Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jesus in the Old Testament: The Ark of the Covenant

     I want you to consider, as we are exploring this idea that not only is Jesus named in the Old Testament (His Hebrew name, Yeshua means “salvation” and is found in many verses throughout the Old Testament) but He is represented by many of the objects in regards to the Tabernacle.  We explored that in an earlier blog.  Now we are going to look at the Ark of the Covenant.  How does it connect to Jesus?  I see in it a remarkable symbol of the coming Messiah. 
     I am a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It is a powerful movie, and the ending was chilling.  I still remember how the angels rose up and became avenging angels, giving the arrogant Nazi—the utterly profane looking at the utterly holy-- his just deserts. 
    The Ark is described in Exodus 25:10-22:  

Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you.  Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

     Notice first that this is a very small chest.  It is only 3 ¾ feet in length, 2 ¼ feet wide and 2 ¼ feet high. 
     Secondly, it is wooden box that is overlaid with gold, but the cover itself—the atonement cover—is pure gold.  The angels likewise are made of hammered gold and no other materials.  What is in the ark?  The tablets of the Law, Aaron’s rod with buds on it and a jar of manna.  But more on that in a bit.
     God expresses clearly what the cover is for:  Above it is the meeting place where God gathers with His people and speaks to them of His decrees.  I see it as the court of heaven in miniature:  as angels surround His golden throne, He comes to speak to His people in majesty and awe.  
     The Holy of Holies is the “throne room” and the cover itself is the “throne” and it is pure gold—no alloys or earthly materials are included that can decay, such as wood.  Gold is as close as you can get to an eternal material.  Just think of King Tut’s tomb and the beauty of that gold had not change in millennia. 
     But the lid has a name:  the “atonement cover.”  To meet with God requires atonement, or a covering of earthly sins by divine reckoning.  The divine reckoning was in the blood that was splattered on the cover by the high priest, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, as found in Leviticus 16:   

Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering… He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.  He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been…No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

We know from Hebrews 9:11-14 that:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

     So, Christ is the very embodiment of the high priest, offering His own blood that is not only able to satisfy God’s reckoning for atonement, but is able to cleanse our very consciences!
     But the Ark itself represents Christ.  How so?  Look at ancient monuments:  the temples of the Sumerians and the Egyptians were huge.  Cut stones of epic proportions were assembled with one purpose in mind: to show everyone that the local god was huge!  Whether the god was the pharaoh (the pyramids) or divine entities of natural forces (the ziggurats) the monuments were as large as the people could make them.
     Now enter the Hebrews.  They have just left the enormous building projects of the Egyptians and now are wandering through the desert.  Wouldn’t they want to build some sort of gigantic temple to Yahweh, the God of their deliverance, to show the Egyptians their God was seriously important?  
     Instead, to demonstrate the almighty qualities of God, they could point to the Ten Plagues, the Red Sea and the daily helping of manna and quail.  The Tabernacle, while it had lovely qualities (the woven curtains and its gold objects) it was rather paltry when compared to what the people left behind in Egypt.
     It’s as if God didn’t want His people to duplicate the big = important equation of the Egyptians. He visited them, hovering over a rather small chest.  Yes, He later would order a temple to be built as His dwelling place, but it would be destroyed by an invading heathen army.  Then it would be rebuilt by a very questionable king—Herod—and again would be destroyed by another invading heathen army.
     God went, in essence, wherever the people went.  Stone structures stay behind.  God moved as His people moved, experiencing their daily lives with them. 
     Because Jesus is the center of everything God does, I would expect the Ark (as I wrote earlier of the Tabernacle) to represent His Son.  I see that it does.  Jesus did not come, the first time, as an almighty Conqueror or King.  He came “small”—He was born in a small village, a humble Son, raised by a carpenter and his wife.
     He came from the very courts of heaven and met with us in a “small space”—a human body. 
     No huge temples. No gigantic stones.  Just a man from a small town, but underneath that human flesh was the pure gold of divinity.  People could enter the “throne room”—wherever Jesus walked and talked, and they would come to see that Cover splattered with blood.  The High Priest offered Himself on  wooden cross.  
    The Ark was gold covering wood. Jesus was the gold covering the wood of the cross.    
    We meet God at Jesus, just as God met His people at the cover over the Ark.
    He moves with us and in us, experiencing our everyday lives with us.   
    We are small, but in Him, we become the huge monuments of God’s mercy, grace and work in this world.
     All along, from the very start, God wanted to show "small" so He could be mighty in us.
     Finally, what was in the Ark?
     The Law:  Jesus came to fulfill the Law in Himself.
     The manna:  He is our very Bread of Life, sent down from heaven itself. 
     The budded rod:  He fulfills the office of the High Priest and brings life where there is no life.
     Christ walks silently through the Old Testament, and if we look hard enough, we see His form moving slowly but surely towards Calvary and fulfilling all that went before Him in the Torah. 
     

     

  











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