into it.
No matter though, just try to tear a simple linen napkin…impossible unless you are some kind of abnormal strongman. (It was said to be 60 feet long and 30 feet high in the temple, replaced every year, and it took 300 priests just to clean it.) Needless to say, this linen veil was put there for a purpose…God’s glory was not something to be toyed with. Yet, Jesus rent (tore) the veil from top to bottom, giving us free and unrestricted access to the ark and to God.
Another story for another time is how, despite Jesus’s death, His tearing the veil in two, the Jews of the time repaired it, and most likely replaced it, until the time the Temple was destroyed some 70 years later…see the analogy here? Despite all they had seen Jesus do, they were vehemently hanging onto the law…
But the subject here is the Ark…the wonderful Ark of the Covenant. This golden overlaid chest, with a solid gold lid and two solid gold cherubim:
Exodus 25:17 You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold:
God calls this lid “a mercy seat”…a shadow of Christ.
Vs 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat…
So many lessons here; when He spoke to Moses from there…above the mercy seat…between the two guarding cherubim…their outstretched wings…but another time.
Understand, the real purpose of the ark…it was to be an everlasting symbol of God’s mercy…the “mercy seat”, which covers the chest and its contents:
Hebrews 9:1-6 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot speak in detail.
Side Note: The golden censer was used to burn incense and was very significant. The censers of the priests who revolted against Moses in Numbers 16, 250 of them, were hammered out as a covering for the alter; after they died, as a reminder that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the Lord. You also will find in this chapter where the burning of incense stopped the plague! Who knew, eh? And one other thing…not to get sidetracked…but when the people would bring their offering to the priest at the alter…their sin offerings, etc., the priest did not examine the offeror! He examined the offering! Just sayin…
So…inside the Ark is the golden pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets which God himself wrote the 10 Commandments…all placed in the ark, under the “mercy seat”.
THE GOLDEN POT OF MANNA…(God provided for them for forty years):
Numbers 11:7-9 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared in oil. And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it.
But the people were not satisfied and complained…
Vs 6 …but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!
AARON’S ROD THAT BUDDED…
One of the priests named Korah, challenged the authority God; the authority given to Moses and Aaron. Korah told Moses there were plenty in the congregation as holy as either of them and ask Moses, in Numbers 16, “Why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” This question resulted in instructions from God to settle the matter once and for all; He told them to get the rod from each of the leaders of every tribe, and write their names on them; twelve rods all together. Then, put Aaron’s rod, with his name on it, with all the other rods and put them in the tabernacle; and then tell the congregation- God will settle this; the owner of the rod which blooms will be the true leader; the leader chosen and granted authority of the LORD.
Lo and behold, when Moses checked on the rods the next morning guess what?
Numbers 17:8 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. (Leaves, flowers and almonds…a picture of Christ’s resurrection.)
THE STONE TABLETS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS:
They had barely received the commandments when God told Moses what to do with them:
Exodus 40:20 He took the Testimony (the Ten Commandments) and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark.
Ahhh…the best for last; when Moses, then put the “mercy seat” on top of the ark.
You know the word ark, in the Hebrew, was ‘arown. It was first mentioned in Genesis 50:26…?
So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin (‘arown) in Egypt.
The same word is used for the ark…’arown. Coincidence? Don’t think so…these items, the golden pot of manna, the rod and the commandments were put into what God calls a coffin…and buried beneath the mercy seat.
Listen, while no one knows what became of the ark after the destruction of the temple, know it’s not home to some Indiana Jones fantasy of weird creatures waiting to get out and kill people. When and if it is every found, is no matter; the items which were placed in the ark, the manna, rod and commandments are what’s important to us believers…all represent man’s failures and man’s rejection of God; placed into the ‘arown by God for mans benefit.
These were symbols of man’s rebellion; the rod of Aaron represents man’s rejection of Gods authority and leadership; the golden pot of manna represents man’s rejection of God’s provision; and the Ten Commandments, the rejection of God’s standard of holiness…all covered with the mercy seat…a shadow of Christ. Praise Him…
Year after year, the mercy seat was sprinkled with the blood of sacrifices; bulls and goats. This yearly offering provided forgiveness of sins for the people and the acceptance of God. As long as the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, the people were accepted and God could not see their rebellion…for a year that is. Funny how God’s x-ray eyes can see through stone, look through steel…and the cut through the body, mind and soul of man, but can’t see through the blood. He is so merciful.
Today, Jesus is our high priest and has sprinkled His own blood on the mercy seat in heaven; the throne of grace. With the one time sprinkling of the blood of Christ, we are once and for all, forever forgiven. When you believe anything less, you reduce yourself and God’s inexpiable mercy back to the blood of bulls and goats…
Hebrews 10:18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
And because of His perfect sacrifice, we who are in Christ have a perfect standing forever before God. That word was FOREVER!
Colossians 2:8-10 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwell all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
You are complete in Him. As you come to God with your requests, don’t worry about falling short…you did fall short. But you are redeemed and forever atoned. And think of this: the only way to get to your sins, shortcomings and failures is to push back the mercy seat and look inside…push it back and you can see the “ministry of death” written on stone…so leave it alone and know God only sees one thing when He looks at you: He sees the blood of Jesus covering every possible way of failure and disobedience.
He sees the blood of our Savior…right there…on the mercy seat.
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"Hope, for the Christian, is not wishful thinking or mere blind optimism. It is a mode of knowing, a mode within which new things are possible, options are not shut down, new creation can happen." (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope)
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