The Ark

H Rhodes, Leeds

Part 8 of 8 of the series Outline Studies of the Tabernacle

8. THE ARK

Inside the holiest of all was the ark, variously called: The ark of the covenant, Num. 10. 33.

  • The ark of the testimony, Exod. 25. 22.
  • The ark of God, 1 Sam. 3. 3.
  • The ark of the Lord, Josh. 4. 11.
  • The ark of His strength, Ps. 132. 8; cf. Ps. 78. 61.
  • The holy ark, 2 Chron. 35. 3.

The ark was made of wood and overlaid with pure gold within and without; it was 3¾ ft. long, 2¼ ft. wide and 2¼ ft. high, with a crown of gold forming a border. It had for a lid a very costly slab of pure gold, and made out of the one piece was a cherub on either end whose wings stretched upward and inwards, their faces looking downward. This lid was called “the propitiatory” or “mercy seat”. Inside the ark were placed the two tables of stone, namely “the ten commandments” written with the finger of God, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded; see Exod. 25. 21; 40. 20; 16. 34; Num. 17. 10; Heb. 9. 4. Later, there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, 1 Kings 8. 9; the pot and rod had no doubt been stolen when the Philistines had captured the ark, 1 Sam. 4. 11.

Points to Note.

  1. Of all the holy vessels, this was the most sacred. Occupying the holy of holies, in sacred seclusion, and leading the way when Israel was on the march, Num. 10. 33, it was the throne of Jehovah amongst His people and the place from which He communicated with Moses, Exod. 25. 22; Num. 7. 89. It was the only vessel transferred to the temple in the days of Solomon, when the staves were removed, 1 Kings 8. 6-8.
  2. The immediate reason for the construction of the ark was to provide a suitable place in which to deposit the tables of the covenant. The presence of God with His people in righteousness could only be secured by the preservation of His holy law. The worship of the golden calf and the breaking of the tables in Exodus 32 demonstrate the failure of Israel and their moral unfitness.
  3. A careful reading of Exodus 32 and 33 with Deuteronomy 10. 1-5 will show that after Moses had pleaded vigorously for the presence of God with Israel, he was told to take another two tables of stone, on which God again wrote with His finger. This time they had to be placed in the ark upon Moses’ descent from the mount, Deut. 10. 5, although this ark must have been provisional prior to the manufacture of the true ark. After the later transfer to this true ark, Exod. 40. 20, the blood-sprinkled mercy seat came between the eye of God and His law. The incident in 1 Samuel 6. 19, where “the men of Beth-Shemesh . . . had looked into the ark of the Lord”, is full of teaching. In order to look in they must have removed the mercy seat, thus exposing the law. This rash act cost the lives of 50,070 men. Thank God that we are not exposed to the demands of such a law for our salvation.
  4. The Lord Jesus is now our ark, in whose heart was written God’s law, Ps. 40. 6-8. He magnified the law in His life and made it honourable, Isa. 42. 21. He demonstrated perfect love to God and man. Whereas all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God, the Lord Jesus fulfilled every demand and obligation.
  5. The teaching of Romans 6 and 7 is that in the death of Christ we too have died: (i) to sin, 6. 2, “How shall we, that are dead to sin (past tense), live any longer therein?”; (ii) to the law, 7. 4, “ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ”. In verse 6 we are stated to be “clear from the law, having died (in Christ) to it”, J.N.D.
  6. The cherubim on either end of the mercy seat would represent “Justice and Judgment”, their faces ever being directed towards the blood-sprinkled mercy seat. Justice and judgment are the habitation of God’s throne, Ps. 89. 14. In the mercy seat and the tables of the covenant, mercy and truth are met together, Ps. 85. 10. All this points to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, where God found a just cause for justifying the sinner who believes in Jesus, Rom. 3. 23-26, and where the sinner finds the grace more abundant to blot out every sin. When a righteous God and a ruined sinner meet on a blood-sprinkled platform, all is settled for ever to the glory of God.

End of the series.