The Ark of the Covenant (Part 4)
The Ark of the Covenant (Part 4)
The Ark of the Covenant
I. Ark: “A chest, box, coffer, close basket, or similar receptacle; esp. a. in north. dial. a large
wooden bin or hutch for storing meal, bread, fruit, etc. 2. spec. in Jew. Hist. The wooden coffer
containing the tables of the law, kept in the Holiest Place of the Tabernacle. Also called Ark of the
Covenant, Ark of Testimony.
II. Principal passages that treat of the ark of the covenant are EXO 25:10-22; 37:1-9; DEU 10:1-5;
III. The ark of the covenant was central to Jewish worship and service under the Old Testament.
A. As noted in the definition, it was also called the Ark of Testimony or Ark of the Testimony.
NUM 4:5; EXO 25:22.
B. Sometimes it was simply called “the testimony” since it housed the stone tables of the
testimony. EXO 30:36.
C. Sometimes it was called the “ark of his strength.” PSA 132:8.
D. It was the dwelling place of God. NUM 7:89 c/w 1SAM 4:4.
E. It was the place of communion with God. EXO 25:22.
F. Its absence or loss was equated with the departure of glory. 1SAM 4:22 c/w PSA 78:61.
IV. The ark spoke of Christ in many ways, by its individual components, its composite whole, its
offices and its exalted status.
A. The ark was part of the elements of tabernacle service which were “...the patterns of things
in the heavens...” (HEB 9:23), which signified their own shortcomings, termination and
perfection in Christ. HEB 9:1-12.
B. Christ is the true Ark that contains the word, bread and rod of the High Priest.
C. Christ is the glory of the church (LUK 2:32 c/w EPH 3:21). If He departs, the church
becomes nothing but a group or club.
V. Consider some construction details of the ark. EXO 25:10-22; 37:1-9.
A. It was of a two-part construction: a coffer (box, chest) in which the tables of the covenant
were placed, and a lid or covering which was the ornate mercy-seat.
1. The coffer was made of shittim wood overlaid with gold. It was of a dual nature.
2. The mercy seat was of pure gold.
3. This should remind us that:
a. Christ, Who bore the law for us, was truly God and man. 1TI 3:16.
b. as gold overlaid the shittim wood and as the pure gold mercy seat was over
the shittim-gold coffer, so the humanity of Christ was subordinate to His
deity while on earth (JOH 6:38; HEB 10:7) and will ultimately be subject
to God in eternity. 1CO 15:27-28.
B. The Holy Spirit was careful to provide the explicit dimensions of the ark (EXO 25:10).
The Spirit has also provided us with what is necessary to know the dimensions of Christ.
C. The mercy seat was made to the exact dimensions of the coffer which housed the Law that
condemned man. EXO 37:1, 6 c/w GAL 3:10; 2CO 3:7-9.
1. The word translated mercyseat in HEB 9:5 (hilasterion, SRN # 2435) is rendered
“propitiation” in ROM 3:25.
2. This should remind us that:
a. Christ's atonement and righteousness is perfectly fitted to the church which
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He came to save, no more and no less. EPH 5:25; JOH 6:39; 17:2.
b. Christ “... is the fulfilling end of the law, and exactly answers to all its
requirements; his nature, to the holiness and spirituality of it; his
righteousness, to all the obedience it commands; and his sufferings and
death, to the penalty it enjoins...” (John Gill, on HEB 9:5).
c. as the mercy seat was between God (Who dwelt between the cherubims
above the mercy seat) and the Law in the coffer, so Christ as our
propitiation stands between God and the law which condemns us.
D. There were four gold rings (one per corner) cast for the ark to accommodate its being borne
from place to place. EXO 37:3.
1. None but the Levites were to bear the ark, specifically the sons of Kohath.
2. The Levites were the appointed ministers of the Law to Israel. DEU 33:8-10.
3. By carrying the ark which housed the Law and also being responsible to teach the
Law, these men truly had “the burden of the word of the LORD.”
4. This model should remind us that:
a. God's ministers bear witness of Christ by bearing His name before men.
1JO 1:2 c/w ACT 9:15.
b. God accommodates the burden of Christ and His word by His ministers.
2CO 2:14-16; 3:5-6; 2TI 1:14.
c. Christ (as represented by His church and His word) is fitted for removal
from one place to another: the gospel goes forth to diverse places as the
Lord sees fit (ACT 1:8) and His church goes accordingly.
(1) Translate: “To bear, convey, or remove from one person, place or
condition to another; to transfer, transport...”
(2) Translate: “To turn from one language into another; ‘to change into
another language retaining the sense’....”
(3) God well accommodated the spread of Christ to diverse places
indeed. ACT 2:5-11.
d. The first and most basic elements of Christ with which men come into
contact in the New Testament are the four gospels which set forth the life,
death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
E. There were shittim-wood staves overlaid with gold that were to be put into the rings to bear
the ark from place to place. EXO 37:4-5.
1. The Levites were not to touch the ark lest they die. NUM 4:15 c/w 2SAM 6:6-7.
2. The ark was to be borne upon their shoulders. NUM 7:9.
3. The foregoing should remind us that:
a. Whereas God's ministers should carry His word as commanded, they should,
as it were, keep their hands off of it! 2CO 2:17; REV 22:18-19.
b. God's ministers should hold the word up highly. ACT 20:32; 2TI 3:15-4:2.
c. God's ministers should hold Christ and His word higher than themselves.
1PE 5:1-3; GAL 1:8; 2CO 4:5; ROM 14:10.
d. Multiple ministers have been appointed to bear the same news.
EPH 4:11-12; 1CO 3:4-6.
e. Christ's burden is bearable. MAT 11:29-30; 1JO 5:3.
4. The staves were to remain in place in the rings of the ark (EXO 25:15). This
should remind us that:
a. we should ever be ready to lift up Christ to men. 1PE 3:15.
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b. the means of Christ's conveyance should endure.
MAT 23:34; 2TI 2:2; MAT 28:19-20.
5. The design of the ark and its transportation were specific and exclusive. Deviations
from its prescribed handling merited severe censure.
a. David once tried to transport the ark on an ox-cart. 1CH 13:6-7.
(1) David had good intentions. 1CH 13:1-3.
(2) He had popular support. 1CH 13:4-6.
(3) He “honored” the ark by using a new cart. 1CH 13:7.
(4) The service was attended with praise music, instruments and great
pomp and ceremony. 1CH 13:8.
(5) An unauthorized church member ambitiously thought to help out.
(6) God was not impressed. 1CH 13:10.
(7) David realized that the error was not following the due order of God
for transporting the ark. 1CH 15:1-2, 12-15.
b. David's method of conveying the ark was after the manner of the Philistines
who mingled the things of God with heathen ways and superstition.
c. The foregoing should remind us that:
(1) Christ's ordinances are to be kept as delivered.
MAT 28:19-20 c/w 1CO 11:1-2.
(2) the traditions of men make the word of God of no effect, render
worship vain, and are so much will-worship to be rejected.
MAR 7:7-13; COL 2:20-23.
(3) God has appointed and authorized gospel ministers in the church to
convey Him, perform His ordinances, and who represent His rule to
men. Deacons, etc., have no such authority.
EPH 4:11-12; HEB 13:7, 17.
(4) no amount of good intentions, popular support, traditions of men,
praise music or ceremony justifies or offsets the breach of God's
order. Disobedience is not sanitized by these things.
1SAM 15:22 c/w JER 7:21-28.
(5) God rejects the mingling of His service with heathen ideas and
superstitions. DEU 12:30-32; JER 10:1-4; MAT 6:7; EXO 32:4-5
c/w 1CO 10:5-7; 2CO 6:14-18.
d. The account of the ark being lost to the Philistines is instructive.
(1) The ark was a token of God's presence but to which Israel ascribed
saving power. 1SAM 4:3.
AA. When divine tokens are ascribed divine power, they become
as idols and are properly taken away, as Moses' brasen
serpent. NUM 21:8 c/w 2KI 18:4.
BB. Catholicism has, like Israel, ascribed divine saving power to
tokens of Christ like communion and baptism, turning them
into sacraments that are supposed to confer saving grace to
sinners when they are only meant to portray the saving power
of Christ's death, burial and resurrection.
1CO 11:26; 1PE 3:21.
CC. Much of the rest of professing Christendom has
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“sacramentalized” another token of God's saving power: the
sinner's faith, ascribing to it the power of eternal life when it
is rather the evidence of eternal life. JOH 5:24; 1JO 5:1.
(2) The ark of God in justice was given into the hands of the Philistines
but it was no benefit to them. 1SAM 5:1-12.
AA. Christ and His gospel are similarly suited for His people only.
MAT 1:21; 1CO 1:18; 2:14; 2CO 4:3-4.
BB. Remembering that the ark housed the law of God, we should
be reminded that Christ's holy word and its ministers are
savours of life and death. 2CO 2:15-16.
CC. The ark was to the Philistines a pain in their hinder parts so
they wanted it gone (1SAM 6:1-5). Christ is to this day a
figuratively similar pain to the wicked who thus would rather
expel him from their midst than be reconciled to Him.
DD. This account again shows that HEATHEN WAYS + GOD'S
RELIGION = JUDGMENT.
F. The coffer part of the ark was to have a crown of gold. EXO 25:11.
1. The word in this chapter translated “ark” (aron, SRN #H727) is translated “coffin”
in GEN 50:26.
2. The ark which contained the law of righteousness which condemned us speaks of
death, like a coffin.
3. The altar of incense and the table of shewbread had similar crowns.
EXO 37:10-12, 25-26.
4. Considering these things which were part of the rituals of sacrifice and atonement
all pictured Christ's perfect offering to purify the heavenly things (HEB 9:23-24),
we may be reminded that:
a. Christ has many crowns (REV 19:12-13), for He is:
(1) the incense. EPH 5:2.
(2) the bread. JOH 6:51.
(3) the ark Who bore the law, fulfilled it and put it to death.
MAT 5:17; ROM 10:4; 7:4-6; EPH 2:15.
b. the things of sacrifice and death were not antithetical to His crown.
LUK 24:25-26 c/w HEB 2:9.
G. Over the mercy seat were two cherubims of glory. HEB 9:5.
1. These were fashioned as one with the mercy seat. EXO 25:18-19.
2. They covered the mercy seat with their wings while peering at it. EXO 25:20.
3. These cherubims would have been sprinkled with the blood of atonement.
4. These cherubims correspond with the cherubims which Ezekiel saw as living
creatures in the presence of God's glory. EZE 1:5-25 c/w EZE 10:1-22.
a. Those cherubims in God's presence correspond with the four beasts that
John saw in glory. REV 4:6-7.
b. These are a high angelic order around God's throne which lead the heavenly
family in the worship of God and Christ. REV 4:8-11; 5:6-14.
c. There apparently once were five such cherubims. EZE 28:12-19.
5. There were cherubims set at the east of Eden to bar man from life. GEN 3:22-24.
6. From all of this we may be reminded that:
a. as the cherubims were fixed over top of the mercy seat, so Christ “...was
made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death...” (HEB 2:9)
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and identified with man's nature, not angels'. HEB 2:16.
b. as the cherubims obscured the view of the mercy seat, so the Law which
came by the disposition of angels (ACT 7:53; GAL 3:19; HEB 2:2) kept us
“...shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (GAL 3:23),
the clearer revelation of Christ being reserved for the times of the New
Testament. EPH 3:1-7 c/w 2PE 1:19.
c. as the cherubims at Eden kept man from the tree of life and as the cherubims
on the ark stood between the worshipper and the mercy seat, and as God
there dwelt between the cherubims (1SAM 4:4), all of this implied that
access to God's throne, presence and mercy was restricted.
(1) This was in keeping with the general theme of the entire tabernacle
service which signified that “...the way into the holiest of all was not
yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing”
(2) But we have now through Christ an unhindered access to God's
throne, presence and mercy. HEB 10:19-22; 4:16.
d. as the cherubims were gazing upon the ark, they were beholding mercy
covering judgment, the very substance of the gospel. HEB 8:12.
e. as the cherubims peered down upon the mercy seat, they were thus
witnesses to God's mercy towards sinful men.
(1) Christ's ministers preach Him “...with the power of the Holy Ghost
sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into”
(2) Note that the church's gospel work in this world is actually a ministry
to angels! EPH 3:10 c/w 2CO 2:14.
f. as the focus of the cherubims was on the mercy seat, so the heavenly
cherubims direct the heavenly family to the worship of the Lamb.
g. as the focus of the cherubims was on the mercy seat, not on each other, so
“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and
worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen,
vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head...”
h. as the blood of atonement was sprinkled upon the mercy seat (and so also on
the cherubims over it), so the blood of Christ has reconciled both earthly and
heavenly things unto Himself. COL 1:16-20.
(1) The holy angels are part of the heavenly family and are our brethren.
REV 19:10; 22:8-9.
(2) The church's approach to God in service is with “...an innumerable
company of angels,” (HEB 12:22-24).
VI. Consider the contents of the ark. HEB 9:4.
A. There was a golden pot that had manna in it. c/w EXO 16:32-36.
1. The manna was a miraculous provision from God for their life. EXO 16:15.
2. The word “manna” means “what is this?”
3. It was angels' food. PSA 78:24-25.
4. It normally putrefied when stored but did not so on the sabbath. EXO 16:19-26.
5. The manna represented the faith of God to provide for needs.
6. The manna ceased upon Israel's entrance into the promised land. EXO 16:35.
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7. The manna in the pot was a witness that was hidden.
8. From all this we may be reminded that:
a. Christ is our miracle manna from God for eternal life. JOH 6:48-51.
b. Christ was/is a strange “what is this?” to men. MAT 8:27; MAR 1:27; 6:2;
LUK 4:36; JOH 16:17-18; ACT 17:18-19.
c. Christ is the life and sustenance of angels. REV 5:11-14.
d. our works putrefy outside of Christ our Sabbath.
ISA 64:6 c/w ROM 4:5; GAL 5:4; HEB 4:10.
e. Christ is able to provide for every need. JOH 1:16; PHIL 4:19.
f. Christ is as hidden manna for overcomers. REV 2:17.
(1) We overcome now by faith. 1JO 5:4 c/w 1PE 1:8-9; ROM 5:1-5.
(2) Our faith in the unseen Witness shall cease upon entrance into the
heavenly Canaan. HEB 11:1 c/w 1JO 3:2 c/w 1CO 13:12-13.
B. There was Aaron's rod that budded in it. c/w NUM 17:1-13.
1. Aaron's budded rod demonstrated life in spite of being cut off to die.
2. It confirmed God's chosen high priest and so spoke of particular choice.
3. It was a token against rebels who rejected God's ordained minister and rule.
4. From these things we may be reminded that:
a. the Levitical priesthood would endure only until Christ.
(1) There was a succession of buds, blossoms and almonds on the rod.
(2) The flourishing of the almond tree is associated with waxing old and
dying. ECC 12:5.
(3) The Law (which empowered the Levitical priesthood) waxed old and
died with the coming of Christ with a superior priesthood.
GAL 3:19; HEB 8:13; 7:11-17.
b. Christ is our Branch (ZEC 6:12) and the rod of God's strength (PSA 110:2)
Who was “...cut off out of the land of the living” (ISA 53:8) Who was
“...approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs...”
c. Christ was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection. ROM 1:4.
d. Christ's resurrection confirms Him as High Priest. HEB 7:15-24.
e. Christ's resurrection confirms Him as King and Ruler.
PSA 2:1-7 c/w ACT 2:29-32; 13:32-34; REV 2:26-27.
f. Christ's resurrection is not just A sign to rebels; it is THE sign that should
“...take away their murmurings from me, that they die not” (NUM 17:10).
MAT 12:39-40; ACT 2:36-40; 3:23-26.
g. Christ's resurrection was a fruit-bearing one. JOH 12:23-24; 1CO 15:20.
h. God will make known whom He has approved in the church.
1CO 11:19; 2CO 10:18.
C. There were the tables of the covenant in it. c/w DEU 10:4-5.
1. The Law was Israel's wisdom. DEU 4:6.
2. The Law spoke of human inadequacy, cursing and death. GAL 3:10-12.
3. The Law was under the mercy seat.
4. God dwelt where His rule was.
5. From these we may be reminded that:
a. in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. COL 2:3.
b. Christ is our mercy seat, our propitiation Who stands between God and His
Law which condemns us. ROM 3:25; 1JO 2:1-2; ROM 10:4.
c. the Old Covenant of “do and live” had shortcomings but the New Covenant
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of “Christ did, you live” or “live and do” is of a different nature.
d. Christ still dwells where His rule is.
HEB 8:10-11; JOH 14:23; EPH 3:16-17.
D. Consider that each of the articles in the ark of the covenant spoke against God's people.
1. The Law's perfection condemned us in general. ROM 7:10-14.
2. The golden pot of manna was a witness of God's provision over against their
murmurings to the contrary. EXO 16:12.
3. Aaron's budded rod was a witness against murmuring rebels who contested God's
ordained ministry and rule over them. NUM 16:11.
4. The mercy seat covered all.
5. Christ covers all of our inadequacy, murmuring, doubt and rebellion.
HEB 8:12; COL 2:13.
VII. Consider some other facts and offices of the ark.
A. The ark was anointed with holy oil to fit it for service. EXO 30:25-26.
1. So Christ was anointed with the Spirit to preach the gospel .
LUK 3:21-22; 4:1, 18-19; ACT 10:38.
2. Unlike the ark to which the anointing oil was measured (EXO 30:23-24), God gave
“...not the Spirit by measure unto him” (JOH 3:34), a fitting contrast since the ark's
ministry was temporary but Christ's is eternal.
3. A curse attended any who concocted a rival oil. EXO 30:32-33.
a. A curse later attended those who rivaled and opposed the Spirit that
empowered Christ. MAT 12:24-32.
b. A curse attends rival gospels born of a rival spirit.
1JO 4:1 c/w GAL 1:8-9.
B. The ark was to go before the people. NUM 4:5, 15; JOS 3:3.
1. At one point, the ark “...went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a
resting place for them” (NUM 10:33).
2. The ark preceded Israel in a deadly “baptism” to give them access to the promised
land. JOS 3:14-17.
3. From these facts we may be reminded that:
a. our duty and victory is only in following Christ. MAT 28:19-20.
b. Christ's sufferings and death were a baptism by which He opened up a way
for us into the heavenly promised land. LUK 12:50.
(1) He has thus opened up direct access to God. HEB 10:19-20.
(2) He has thus abolished death by His death to enter heaven as our
forerunner. HEB 9:15; 6:19-20.
(3) He is the firstfruits of the resurrection. 1CO 15:20-23.
c. Christ went on “...three days journey, to search out a resting place...”
d. Christ like the ark rose up to scatter His enemies and found rest, leaving an
expectation of return. NUM 10:34-36 c/w JOH 14:3.
(1) PSA 132:8-9 “Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy
strength. Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy
saints shout for joy”
(2) REV 22:20 “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come
quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”