“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood…,” Exodus 25:10 (NKJV).
There are two main sections dealing with the construction of the tabernacle. In Exodus 25-31, God gives instruction concerning the various parts of the tabernacle and of the priesthood that would minister there. In Exodus 35-39, we read of the actual preparation for and construction of the tabernacle.
Though the rest of the posts will look at the tabernacle from the standpoint of an Israelite who was approaching it, this post will look at the first item God told Moses to make: a piece of furniture called “the ark of the covenant.”
It’s interesting to me that, in these instructions, God begins with Himself, for the ark signified the place where He would “dwell” and where He would meet with Israel.
So it always is.
God begins with Himself.
It was that way with this planet: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1:1. The earth didn’t create itself, or develop from some lesser thing, in spite of the best efforts of those who would tell us otherwise.
It was that way with Abraham. He didn’t sit down one day and decide to write down his thoughts about the possibility of “a higher power.” Genesis 12 and Hebrews 11:8 tells us that God appeared to Abraham and told him to move to “a land that I will show you,” Genesis 12:1.
It was that way with Israel and the giving of the Law, Exodus 20. They didn’t get together and write down some ideas for how they would govern themselves. In Exodus 20, God called Moses to the top of a mountain and gave him The Ten Commandments, though these are only a summary of the Law, there being a lot more that God gave Israel before He was done.
And it’s that way with us. Scripture says that God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, Ephesians 1:4. I can’t think of another subject that will make people angry more quickly than the idea that God chose us simply because He wanted to. I’ve dealt with this at length elsewhere on this blog. Let me just say here that if He hadn’t chosen us, we would never “choose” Him, would never be saved. There are some folks who focus on “whosoever will.” That’s alright; it’s a Biblical concept. The problem is that, apart from the grace of God, we’re all “whosoever won’ts”.
Folks want to get around this by saying that God “looked down the corridors of time for those who would ‘accept Him’, and chose them on that basis.” Is that how He did it? Scripture itself uses this idea of God “looking”:
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God, Psalm 14:2.
If the “foreknowledge” folks were right, the Psalmist would continue that God did see some who “understand,” who “seek” Him.
Is that what the Psalmist wrote?
Not in the least.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one, Psalm 14:3, emphasis added.
It begins with God.
Because it would never begin with us.
The ark of the covenant was a chest of wood, covered with gold, Exodus 25:10. It was a little less than four feet long and a little more than two feet wide and high. Except for the high priest once a year, no one ever saw it because it was kept in the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Even when Israel moved during its wilderness journeys, it was covered to keep it from prying eyes. I don’t think God was “hiding,” but, rather, was impressing on Israel the seriousness of their relationship with Him. Indeed, when an Israelite touched the ark during of these moves, God struck him dead, 2 Samuel 6:6; 1 Chronicles 13:9. I think there might be a lesson for us with our comfortable, casual, contemporary Christianity. I know that a suit and tie don’t guarantee spirituality, but neither do flip-flops and shorts.
There were three items kept inside the ark: the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant, Hebrews 9:4. Exodus 13:33 tells of the pot of manna, which was to be kept to show future generations of Israelites how God had provided for Israel during her wilderness travels. Aaron’s rod reminded Israel that the descendants of Aaron and they alone, could perform the office of priest, Numbers 17. The tables of the covenant were the original tablets that Moses had brought down from Mount Sinai, Exodus 20.
Lord willing, we’ll consider this “covenant” more closely in our next post.