The ark of the covenant was the centerpiece of God’s tabernacle and it was one of the most instrumental symbols of faith and God’s presence. It was the very representation of His Majesty, His Glory, and His Grace. Wherever the ark went, it brought blessings, honor, and victory to those who honored and revered its holiness. It also struck terror into the hearts of Israel’s enemies. The ark of the covenant was the foreshadowing of what was to come with Jesus.
When you read Exodus 25:10-22, you see that Moses received the command to build the ark. Every detail of the ark was divinely inspired even down to the precise measurements, materials and design which was instructed by God Himself. Even the fact that it laid at the center of the tabernacle was a symbol. Because every detail spoke of His Son to come. Each part of the ark was a symbol of the person of Jesus, and what His death and resurrection would do for you. So lets break down what each part is and what it means.
In Exodus 25:10-11 you see that the ark was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. If you look up acacia wood you find that it is the hardest of all hardwoods and withstands climate variations well. When you think of Jesus, He was the strongest man, able to withstand all temptation. He also was able to withstand all the pain and suffering on the cross for us. The wood represents Jesus’ humanity, and the gold represents His divinity. Because He was both man and God, He is able to understand our feelings. But He also has the power to intervene for us with miracles.
THE CONTENTS OF THE ARK
The ark contained three items which represent man’s rebellion. Hebrews 9:4 says, 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 table of the covenant. The Ten Commandments symbolize the people’s rebellion against God’s standard. The rod of Aaron symbolized the people’s rejection of the first high priest of Israel, who was God’s appointed leader. The golden pot of manna symbolize the people’s rejection of God’s provision.
THE MERCY SEAT
The Mercy seat was the representation of Jesus at the cross. It was constructed of one solid slab of gold beaten into shape. On the day of Atonement, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on it. This is evident in Leviticus 16:14 which says, “Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy set that is on the east side, also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. The blood signified that the punishment for sin had been paid.
Just as the solid slab of gold was beaten, so was Jesus. He shed His blood to cover your sins. God sent Jesus as a mercy seat to shed His blood, so that you could be justified freely by His Grace. The Day of Atonement is no longer needed, because Jesus became the new covenant by His sacrifice on the cross which was atonement for sins.
Cherubim are guardians of God’s holiness. This is evident in Genesis 3:24, So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the Cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. The two cherubim were positioned at both ends of the mercy seat, looking down at the blood that was sprinkled from the animal sacrifice. As long as they saw the blood on the mercy seat, God’s holiness was satisfied and the people could expect to receive blessings.
Today Jesus’ blood is far greater than the blood of an animal sacrifice. Jesus’ blood covered your sins once and for all, therefore God doesn’t look at you with judgement but mercy and grace. Because of the blood shed for you, you can come boldly to God and ask for forgiveness and help in times of trouble.
Today, believers are continuously in the presence of God and can call on Him at any time. This is available to you by Jesus dying on the cross and leaving the Holy Spirit to aid us when He was resurrected. In the Old Testament the Israelites did not have this luxury. The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence.
An example of this is in Joshua 3, the Israelites needed to cross the Jordan River to the Promised Land. God commanded Joshua to send the ark of the covenant ahead of the people. The very moment the feet of the priests carrying the ark touched the water, the river and the waters were stopped, and the people crossed peacefully.
This is God’s heart for you. Every time you face a situation you can’t handle. Know that God has gone ahead of you to make the impossible possible. Learn to value His presence, and His blessings will also follow you. Develop an intimate relationship with God and watch what He does for you. Know that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was done so that you could have direct access to the Father. As believers, we no longer look to the ark, but to the Lord Jesus Himself as the propitiation and atonement for your sins.