The Tabernacle 9
The word “ark” immediately brings two things to mind: The Ark of the Covenant and the big boat that saved humanity from the Flood during Noah’s day. Our post obviously concerns the former. The reason the two items share the same word though they are so distinct is simply because an ark is just a chest or container that holds something. Moses’ Ark held three items, which we will discuss in a moment. Noah’s Ark held every breathing animal on Earth.
Moses tells us how Bezaleel built this last and final piece of Tabernacle furniture.
Exodus 37.1 And Bezaleel made the ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half was the length of it, and a cubit and a half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half the height of it:
2 And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about.
3 And he cast for it four rings of gold, to be set by the four corners of it; even two rings upon the one side of it, and two rings upon the other side of it.
4 And he made staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold.
5 And he put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, to bear the ark.
This Ark, like the Altar of Incense, was basically an empty wooden chest, two and half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. It was covered on both the outside and the inside with beaten gold, and was marked by an edge or crown along the top made out of gold. That edge held the Mercy Seat in place, a similarly constructed yet separate ornamental lid. We will talk more about the Mercy Seat next week.
I have mentioned Bezaleel several times throughout this series but he really comes into view here. A highly talented individual, he was largely responsible for the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings. Some of that surely was in a supervisory capacity but Exodus 37 tells us he personally constructed the Ark, naturally enough since it was the most important piece of furniture in the Tabernacle.
This Ark, by the way, was the only original item of furniture from the Tabernacle to take its place in Solomon’s Temple. It stayed in Solomon’s Temple until the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. The Ark was either lost or hidden then, giving rise to numerous real life and fictional quests. It is my opinion that it will be found in the Millennium, and placed inside the Third Temple in Jerusalem. Imagine that. Bezaleel built a piece of furniture that played an integral role in the world for nearly a thousand years and may yet again.
A moment ago, I mentioned this Ark contained three things. They were not there accidentally. Remember, everything in the Tabernacle somehow points toward Christ, and this applies as well to these three items. What were they?
Hebrews 9.2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
4 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 Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
The first item it contained was the second set of stone tablets hewn out by Moses upon which God’s finger had written the Ten Commandments. Why the second set? Because Moses destroyed the first set when after descending from Mount Sinai he found Israel worshipping the golden calf. He broke the tablets in pieces, ground them into powder, mixed them with water, and forced Israel to drink them down. He then went back up to Mount Sinai for a second set.
Thus we see that the Law itself was immediately broken, physically, a representation of how humanity would continue to break it morally for millennia to come. However, the second set of tablets was placed unbroken inside the chest that was the Ark. The symbolism is plain: the Messiah would be the only one who would keep the Law perfectly unbroken.
Six months before His death He stood before a crowd of people who hated him, a crowd filled with people who had already made attempts on His life, would make another one before the day was over, and would continue to do so until they killed Him, and asked, Which of you convinceth me of sin? (John 8.46) I promise you, if vitriolic spite could have found someway to prove Him guilty of so much as an unacceptable sneeze they would have. But they could not. He fulfilled the Law in every respect.
The second item the Ark contained was an uncorrupted pot of manna. Manna, you will recall, was gathered once a day, six days a week, by the Jews throughout their long weary decades in the Wilderness. Along with water from the Rock and the occasional quail, manna was what kept them alive. This manna could only be kept for one day (two days on the day prior to the Sabbath) before it bred worms and stank. Yet somehow, an entire pot of it was preserved in perfect condition inside a wooden box in a Mediterranean climate for at least a thousand years.
So where does manna come into the story of Christ? After feeding the 5,000 Jesus and His Apostles crossed the Sea of Galilee only to find that the crowd had followed them along the shore. When that crowd met Him, they demanded that if He really wanted to be accepted as their messiah He should this time not just miraculously make bread, but actual manna. As always, Jesus sought to turn them from their pre-occupation with material things and miraculous events to see that He Himself was what they needed; He was their spiritual sustenance, not some magically produced Wilderness food. I am the bread of life. (John 6.48)
Thus, this manna, kept unspoiled in the Ark for centuries, pointed Israel toward the fact that their Messiah would meet the daily spiritual needs of His people. All by Himself. He would be their Bread of Life.
The third item inside the Ark was Aaron’s rod that budded. In Numbers 16 we find the story of a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Envious of Aaron, the rebels wanted a piece of his divinely ordained priesthood. God’s answer to that unseemly demand was to ask each tribe to send in the staff of their prince, and the staff – a long-dead tree branch, basically – that burst forth into new life, producing branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit would indicate which tribe God had chosen to stand before Him in ministry.
Guess who’s staff burst into bloom? And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. (Numbers 17.8)
To me, the symbolism of this clear. The Messiah, though to all intents and purposes was dead, would return to life, and by that return to life would prove that He was the divinely appointed High Priest, with all the rights and privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto.
Like the pot of manna, the Messiah is the Bread of Life. Like the unbroken tablets, the Messiah kept the Law perfect. Like Aaron’s rod that budded, after death He burst forth into life.
Indiana Jones did not find that Ark. The Ethiopians do not have behind a rusty iron fence in Addis Ababa. It does not sit in a hollowed out cavern underneath Golgotha. I suspect it is in some yet undiscovered cave on the shores of the Dead Sea. But wherever it is, when it is finally found, and opened, three things will be found – an unspoiled pot of manna, two tables of stone written on by God, and a staff full of flowers and almonds, all miraculously preserved. Why? Because He is still the Bread of Life, He still keeps the Law perfectly, and He is alive now and forevermore.
Israel’s Messiah. My Saviour.
He is beautiful.