Serving Christ and sharing the Gospel

The Promised Land (Exodus 25:20-25)

The Ark of the Covenant (in fiction)

  • The ark is one of the most famous ancient relics of Jewish history. It’s right up there with the Holy Grail and the Spear of Destiny.
  • I don’t know about you but, being born in the 80’s, whenever I hear the words the ‘The Ark Of The Covenant’, my mind instantly leaps…here (slide 1) although the movie came out before I was born, Indiana Jones’s quest after the ark was shown on TV and I can remember the scene where the Nazis open up the ark being the talk of the playground for weeks. It was scary! Sleep was lost! It was also one of the coolest things that my seven-year-old mind could envisage.
  • It’s not just the Indiana Jones story that cashed in on the Ark of the Covenant. (slide 2) All throughout history artists, bards, historians and all manner of folk in between have been obsessed with the thing, (slide 3) generally due to the fact that its monetary value (there is a lot of gold used in its construction, I worked out as close as I could owing to the impurities of the gold that just the gold value on the thing is worth £28345507.66 (twenty-eight million, three hundred forty-five thousand, five hundred and seven and sixty-six pence) is something that catches the imagination (slide 4). That’s before we even take into account its historic and artistic value.
  • But I hope that, as we gather here this morning we identify ourselves as treasure hunters of a very different sort.

The Ark of the Covenant (in fact)

  • The Ark of the Covenant wasn’t built to be a symbol to the world speaking of monetary wealth. It was a representation, a physical symbol, a tiny echo of the power, the majesty, and the glory of God. Its purpose was to be a visible sign to the nation of Israel that God was present with them in a tangible way.
  • We can understand that it’s a sort of designated meeting place between God and His people from Exodus 25:22.
  • ‘There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of testimony, I will meet with you (God is talking to Moses here) and give you all my commands for the Israelites’.
  • Why is this significant for us today?
  • Well it has to do with what’s inside the ark (slide5).
  • Firstly, we have the 10 commandments, carved into the two stone tablets, which were delivered to Moses by God.
  • These 10 commandments form the Law of God. Of course, it’s the commandments themselves which are the thing of value rather than the physical tablets, but they serve as a sort of physical focal point.
  • It’s right that they should be focused on. In these Ten Commandments we can see the will of God for humanity. When we read them, focus on them, meditate upon them and try to implement them, we become aware of what God sees as right and what God sees as wrong. They are a mirror for our inward spiritual existence and our outward physical behaviour. And as we sit beneath the Law, beneath God, we can understand sin.
  • This has mind-blowing implications. The Law is still in effect. Jesus simplified the Law for us a few thousand years later by narrowing it down into two Laws namely love God, love one another.
  • The implications is, is that where the Law resides, God meets with humankind, just like we read in verse 22. If we carry that Law in our hearts, rather than lugging around stone tablets, that’s where our meeting place with the almighty becomes. Suddenly it’s an internal process.
  • Ezekiel 11:19-20 says ‘I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit within them; I remove from them a heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrease and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people and I will be their God.
  • The heart of stone is substituted for a heart of flesh. An external Law is now an internal realisation. Humankind can understand that it is broken, it is sinful but (and this is the very important bit) it can understand that it needs salvation. Humankind needs to be rescued from its self destructive nature. And for that, through its own realisation, it understands the need for a saviour.
  • Okay, let’s have a pause there because that’s a bit heavy for first thing in the morning.
  • The bottom line is that when we understand that Jesus wants to rescue us from sin, and we are accepting of His sacrifice we come under the Law and can meet with God.
  • Moving on, what else was in the Ark of the Covenant.
  • If you remember, I was here a few weeks ago for the uniformed services. We were thinking about manna, the bread from heaven (slide 6). If you recall the Israelites were wandering through the desert and they were starving, they had no food. They called out to God and he sent down food from heaven (Exodus 16:13-17). We were giving thanks to God for the harvest and we were doing congregational Mexican waves- all good fun. But if you will recall the reading for that day, the Israelites gathered up a pot full of this manna, this bread from heaven. Best to point out it didn’t happen like we see in the picture there; God isn’t throwing bread down from the sky- it grew out of the ground. Unusually, this one pot of manna they gathered up didn’t go rotten, it stayed perfectly fresh. And what happened to that pot is that they put it into the ark.
  • Again, this is a very important symbol. The manna that came down from heaven, this food that the Lord sent to His people every day, it’s a daily provision. And that was the thing with it, it was done fresh every day, it didn’t keep because it went rotten really quickly.
  • The same is true for us. We need a daily provision every day. I’m not talking about food here. I’m talking about sustenance from God, spiritual food that He continues to provide for us every day.
  • Whys that then?
  • The chances are, that every day, we do things that that are displeasing to God. We sin. We break the Law that He has set out for us. We need a way to always get ourselves right with God, and as we were saying before, we need someone to do it for us, we need a saviour.
  • Fortunately, God has given us one of those; Jesus, the Son of God. We can continually go to Him and ask forgiveness of our sins. However, yesterday’s forgiveness is no God for today’s errors- just like the manna, we can’t keep it over, we need that continual forgiveness that Jesus offers. Indeed, Jesus is the bread of life.
  • The weight for the Ark comes out to only 183 pounds (83 kilograms) which is fairly hefty but still light enough to be carried around as we see that it’s done in scripture.
  • The next item in the Ark of the Covenant was Aaron’s Rod that budded (slide7).
  • We can read in Numbers 17:8 that ‘the next day Moses entered the Tent of Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but budded, blossomed and produced almonds’. Pretty miraculous, I think you would agree.
  • This is a wonderful bit of symbolism. Life from something that is dead. Again, this is another bit of symbolism that is important for us today. We’ve had the law which helps us to recognise sin. We’ve had the manna which reminds us of the continual sustenance of forgiveness that Jesus died to bring about for us. And now we have this, life from death.
  • Through Jesus sacrifice we can live new lives in Christ; lives that lead to an eternal life. A wonderful existence with God according to His law.
  • I’m not going to venture to far into this death to life theme as I’m sure Ken will be getting around to that in just a moment.

Back to the ark

  • The chances are that we are never going to find out where the Ark of the Covenant went to. It was lost 3000 years ago. But the point is that we don’t need to know (slide5).
  • Ultimately, we have a new covenant, one that Jesus made for us.
  • His sacrifice bought us our salvation and that is truly incredible.
  • This New Covenant with Christ is far more impressive than a golden box and significantly more valuble.
  • For in Christ we find a path to eternal life and that sounds like life’s grandest adventure.