(For Part 1 of this series, Click Here)
The Ark Of The Covenant
“They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it.” (Exodus 25:10-11)
The Ark of the Covenant is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in all of its details. The materials comprising the Ark, gold and wood, speak of the dual nature of Christ. Gold, as we considered last time, refers to Deity or the manifest Presence of God. Thus the gold in the Ark speaks of Christ as God manifest among us. The acacia wood speaks of His humanity. Unlike the fabrics of the fine linen — blue, purple, and scarlet — the gold and the wood are not intertwined in any manner. The Deity of Christ is never lost in His humanity nor is His humanity absorbed into His Deity. Jesus Christ is very God of very God and very man of very man. Though the wood is overlaid with gold, the two materials remain separate and distinct.
The gold is pure gold and it fills the Ark inside and out. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9 KJV). Jesus Christ is God through and through. He is not flesh which became God but God Who became flesh. His Deity is not merely an outer varnish covering frail flesh and bones, but rather Emmanuel, God with us. Nor do we find gold mingled with any other substance because Christ is equal to and on the same plane with the Father. He did not consider Deity something to be grasped (cf. Phil. 2:6) but found Himself in the very Form of God.
Yet the gold of Deity overlaid the wood of Christ’s humanity. Jesus, during His time on earth, hungered, He thirsted, He wept and He grew weary and rested. Nothing of the Deity of Christ diminished His humanity. Just as He was perfect in His Deity, He was perfect in His humanity. The Personality of the Divine and the Personality of man came together in the One, unique Theoanthropic God-Man. But though He was tempted in all points as we are, He committed no sin (cf. Heb. 4:15).
Acacia wood is a desert growing timber and reminds us of the words of Isaiah, “He grew up like a root out of parched ground” (Isa. 53:2).
“Having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;” (Hebrews 9:4)
The Book of Hebrews give us a listing of the three objects contained within the Ark. As the Ark is typical of Christ, so are the contents therein. The golden jar of manna is the wilderness food or portion of the Hebrews. Jesus identifies Himself with His people and takes His portion with them. Aaron’s rod which budded speaks of His Resurrection (see also Numbers 17). The dead and lifeless wood became alive again, just as the body of Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. The tables of the covenant speaks of the Law and Word of God which fills the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ. The three high offices of Jesus Christ are also represented in the objects within the Ark: (1) The rod of Aaron speaks of Christ as our High Priest. (2) The golden jar of manna speaks of Christ the Prophet. (3) The tables of the Law speak of Christ as King.
The Mercy Seat
“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat.” (Exodus 25:17-18)
Atop the Ark of the Covenant was set a lid of pure gold. Though connected with the Ark itself, it is distinct both in substance and function. The Mercy Seat itself is a type of Christ but also a foreshadowing of His work on the Cross. And as the work of Christ is connected to but distinct from His Person, so is the Mercy Seat in relation to the Ark. We trust both in the Person of Jesus Christ and the efficacy of His redemptive work for Salvation.
The Mercy Seat represents both the Throne of God and the place of propitiation for sin. And though it represents the Throne of God, the Presence of God never actually rested upon the Mercy Seat, for God said that He would meet above the Mercy Seat (Ex. 25:22). Instead, the Mercy Seat was to be sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice on the Day of Atonement each year by the High Priest (Lev. 16:14).
The Greek term for propitiation (Hilasterion) is used interchangeably to mean Mercy Seat and propitiation. In the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, the same word is used for Mercy Seat in the Pentateuch which appears in Hebrews 9:5, Romans 3:25, and 1 John 2:2; the latter two being rendered as Propitiation. When the Apostle Paul in Romans and the Apostle John in 1 John call Jesus our Propitiation, it is clear that they understood Him as the fulfillment of the Mercy Seat pre-figured in the Tabernacle.
As the writer to the Hebrews tells us, the blood of animals sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat typifies the Blood of Jesus Christ which covered Himself at the Cross (Heb. 9:11-15).
Upon the Mercy Seat were placed the two Cherubim. With eyes facing toward one another, the Cherubim looked toward the Mercy Seat itself and the blood thereon, beholding the work of Christ on behalf of sinful man. For this is the work of Salvation of which things the angels desire to look into (cf. 1 Peter 1:12). Neither could the figures of the angels themselves be understood to be the objects of worship for their gaze pointed toward Another. The two cherubim atop the Mercy Seat replicated the scene which Adam and Eve beheld after they were expelled from Eden. Looking back at the Cherubim guarding the Way to Life, Adam and Eve would have seen beneath their wings the blood of the animals slain by God in order to cover their sinful shame and clothe them with the blood-stained skins (Gen. 3:24). The Cherubim in Eden guarded the Way back to God, forever keeping the Way open for man to return to fellowship with the Lord. Pre-figured in the Tabernacle, this, too, finds its fulfillment in the Person and work of Christ — the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
The Ark: The Focal Point Of The Tabernacle
It is worth noting that, in the instructions given for constructing the Tabernacle, God begins at the Ark of the Covenant. At the completion of the Tabernacle, the Ark will be the final destination in the journey toward God. In revelation to man, God always begins with Himself and works outward. In man’s experience, we begin with ourselves and move toward God in our approach. When all is said and done, the worshipper approaching the Tabernacle must begin at the brazen altar (Ex. 27), which signifies the Cross. The problem of sin must be dealt with before man can enjoy fellowship with God and thus our journey toward God must begin at the Cross.
Even so, it is the Ark itself which is the true focal point of the Tabernacle; it is what is contained within the Tabernacle which endows it with importance and significance. Yes, every article of furniture is crucial and important, but they all point toward the Ark itself — the object to which the approach to God brings us. We must come by way of the brazen altar, through the Gate of Redemption, in order to reach the Ark and Seat of Mercy. Yet once there, our sin has already been dealt with and we find fellowship and peace with God.
Next time, Lord willing, we will look at the Table of Showbread. Until then, may the Lord bless you in your own approach to the Ark that is Christ.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.