Read Deuteronomy 10:1-5.
These verses show that the special reason the ark was constructed was to receive the second two tables of stone on which were written the ten commandments. The first two tables were broken by Moses because the first and great commandment was broken by the people when they made the golden calf and worshipped it. The ark of the covenant with its blood sprinkled mercy seat was the way in type that a holy God could still show grace to a sinful and unreliable people. As soon as the ten commandments were written the second time Moses hurriedly put them into that gold covered, blood sprinkled vessel, called the ark of the covenant. In that holy retainer the law was safe; under the blood sprinkled mercy seat, the curse of the law did not smite the people who looked to the blood for peace. Christ is our propitiation, our mercy seat (1 John 2:1-2); the law of God was in His heart (Ps. 40:8), there it was magnified and kept. The One who kept the law has become a mercy seat for us. Our Lord not only kept the law perfectly, as the tables were preserved unbroken in the ark, He actually redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). This is part of the picture story of the tables of stone in the ark of the covenant covered by a blood sprinkled mercy seat. These foreshadowings are referred to continuously in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Looking Into The Ark
1 Samuel 6:19
The men of Bethshemesh who looked into the ark were not enemies but friends of the ark. Why then did this most severe judgment fall upon them? To look into the ark these men removed the mercy seat. The ark was like a box covered with gold; the lid of the box was the mercy seat. Always between the law on the tables of stone and the people that mercy seat stood. The mercy seat kept the people from coming into direct contact with the holy law. Since all have sinned (Rom. 3:21), there is no one who can endure to come face to face with God’s holy law. The law is a “ministration of death” and a “ministration of condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:7, 9); and it showed itself to be this when the mercy seat was removed. This is a solemn parable to all who boast of their own works, and who despise the blood of propitiation.
What Was In The Ark?
Each of the three things spoken of as in the ark in the verse above carried with it a memorial of Israel’s sin.
(1) “The tables of the covenant.” It was Israel’s sin of idolatry in the golden calf that necessitated these second tables, the first having been broken (Exod. 32:19).
(2) “The golden pot that had manna.” Before the manna came the people murmured in unbelief about dying in the wilderness and about graves in Egypt. They thought God would starve them in the desert (Exod. 16:3).
(3) “Aaron’s rod that budded.” The downright rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram caused the testing by the rods as to whom the services of the priesthood belonged. God had chosen Aaron to be priest, and the opposition of these princes was rebellion against God (Num. 17:1-13). The buds, the blossoms and the almonds on Aaron’s rod were the witnesses of God that the priesthood was his. The rod in the ark was a memorial of the rebellion of Korah as well as a memorial of the priesthood of Aaron. In the ark there was a testimony to the fact of the people’s unbelief and murmuring, of their idolatry and shame, and also of their rebellion against His authority. Thank God the mercy seat covered all.
It is a striking commentary upon the grace of our God, and what it can do, to notice that the sons of the rebel Korah became the singers of the Psalms in the temple of the Lord. (See the titles to Psalms 42-49).
The Movements Of The Ark
The first time the ark of the Lord is seen journeying is in Numbers 10:33-36, when it goes before them in the three days’ journey to search out a resting place for them. It was another three days’ journey in figure when the ark led the way through the waters of Jordan (Josh. 3:2; 3:15-17). This was the completion of the three days’ journey. On the other side of Jordan the ark found a resting place for Israel.
The picture of the ark with its .mercy seat on the shoulders of the priests in the very depths of the river Jordan, together with the words that are written of this great work, “firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan,” “in the midst of Jordan till everything was finished” (Josh. 3:17; 4:10), certainly in a most remarkable way looks on to Calvary. It was at Calvary that God’s testimony reached the depths, but there it stood firm. Lower the ark could not go, it was in the midst of Jordan. The word “Jordan” means judgment. The river Jordan empties into the Dead Sea. In that place of judgment and death the ark of God on the shoulders of the living priests stood firm. It stood there till “everything was finished.” So He who is the antitype of the ark stood firm in the midst of the seas, unshaken in the depths of death till all was finished for us (John 19:30).
It would take too long to follow the ark of the testimony to Gilgal, to Shiloh, to Ashdod, to Beth-Shemesh, to Kirjath-Jearim, to the house of Obed-Edom and to Jerusalem.
After the days of David, Solomon built God a house; then the ark of God found its resting place. “And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims… And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day” (2 Chron. 5:7, 9).
Thus shall it be with us when wilderness wanderings are all over, and when the rest of God shall have come. The staves will be drawn out, for glorified saints will never need a mercy seat again. Even then the ends of the staves will be seen “from the ark”; God’s wilderness provision will never be forgotten even when it is needed no longer.
With the light of resurrection,
When our changed bodies glow,
And we gain the full perfection
Of the bliss begun below;
When the life the flesh obscureth,
In each radiant form shall shine,
And the joy that aye endureth
Flashes forth in beams divine.
Shall the memory be banished
Of His kindness and His care,
When the wants and woes are vanished,
Which He loved to soothe and share?
All the way by which He led us,
All the grievings which He bore,
All the patient love He taught us,
Shall we think of them no more?
We shall read the tender meaning
Of the sorrows and alarms,
As we trod the desert leaning
On His everlasting arms;
And His rest will be the dearer
When we think of weary ways,
And His light will shine the clearer
As we muse on cloudy days.