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The Ark of the Covenant
ŇAnd they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it. And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.Ó (Exodus 25:10-22)
After commanding Moses to take offerings from his people, the Lord God told his servant to use those gifts of the people to make a sanctuary for him, that he might dwell among his chosen people. Then he proceeded to tell him exactly how he was to make the Tabernacle and everything to be put in it. In verses 10-22, God told Moses to make an ark of shittim wood, overlay it with gold, and place a mercy seat of pure gold upon it.
What heart can conceive or tongue describe the blessedness of this word from our God? What a wonderful, heavenly revelation this is! At all times, under all circumstances, and in all places the God of all grace has provided and established a mercy seat, a throne of grace; and he bids sinners meet him there! There is a place where God and sinners can meet, a place where God can meet me and I can meet God, freely and without hindrance of any kind!
No place is at a distance so far from the mercy seat that we cannot meet God there immediately. No circumstance is so dark that the penetrating eye of God who sits upon this throne of grace cannot see through it. No covering is so thick that it can obscure me from his sight. No circumstance is so gloomy and dark, so heavy and black that my God cannot behold me. — ŇCan any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORDÓ (Jeremiah 23:24). — ŇIf I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to theeÓ (Psalm 139:11-12).
By night upon our bed, by day in our various occupations, in the crowded streets, or alone in the open field, surrounded by the ungodly, or in the company of GodŐs saints, we may, if God the Holy Spirit enables us, lift our hearts to heaven and meet our God upon his throne of grace, upon the mercy seat. With a sigh or a groan, with a heartfelt word, a groan of confession, or a deep desire that cannot be put into words, we may instantaneously meet God, the God of all grace, our heavenly Father. He bids us do so (Hebrews 4:16), and promises, — ŇThere will I meet with you!Ó
We meet him with sin. He meets us with forgiveness. We meet him with guilt. He meets us with pardon. We meet him with need. He meets us with grace. We meet him with misery. He meets us with mercy. We meet him with heaviness. He meets us with strength. We meet him with darkness. He meets us with light. We meet him with confusion. He meets us with direction. We meet him with sorrow. He meets us with solace.
How? How can this be? How can God and sinners meet together? If God the Holy Spirit will graciously teach us the meaning of this ark and its mercy seat, if he will show us the typical significance of this piece of furniture that was made to be put in the Tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies, this center piece of Old Testament ceremonial worship, we will see clearly how it is that God and sinners can and do meet together on the mercy seat.
In the ninth chapter the Book of Hebrews, God the Holy Spirit uses the Tabernacle and the furniture in it as typical things to show us the excellence, pre-eminence, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ as our divine Redeemer and Savior.
ŇThen verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and AaronŐs rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.Ó (Hebrews 9:1-5)
These are the things we read about in Exodus 25: the golden pot that had manna, AaronŐs rod that budded, the tables of the covenant, the cherubims of glory, and the mercyseat. In its day, under the ceremonial, typical religious service of the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was one of those Ňordinances of divine serviceÓ which beautifully typified and pictured the Lord Jesus Christ and our redemption by him. John saw this clearly. — ŇThe temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testamentÓ (Revelation 11:19).
Every time we read in the Book of God about these Old Testament pictures of our Redeemer, let us beg of God the Holy Ghost for grace to cause our hearts to seek him of whom the ark speaks, the Lord Jesus Christ, by showing you what can be found in him.
All the Ňordinances of divine service,Ó all the rites and ceremonies, and the Ňworldly sanctuaryÓ itself, the Tabernacle, were types of Christ. You will never understand the Old Testament Scriptures until you see that everything in the Old Testament Scriptures represents, points to, and pictures Christ, our Substitute (Luke. 24:27; 44-45).
In this portion of Holy Scripture (Exodus 25:10-22) God the Holy Ghost takes us into Ňthe Holiest of allÓ, by the Ňgolden censerÓ of our SaviorŐs merits, asking God to show us Christ our Ark, and let us see what can be found in the Ark.
Here we see our Lord Jesus Christ beautifully typified in the ark of the covenant. It was made of shittim (cedar like) wood, overlaid on the inside and the outside with pure gold, representing both the incorruptible humanity and glorious deity of our Savior. The ark was the symbol of GodŐs holiness, power, and glory. It was carried about from place to place upon the shoulders of the priests by staves, fitted into rings attached to the ark. Even so, Christ is carried throughout the world upon the shoulders of chosen men by the preaching of the gospel.
There are many good studies of the tabernacle and its furnishings, showing the correspondences that may be drawn from the materials by which those things were made and our Lord Jesus. But I want us to look beyond those factual comparisons, good as they are, to the message those things are intended to declare. With that in mind, letŐs do by faith what no mortal was ever allowed to do with physical eye. LetŐs look inside the ark. What can be found in the Ark Christ Jesus?
If you could go behind the veil with the high priest on the Day of Atonement, into the Holy of Holies, the very first thing that would strike your eye would be Ňthe cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat.Ó Those cherubs represent GodŐs preachers (Exodus 25:18-20; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 6:1-7).
ŇAnd thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.Ó (Exodus25:18-20)
We know that these cherubs represent gospel preachers, because they are the same as those living creatures before GodŐs throne which John saw, when he was called up to heaven to behold the throne of God (Revelation 4:6-11). It is not possible for a sinner to find, know, or come to God apart from the instrumentality of a gospel preacher (Romans 10:14-17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 1 Corinthians 1:23; Hebrews 4:12).
GodŐs preachers are not priests. We detest idolatrous priestcraft, be it Roman, Anglican, Mormon, or Baptist. But GodŐs preachers are his angels, his messengers of mercy and grace to his people in this world, the angels of the churches they serve (Revelation 3-4). And they ought to be treated as such (Isaiah 52:7). Their eyes are always toward Christ the Mercyseat. They all see eye to eye (Isaiah 52:8). Their message is the message of sins forgiven by blood atonement, Jesus Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14). And the glory of God is revealed by the message they proclaim!
But upon entering the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, you would not look long at the cherubim. Their eyes, their faces, their wings direct your attention away from themselves to the mercyseat. That mercyseat represents Christ, GodŐs propitiation (Exodus 25:17, 21-22; 1 John 4:9-10; Romans 3:24-26).
ŇAnd thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.Ó (Exodus 25:17
ŇAnd thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.Ó (Exodus 25:21-22)
ŇIn this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.Ó (1 John 4:9-10)
ŇBeing justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.Ó (Romans 3:24-26)
The mercyseat was the place where the blood of the paschal lamb was sprinkled, the place of propitiation, the place of reconciliation. That is Christ! He alone is the Propitiation, the satisfaction of justice for his people. Christ our Passover being sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7) is not propitiation, reconciliation, atonement, and satisfaction merely provided and offered. Christ our Passover being sacrificed for us is propitiation, reconciliation, atonement, and satisfaction accomplished and accepted! Christ our Mercyseat is the place of substitution, sacrifice, and satisfaction. The Son of God, by his blood, has obtained eternal redemption for every sinner for whom he died upon the cursed tree (Hebrews 9:12; Galatians 3:13). His propitiation for sin is effectual redemption accomplished. This is what we commonly call ŇLimited AtonementÓ because it is atonement made for GodŐs elect, atonement by which chosen sinners are effectually redeemed.
Standing in the Holiest of All with Christ, our Aaron, our great High Priest, suddenly, we realize that we are standing before the mercyseat, the symbol of GodŐs presence. With blood upon the mercyseat, covering the broken tables of the law (Exodus 25:16), there we see the glory of God in the pardon of sin by the sacrifice of Christ. That is the revelation of the glory of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ (Leviticus 9:23-24; Psalm 85:9-11; Isaiah 6:1-6).
ŇAnd Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.Ó (Leviticus 9:23-24)
ŇSurely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.Ó (Psalms 85:9-11)
ŇIn the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar.Ó (Isaiah 6:1-6)
God not only meets us upon the Mercyseat, Christ Jesus. Here, and here alone God meets with and abides with us. No matter where you are, if you are in Christ, the name of the place is Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is There. Your life is hid with Christ in God! (Isaiah 43:1-5).
Now, letŐs do by faith what no mortal man could ever do, letŐs lift up the mercyseat and look inside the ark. Remember now, I am talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. What do you see? I see the two tables of the law of God, which we have broken. The broken law, all our sin, is under the mercyseat, under the blood. This broken law, under the blood, represents GodŐs purpose.
The Law was written upon tables of stone, representing both the hardness of our hearts and the inflexibility of GodŐs law. The law represents our curse and condemnation by reason of sin. This law was always kept in the ark, under the mercyseat (Exodus. 25:16, 21), representing perfect redemption by Christ.
ŇAnd thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.Ó (v. 16)
ŇAnd thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.Ó (v. 21)
And that perfect redemption of his elect is the purpose of God (Romans 8:28-31). The law of God, being perfectly satisfied by Christ, cries for and demands the everlasting salvation of GodŐs elect just as fully, just as strongly, just as effectually as the grace of God. In Christ, being justly redeemed by his blood, GodŐs elect, every sinner who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ is free from the law (Romans 6:14-15; 7:4; 10:4; Galatians 3:13).
Look again, there is something else inside the ark. There is AaronŐs rod that budded. That rod represents GodŐs power. AaronŐs rod that budded is the gospel of Christ, the Man whom God has chosen.
ŇAnd the LORD said unto Moses, Bring AaronŐs rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.Ó (Numbers 17:10)
Christ our Rock was smitten by MosesŐ rod, the law. The Water of Life flows out to sinners by AaronŐs rod, the gospel. And the gospel of Christ is the power of God, before which Dagon must fall (Romans 1:16-17).
I see one more thing inside the ark, the golden pot which had manna. That golden pot of manna is a picture of Christ, GodŐs provision for his elect in, by, and with Christ.
ŇAnd Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.Ó (Exodus 16:33-34)
It was a golden pot. It was a big pot, holding an omer of manna. And it had manna, the bread of heaven for GodŐs children throughout their appointed wilderness journey. What a sweet and blessed picture that is of our Savior! All GodŐs provision for sinners is in Christ Jesus. His name is Jehovah-jireh – The Lord will provide (Ephesians 1:3-6). All GodŐs provisions of grace are in Christ. All GodŐs provisions of providence come through Christ and direct us to Christ. And all the provisions of heaven are ours in Christ. Come , needy soul, to the Ark Christ Jesus! The way is open. All who come to God by Christ are forever saved! All you need, all God requires, all that heaven can bestow is in the Ark Christ Jesus.
"Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah." (Psalms 61:1-4)