The Ark also known as the Ark of the Testimony ( Exodus 25:22 ) was the only article of furniture that was located in the Holy of Holies proper. The Ark was made of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long ( 45" ), one and a half cubits deep ( 27" ), and one and a half cubits high ( 27" ), and overlaid with pure gold within and without. There was also a gold border which extended above the top to keep the lid from moving. The Ark had gold rings on each side so that it could be transported by acacia poles covered with gold.
The Ark had a lid called the mercy seat or covering (Exodus 25:20,22). It was identical in length and width to the Ark, and was acacia wood covered with gold. On each end of the lid were placed a Cherubim, probably beaten out of gold as was the lampstand. These Cherubim most likely had a human shape with the exception of their wings. They are always pictured as maintaining a standing position (2 Chronicles 3:13 ), and facing one another, looking down upon the mercy seat with their wings forward in a brooding position ( Exodus 25:20,Deuteronomy 32:11 ).
It was between these Cherubim that the Shekinah glory rested (Exodus 25:22, 40:34-35 ). This was a visible manifestation of Yahweh's presence among his people. Because the Ark was the divine dwelling place, not only could no ordinary man come before the mercy-seat, but even the high priest was not to come before the Ark at his own pleasure or without the blood sacrifice and incense. The penalty for doing so was death.
Within the Ark were kept the two tablets of stone, on which Moses copied the ten commandments (Deuteronomy 10:1-5), a gold pot of miraculously preserved manna ( Exodus 16:33-34), and Aaron's rod that budded (Numbers 17:10).
Thoughts for simple sermons :-
1/ The two cherubim on the mercy seat remind us of the cherubim of Genesis 3:24 stationed to guard the way to the tree of life but the cherubim are looking down onto the seat. They don't see us as we come to the mercy seat they see only the blood of Christ sprinkled to cover our sins, the thing that separates us from the life of God.
2/ The Ark typifies the life of Christ, it offers no hope for the sinner for his life was without sin. Whereas the mercy seat typifies the death of Christ it offers mercy and a pardon for the sinner.
3/ The removal of the mercy seat resulted in death 1 Samuel 6:19, in removing the seat they uncovered the law and incurred its penalty.
4/ The Ark was a symbol of Christ's divine leadership. It led the camp of Israel Numbers 10:33-34, It divided the river Jordan Joshua 4:7, It was there at the capture of Jericho Joshua 6:6, It was in the midst of the nation Joshua 8:30-35, It was handed over to the Philistines Psalm 78:60-61, Dagon fell prostrate on his face before It 1 Samuel 5:4, it's final resting place installed in the temple 1 Kings 8:6-8.
One can readily see the life of Christ symbolised in these events, it brings to mind that wonderful passage from Philippians 2:6-11
It is said that within the Ark were kept the two tablets of stone upon which Moses copied the ten commandments (Exodus 31:18, 34:29, Deut. 9:10-11, 10:1-5). The golden pot of the miraculously preserved manna (Exodus 16:33-34) and Aaron's rod that budded (Num.17:10 Heb. 9:4). These all had special meanings to the people
They were a reminder of Israel's idolatry, murmuring and rebellion.
The tablets of the Law brought to memory the worship of the Golden calf, causing Moses on his return to boil over with anger and throw down and break the original tablets (Exodus 32:19). Mankind is always ready to create a God to his own liking, something that makes few demands on him or to mould the truth of God for his own comfort, thereby taking away the need for holiness in our personal lives.
The Golden pot of Manna reminded them that, they grumbled and complained to one another about the food that God provided (Numbers 21:5-6). There murmuring caused God to instruct Moses to keep some as a testimony for the future generations (Exodus 16:33). Mankind has a universal desire to complain, the English do it all the time about the weather, too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, we never seem content with God's provision. We moan about our life, we wish we were someone else not content with whom God made us. Yet how can we expect to fulfil the ministry or work that God has prepared for us while we are trying to be someone God did not create us to be. Let us learn to accept our selves as God accepts us, and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work in our lives of bringing us to the maturity of a Christ like life.
The budding rod showed the time when ambitious men stood against God's chosen leadership, they plotted against and grumbled about the leaders. They wanted to do the things which God had not asked them to do and strived to over throw what God had put in place. Their rebellion was ultimately against God not just the recognised leadership (Num.17:10). How little mankind changes, none of us has to go far before we hear the grumbling of some people about the church leadership. "He could have said this or done that, well I knew that was the wrong song to sing", and of course you can think of many more things people say that you have heard.
We also grumble about the government, the prime minister or the president but surely Romans 13:1-2 tells that they are appointed by God and that our grumbling is therefore truly against God. God here is seen to approve Aaron's ministry, how often people try to promote their own ministry, to prove themselves. Show that they are a better preacher, or a better pray-er or a better leader with more gifting or anointing. How futile, these things come from God, a man can receive only what is given him from heaven (John 3:27). It is better to let God prove and approve our ministries, then we do not need to strive or will we move outside of our sphere of gifting, grace or ministry by striving for the unobtainable.
How gracious God is that He takes our sins to himself in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). He covers these sins over, that the mercy seat hides them. How lovely as we see Christ as the mercy seat who's sacrificial death covers over our shortcomings and as the Ark who takes our sin to Himself that we may be declared not guilty.
The High Priest ministering in the Holy of Holies
Much of the information recorded in this study is taken from the books listed below and without the research of those authors this study would not have been possible. I would suggest these books for further reading and a complete study of the subject.
Dictionary of the Bible Grant & Rowley
God's Tabernacle in the Wilderness John Carter
Hastings Bible Dictionary James Hastings
Made According to Pattern C. W. Slemming
These Are the Garments C. W. Slemming
Thus Shalt Thou Serve C. W. Slemming
Wycliffe Bible Encyclopaedia C.F. Pfeiffer, H.F.Vos and J. Rea
Ungers Bible Dictionary Merrill F. Unger
Expositors Bible Commentary Frank E. Gaebelein
Daily Bible Study William Barclay
Expository Dictionary W.E. Vine
Life Application Bible The Living Bible
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