The most glorious piece of furniture in the tabernacle!
The ark of the covenant inside the tabernacle was also known as the ark of the testimony or as the covenant box. On top of this was the propitiatory, also known as the mercy seat, with the golden cherubim at its ends. Between whom the visible sign of the presence of God appeared as seated upon his throne.
The tabernacle ark of the covenant has been generally likened to the moveable shrines, which are represented on Egyptian monuments.
The Egyptian ‘arks’ were carried by poles on the shoulders, and some of them had on the cover two winged figures not unlike what we conceive the golden cherubim to have been.
Between the winged figures on the Egyptian arks, there was placed the material symbol of a deity, and the arks themselves were carried about in religious processions, so as to make a show in the eyes of the people.
As regards the tabernacle ark of the covenant, the absence of any symbol of God was one of its great characteristics. It was never carried in a ceremonial procession: when it was moved from one place to another, it was closely packed up, concealed from the eyes even of the Levites who bore it. When the tabernacle was pitched, the ark was never exhibited but was kept in solemn darkness.
God does not need an outer display.
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power.” (1Co 4:20)
The tabernacle ark of the covenant was made of wood and covered with gold.
“Make a Box out of acacia wood, 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches high. Cover it with pure gold inside and out and put a gold border all around it. (Exo 25:10-11)
The word original Hebrew used for the wood was shittim. This was derived from the word shotate, meaning ‘to pierce’. The indication was that this wood was from a thorn tree, specifically the acacia. It is also a wonderful reference to Christ who was pierced for our transgressions.
“But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received.” (Isa 53:5)“One of the soldiers, however, plunged his spear into Jesus’ side, and at once blood and water poured out.” (Joh 19:34)
The tabernacle ark of the covenant was covered with gold, demonstrating Christ in His humanity (the wood) and His divinity (the gold). If He wasn’t perfectly man, he could not have died a substitutionary death. If He wasn’t God, He could not have risen from death. These two facts remain in perfect harmony.
This ark of the covenant is one of three arks mentioned in the Bible.
In each case, the ark is symbolic of God’s protection from judgment.
The Hebrew word for pitch (kaphar) is the same word that is used for atonement.
Inside the ark of the covenant were the tablets of the law, broken by Israel, that placed them under the judgment of eternal death. The ark of the covenant was not smeared with pitch, but instead was covered by the blood of atonement, thus protecting Israel from eternal damnation.
In the same way, the blood of Christ protects us from God’s eternal judgment.
The ark of the covenant wore a crown.
“And you shall overlay it with pure gold. You shall overlay it inside and out, and shall make on it a crown of gold all around.” (Exo 25:11 MKJV)
Crowns are symbolic of sovereignty and power. This refers to Jesus Christ as our King.
They will fight against the Lamb; but the Lamb, together with his called, chosen, and faithful followers, will defeat them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings.” (Rev 17:14)
Although the ark of the covenant is the protector of God’s judgment, it must never be disrespected.
They came to the threshing place of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out and took hold of the Covenant Box. At once the LORD God became angry with Uzzah and killed him because of his irreverence. Uzzah died there beside the Covenant Box, (2Sa 6:6-7)
Disrespect for Christ can remove us from His protection.
Peter said to him, “Ananias, why did you let Satan take control of you and make you lie to the Holy Spirit by keeping part of the money you received for the property? Before you sold the property, it belonged to you; and after you sold it, the money was yours. Why, then, did you decide to do such a thing? You have not lied to people—you have lied to God!” As soon as Ananias heard this, he fell down dead; and all who heard about it were terrified. (Act 5:3-5)
The ark of the covenant speaks of Christ. Even though Christ is our Protector, we must still honour Him.