The focus of the temple was the Ark of the Covenant. The temple was built with this wonderful piece of furniture as its centerpiece. Nothing was so glorious as when the ark was brought into the building. What does this mysterious box represent? Why was it so special?
(Once again the author must state that we are not told specifically in scripture what some of these things mean, however, I hope that you will find the author’s explanation to be consistent with what the Scripture suggests.)
First notice that the ark shows us some important things about Christ.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
The Word of God, unchangeable, and solid as a stone is at the heart of who Jesus is. If you know His Word, you will know who He is.
The Words that were inside the Ark were the words of the law. Christ was the source of God’s law. Christ was the only one who internalized God’s law and made it such a part of Him that He lived it out perfectly.
As the Ark of the Covenant was the most holy object that was in the temple, the Spirit of Christ and His Word is the most holy thing in the temple of our body. When the temple was dedicated, everyone’s focus was on the Ark of the Covenant as it was brought into the building. If we have dedicated our temple to God, the focus of our lives will be on the Word of God and Jesus Christ who has entered our heart. We will be continually bringing the Word into our heart and as a result, our heart will be a glorious place for Him to dwell.
Now let us consider what God told Moses to put into the Ark of the Covenant at the beginning of Israel’s journey to the promised land. The ark originally contained Aaron’s rod that budded and brought forth almonds, and a golden pot of manna, in addition to the stone tablets already mentioned. The Bible says, however, that at the time Solomon’s temple was dedicated the ark contained only the stone tablets. The Bible does not tell us what happened to Aaron’s rod and the pot of manna. Let’s consider for a moment, the original contents of the ark. Although we are not told specifically what the items represent, they appear to be a picture that God intended us to see and which present a strong statement of who Christ is.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
Now reference each of the things that Christ said He was, to the significance of each of the items which were placed into the Ark of the Covenant.
Jesus, the WAY is represented by Aaron’s rod.
- Jesus was called a rod in prophecy. Isaiah 11:1a says, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse…” This verse portrayed Jesus as a rod as it prophesied of His coming. Jesse, mentioned in this verse, was the father of David. Jesus was a descendant of David. The Rod Isaiah is speaking of is Jesus.
- The Rod guides us on the way. The rod is associated with shepherding. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads us and shows us the way.
“The Lord is my shepherd… he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:…” From Psalm 23
The rod of the Shepherd gives us direction along the way so that we do not wander astray. It corrects when we go astray, and it provides a way of deliverance from attacks of the enemy. It comforts us to know that the Rod protects us.
- The Rod is the way to life. The rod had been cut off. In the same way, Jesus was cut off and was placed in the grave. The test that proved Jesus was the Way to life was that He came to life again. The test for Aaron’s rod that caused it to be selected to be placed into the Ark of the Covenant was that the rod budded, blossomed, and brought forth almonds. This was in contrast to the other rods, which did nothing. Other religious leaders such as Mohamed and Buddha have died, but once dead, they all have stayed dead. In contrast to this, Jesus, the Rod, though cut off, rose from the grave alive. Jesus is the source of life. He is the only Way to life.
Jesus, the TRUTH is represented by the two tables of stone.
- God’s Word is absolute truth. The two tables of stone had the Ten Commandments, the Word of God, written upon them. Truth does not change. The stone material that the covenant was written on represented the unchangeableness of God’s truth.
- Truth exposes sin. No one, except Christ, could keep the commandments. The commandments expose how sinful the human heart is, and how holy God is.
- Truth demands obedience. God’s commandments were written on the tables of stone. Living in harmony with truth demands that we choose to obey God’s commandments. When Adam and Eve sinned, they chose the false statements of Satan over the truth of God. When we choose to sin, we make the same choice. If we disobey God, we are living a lie. Jesus kept God’s commandments; thus, Jesus lived the truth. Jesus is the living Truth. The truth is that Jesus is Lord. He has the right to command us to do whatever He wishes and to expect obedience from us.
- The truth of God’s Word is the foundation of our faith. The stone used in the tables is consistent with Christ being the Stone Foundation of the temple. It is the Word of God upon which our faith is founded.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God” John 1:1
Jesus, the LIFE is represented by the pot of manna.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world…I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:32,33,35
- Jesus is the Bread of Life. We see Jesus calling Himself by that name in these verses.
- As the manna came down from heaven, Jesus came down to us from heaven.
- God freely gave bread to the children of Israel in the wilderness. God freely gave Jesus, the Bread of Life, to us.
- The bread that the children of Israel ate in the wilderness was the only thing that kept them alive. Jesus is the only thing that will keep us alive.
- As the bread satisfied the physical hunger of the children of Israel, coming unto Jesus satisfies our spiritual hunger for God.
- Any manna that was not in the pot rotted after one day. The manna that was in the pot was to be kept for the generations. Anything that claims to give life that is not in Jesus will quickly become rotten and bring death. The lives of those who are in Jesus will last eternally.
- At the Last Supper, Jesus used bread and wine to symbolize His broken body and blood, which He sacrificed for us.
“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:19,20
In the previous chapter we saw that gold appears to be a symbol of Christ’s blood sacrificed for us. The pot that the manna was kept in was made of gold. Notice how the remembrance of His blood is referred to as the “cup”. The pot is basically a large cup. The pot appears to be a symbol of Christ’s blood that was shed for us. The manna in the pot appears to be a symbol of Christ’s body, which was given for us. Notice, the gold representing the blood is shown on the outside of the bread representing His body. When Christ was crucified, His blood flowed down on the outside of His broken body.
The sacrifice of Jesus’ blood and of His body is the source of our life. Thus the pot of manna is representative of the life that we have through Christ’s sacrifice. The Savior bids us remember Him when we partake of communion with other believers in our church. Take a moment and ponder what great love the Savior showed for us, what great sacrifice He has made to give us the Bread of Life.
Now let’s consider some other features of the ark that are mentioned in its description.
“…and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.” Exodus 25:11b
The ark had a crown of gold round about it. When we see the word crown, we think of a king. Christ is the great King before whom all knees will bow.
The ark had four rings of gold, one on each corner. Through these rings were placed two wooden staves, or poles, which were covered with gold. The priests carried the ark with the staves. Anyone who tried to touch the ark without using the staves would die. The four golden rings appear to picture the four main characteristics of Christ, which we discussed earlier. The rings appear to show the link we have with God whereby He may be “moved” to have mercy on us. That link between us and God is pictured by the golden rings. Notice also that the rings are never ending as our link to God through Jesus is never ending, eternal. It is through the golden sacrifice of Jesus Christ that God reaches out and seeks to connect to us.
The rods used to carry the Ark remind us of Jesus who became a man that He might reach out and connect to us. It is only through Jesus acting as our link to God that we shall not die. The priests who carried the ark represent those who have trusted Christ as their Savior. Those who believe in Christ are the ones who have by faith reached toward God and have grasped the reality of being able to know God through the Rod, Jesus Christ. His Spirit lives within those of us who are saved, and so much as the priests carried the Ark wherever they went; we carry God’s Spirit with us wherever we go.
On the top of the ark was a lid with two golden statues of cherubim, which was called the mercy seat. The cherubim indicate that God is present. The cherubim are there in God’s presence. The cherubim face each other as they look toward the presence of Jesus between and above them. Their attention is focused on Jesus as they worship Him.
“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…” Exodus 25:22
This seems to be the whole idea behind the Ark of the Covenant. It wasn’t just a box in which to keep the ten commandments. The Ark was the place where God met with and communed with, or in other words spoke with Israel. God was not in the box. God’s presence was above the box between the two cherubims.
The lid to the Ark of the Covenant was called the mercy seat for a reason. Mercy (withholding the punishment that we deserve and pardoning sin) is on top. Mercy is top priority for God. Nothing is more important to Him than forgiving sin and showing mercy. Mercy was so important to Christ that He was willing to die to provide it to us. The high priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrifice on the mercy seat once a year so that God would have mercy on His people. Christ, the Great High Priest, sprinkled His blood there once and for all so that He might provide a covering for sin and bring mercy to us for all time.
The mercy seat is where God met with and communed with the Israelites. The only one who was allowed into the Holy of Holies was the high priest. It is through Jesus our high priest that we are able to meet and commune with God. We can not have access to God through any other means.
Finally, notice that the presence of God was real. The presence of God was not a mere symbolic statue. God said, “I will meet with thee.” Does God’s presence seem real in your life? If you are saved, His presence is real whether you realize it or not. Do you meet with Him, or do you ignore Him? You are the temple of God. God’s presence was real in the temple. Do you live like He is real in your life? Do you live as though God is right there with you?
“…The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5b
This means that He is right here with us. Where have you been taking Him? What have you been doing in His presence? He sees you every minute and knows about everything you think or do. Let it cause us to live a life of self-discipline and holiness. Let it cause us to live a life of prayer knowing that He hears us. Let us fasten our attention on the Lord, as do the cherubim.
Consider the verse:
“And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat…” Hebrews 9:5a
The cherubims are described as “cherubims of glory.” When God is merciful, He is glorified. God wants us to reach out to those around us so that others might trust in Him and He will show them mercy and be glorified.