The Ark of the Covenant

“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.

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God’s Blueprint for Believers

No doubt, there are many things that could be said about this.  The most important one is the verse which says that we’re to be conformed to the image of His Son, Romans 8:29.  Without doubt, perfect Christlikeness is the ultimate goal of our salvation, 1 John 3:2.

Paul also had something to say about it.  In 1 Timothy 1:15, 16 (NKJV), he wrote,

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (emphasis added).

What??

How can we be like Paul?  Travelling all over his world with the Gospel, starting churches, writing a lot of the New Testament…how can we do that?

I don’t think that’s what Paul had in mind.  True, there are those today who are successful at church-planting, as well as those who claim that they, too, receive direct revelation from the Lord.  For those who plant churches, I thank the Lord that He uses people and that His Word accomplishes what He sends it out to do.  As for the others, well, I’m not the final judge on such things, but I think they are misled.

Paul wrote that he was to be “a pattern”.

We get our word “schematic” from the Greek word translated “pattern”.  A schematic shows how something’s put together so it’ll work the way the designer wanted it to. Though they’re a little different, it’s the same thing with a blueprint.

So Paul wrote that he was an example, “a pattern,” of how salvation is supposed to “work.”

How so?

  • Pattern of Great Sin. 

Paul never forgot that he started out by trying to stamp out the name of Jesus, Acts 26:9-11.  He was exceedingly enraged against those who confessed that name.

It’s probable that very few, if any, of us have gone to that extreme, but the Scripture is still true that says, …all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

It doesn’t matter how far “short” we have fallen, either.  I was talking with a fellow and somehow we got around to the Grand Canyon.  I made the comment that it didn’t matter if you could jump 10 feet off the rim, or only one foot, you would still plunge to your death.  The fellow said he saw someone he had to meet and rushed off.

I might add to that and say that if you could take the pole a pole-jumper uses and propel yourself 20 or 25 feet from the edge, you would still die.

Compared to the holiness and righteousness of God, the Grand Canyon isn’t even a crack in the sidewalk.  You can step over that.

There are a lot of people who’ve got their “poles” all ready for the “jump”.  They’ve been baptized or joined the church or take the Eucharist (communion/mass) or any of a hundred other things that folks say can be done to get us to the other side.  Doesn’t matter.  We’re still gonna “fall short” and die.

A lot of people use the “pole” of “Well, I’m not so bad.  Look at so-and-so,” as if another sinner were the standard.  But the Lord Jesus is the standard, and He said, “I always do those things which please the Father.”  That word, “always,” condemns all of us ’cause we can’t say that.  If anyone could, as I’ve remarked before, then they could go up to the throne when they get to heaven and say, “Move over, Jesus.  Now there are two of us.”

  • Pattern of Gracious Salvation.

A lot of people believe that God must be very careful when approaching sinners about being saved.  Unless they are “willing,” God can’t do anything.  They have to take that first step, do “their part” before He can do “His part.”

Really?

How does that work with Paul?

What do you suppose would have happened if, on the morning of his trip to Damascus, some Christian had asked him if he would like to “accept Jesus”?

The last thing on Paul’s (Saul’s) mind would have been that, before he got to Damascus, he would be a disciple of that One whose very name he was trying to destroy.  He was breathing out threats and murder against Christians.  It may be that he was being convicted by the testimony of those he persecuted, but up until the second that the light struck him down, he thought he was serving God.  He wasn’t asking God to show him the right way; he thought he already had it!  Jesus didn’t come to him and ask him if he’d like to be saved.  The Holy Spirit didn’t try to “woo” him, or to “cooperate” with Saul’s will.  Saul’s “will” was to kill Christians!  That was his “decision.”  According to Acts 26:11, 12, it was while thus occupied and being exceedingly enraged against them, that the Lord appeared to him.  He didn’t even know whose brightness it was which knocked him to the ground: “Who are you, Lord?”  

Modern religion entirely misses the point on this.  Apart from the grace of God, we’re not the least bit interested in what God really says or wants.  We might have religion, or even a (great) knowledge of Scripture, like Saul.  We might talk about God, even “believe” in Him, but we don’t know nor love the God of Scripture,  or we might be strenuously opposed to Him and His Word, like Saul.  This brings us to our next point.

  • Pattern of God’s Sovereignty. 

Oh, this is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where the Word sticks in our throats.  The very idea!  That God could act like God!  I don’t know of another doctrine that makes us angrier or arouses our opposition more quickly or vehemently than the doctrine that God is sovereign in salvation.

This is already a long post, so we won’t get into the discussion of all this.  Just hear what Paul said about it in discussing his life before Christ, when he persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it: … But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace,… Galatians 1:13, 15.

It pleased God…. 

As much as modern Christianity tries to deny it, Paul didn’t take the first step…

God did.

  •  Pattern of  Grateful Service. 

From that moment on, Saul was completely different.  Eventually, he became known as Paul.  In Galatians 1:23, he wrote of his early experiences as a Christian with the churches in Judea:  that they were hearing only, He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy. 

God doesn’t call every believer to be a preacher or missionary, yet at the same time He does.  The world needs godly janitors and godly auto mechanics.  It needs people everywhere who demonstrate that this world isn’t all there is to life.  It needs godly teachers, godly politicians (no, that shouldn’t be an oxymoron).  Our Lord taught that believers are salt and light.  No matter where we are, the world needs what we have. That doesn’t mean it wants it, just needs it.

Paul was a pattern for those who believe on the Lord Jesus for everlasting life.  If the “building inspector” came around, would we be “up to code”?  Do we match the blueprint?