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Inside the Ark of the Covenant
In today’s posting we present information pertaining to the objects found inside the Ark of the Covenant. This information will be used latter as supporting material that proclaims Jesus to be our Ark of the New Covenant, the manifestation of the Most Holy Place and our passage way to both.
The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant symbolizes the Divine Presence of God and for this reason it is the most sacred of all the objects found in the Tabernacle. Fundamentally, the Ark is a box made of wood and is covered in gold. It is approximately 5 feet long, three feet wide and three feet high. The Ark has a lid covering it and it is also covered in gold. The Ark has four golden rings, one placed near each corner. Two poles made of gold covered wood can be placed into the rings on each side of the Ark. They enabled the Ark to be transported from place to place.
Three items were stored inside the Ark. They are the covenant stones, a pot of manna, and the rod of Aaron.
The Covenant Stones
First of all, the Ark contained the Covenant Stones which served as a continual reminder of the covenant between God and Israel. The Covenant Stones were engraved with the Ten Commandments[i] given by God.
These commandments served as the foundation of God’s covenant with Israel. If the people obeyed God’s commandments then He promised to give them life and prosperity in the Promised Land, which is the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey:
That you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you; ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ (Deuteronomy 6:2-3)
‘And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, ‘then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled. ‘(Deuteronomy 11:13-15)
For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do; to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him; then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand against you; the LORD your God will put the dread of you and the fear of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has said to you. (Deuteronomy 11:22-25)
A second item found inside the Ark is the Pot of Manna. It represented the bread of God that came down from heaven and fed the nation of Israel as they wondered through the desert:
I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’ So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.” (Exodus 16:12-16)
The third item found in the Ark was Aaron’s rod and it testified to God’s choice of Aaron as the royal priest. The following passages communicate that Aaron was challenged for the right to be the high priest by members of the community. God’s choice was communicated in a miraculous way:
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses; twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you. So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses placed the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. And the LORD said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.” (Numbers 17:1-10)
Therefore, God performed a great miracle in selecting the Rod of Aaron for the priesthood. A rod, which was a carved piece of wood, came to life, blossomed and bore fruit. So significant was this event that the rod was stored in the Ark as a testimony against those who would not believe.
The Portability of the Ark
Because the people often moved from place to place, the Ark was designed to be portable. For this reason it was created with rings attached to its sides that enabled it to be transported via golden poles.
The Position of the Ark
The Ark is positioned along the wall that is directly across from the entry way (the semi transparent veil called the Life) to the Most Holy place. This veil fills the doorway separating the Holy place from the Most Holy. The result is that the Golden Altar of Incense and the smoke that rose from it (symbolizing the spiritual warfare of the people) were visible through the veil because it is positioned directly across the doorway from the Ark. Therefore, the spiritual warfare of the people (their prayers symbolized in the smoke going up from the altar) was visible by God as he sat on the Mercy Seat. In addition, it was from this Mercy Seat that God would speak to His people and bring either blessing or cursing in reaction to their obedience or disobedience to the covenant (law).
The Priesthood and the Ark
The Most Holy place was visited by the high priest just once each year. The high priest entered the chamber on this special occasion to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the corners of the altar for the forgiveness of the sins of the people:
And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD. (Exodus 30:10)
Other Names for the Ark
The Ark is called the Ark of the Covenant because it represented the Mosaic covenant between God and Israel. It was also referred to as the Ark of the Testimony as it was a continuous testimony to the covenant law housed in the Ark. It was sometimes referred to as the Ark of Thy Strength because it represented God as both powerful and a blessing to Israel. In addition, it was often called the Holy Ark because of the sacredness and holiness it represented.
So, in summary, the Most Holy Place is the most precious of all the places found in the Tabernacle. It is so special that only the High Priest was allowed to enter into it, and then only once a year[ii]. The Most Holy Place is where God talked to Moses directly and therefore is the place where the closest of all relationships with God is established. This relationship is symbolized by covenant and the symbols of the covenant that are found inside the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark is covered by the Cherubim and the presence of God Himself, who sits directly on the Mercy Seat which is between the angels (Cherubim). This symbolizes the importance and the sacredness of the Ark and its contents.
The Ark contained the stone tablets on which were engraved the Ten Commandments, which are the foundation of the law for the people. The law reminded the nation that God’s favor would be upon them if they remained in covenant. This included the conquest and inhabitation of the Promised Land. The Ark also contained the Pot of Manna, which symbolized God’s provision of their every need as they wandered in the desert and were transformed to become totally dependent on Him. Again, the Pot of Manna is symbolic of God’s provision. The Ark also contained the Rod of Aaron which miraculously budded when the authority of Aaron’s priesthood was challenged. This symbolized Gods favor on Aaron but also is prophetic of God’s choice of Jesus as the high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. We will investigate this further in future postings.
Our next posting will present the claims of Jesus that correlate to the objects found in the Most Holy place. In addition, we will look at the miraculous actions of God that support these statements of Jesus and support the notion that He is the manifestation of the Most Holy Place, a place that can be entered through the doorway called, “the Life.”
[i] Exodus 24:12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”
[ii] Exodus 30:10 And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.