Sermon by Pastor Ron Thomas

"The Tabernacle: Celebrating
The God Who Comes Near"

Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

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Preached 6/18/2008

The Tabernacle: Celebrating The God Who Comes Near
Lesson Ten: The Ark Of The Covenant, God's Gold Box

Key Verse: Exodus 25:8. "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."

Text: Exodus 25:10-16. "And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. 11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. 12 And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it. 13 And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. 15 The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it. 16 And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee."

Introduction: There is a Chinese legend that tells of a group of elderly, cultured gentlemen, who met often to exchange wisdom and drink tea. Each host tried to find the finest and most costly varieties of tea, to create exotic blends that would arouse the admiration of his guests. When the most venerable and respected of the group entertained, he served his tea with unprecedented ceremony, measuring the leaves from a golden box. The assembled guest, impressed by the gold box with it's precious contents, praised his exquisite tea. Once the host gained the desired response, he proceeded to inform them that the tea they found so exquisite and delightful, was the most common found in China. It was peasant tea! The host smiled and said, "I hope this will be a reminder to all of us that the good things in life, are not necessarily the rarest or the most costly."

Our text speaks of a gold box. It is God's gold box. We might call it the gold box of God's presence. We would think that such a box contained the rarest of treasures or precious gems. Actually, God's gold box contained three unlikely items: a jar of bread, a stick, and two stones.

As we move past the third veil into the Most Holy Place, we encounter the most sacred piece of furniture in the Tabernacle, the ark of the covenant. The word "ark" can be translated box, chest, or coffin. It comes from a Hebrew root that means "to gather." Obviously, the purpose of a box, chest, or coffin, is to contain various items for storage.

There are three "arks" mentioned in the Bible, each contained precious cargo. There is Noah's ark. This famous ark contained Noah, his family, and all the gathered creatures of the earth. There is Jochebed's ark. This is the ark that contained baby Moses, and floated down the Nile river. Then, there is the ark of the covenant here in our text. This famous ark is named after the chief item that rested within, namely the testimony or covenant.

The ark of the covenant represented the very presence of God! It was a symbol of His presence and power which resided with His people Israel, wherever it went. The Old Testament speaks of supernatural events associated with the ark of the covenant. In Joshua 3, the Jordan river parted before the ark of the covenant, as it was carried by the priests into Canaan. In Joshua 6, the walls of Jericho fell in the presence of the ark of the covenant. In I Samuel 4, when the Israelites fought the Philistines during the days of the prophet Samuel, they attempted to manipulate God by bringing the ark of the covenant to the battlefield. God refused to play along, and allowed the Philistines not only to defeat Israel, but to capture the ark of the covenant! I Samuel 4:22 says, "The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken." In I Samuel 5, God demonstrated His power to the Philistines, when He caused their idol, Dagon, to fall on it's face to the ground, before the ark of the covenant! Several of the Philistine cities were plagued with a bad case of "emerods," as long as the ark of the covenant was in their possession. Needless to say, the ark of the covenant was returned to Israel. In II Samuel 6, at the very beginning of his reign, David attempted to move the ark of the covenant from Kirjath-jearim, to Jerusalem on a cart. On the way, Uzzah, one of the drivers of the cart, put out his hand to steady the ark, and was killed by God for simply touching it! (Of course if you watched the movie, "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," you know what happened to those evil Nazis, who found and attempted to move the ark of the covenant!)

In our study of the Tabernacle, we have made our journey from outside the Tabernacle court, in the wilderness of our sin, toward the Tabernacle proper. We began with the furniture of the outer court, and worked our way to this most sacred piece of furniture. In the Bible, the order is just the opposite. God begins with a description of the ark of the covenant, then moves toward the outer court!

The ark of the covenant is mentioned some 200 times in the Old Testament, and is known by several names. It is called simply, "the ark" in Exodus 25:14. It is called the "ark of God" in I Samuel 3:3. It is called the "ark of the covenant," in Joshua 3:6. It is called the "ark of the testimony" in Exodus 25:22. It is called "the holy ark" in II Chronicles 35:3.

The ark was a rectangular box or chest, made of acacia wood, and overlaid with pure gold. The dimensions of the chest were three foot nine inches long; two foot three inches wide and deep. There was a "crown of gold" trim around the top. Like the other pieces of furniture, it was equipped with a pair of staves or poles, and four rings, so that it could be transported. The ark itself had no top lid, but was covered with what is known as the Mercy Seat. We will discuss the Mercy Seat as a separate piece of holy furniture, in the next lesson.

There were three items placed in God's gold box to be preserved. Why did God command that these items be preserved? Obviously, God did not want His people to forget the miracles and events connected with these three items! Incidently, all three items recall disgraceful moments in Israel's history.

Item one: The two stones or the testimony. Exodus 25:16 reads, "And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee." This is how the ark gets it's name. It is the ark, the box or chest that contains the "testimony." The "testimony" was the moral law, written on two stone tablets, that contained the ten commandments, inscribed by the finger of God. These two tables of stone constituted the evidence of God's conditional covenant with the people. When they kept the law, God would bless them. When they violated and forsook the law, God would curse them!

Deuteronomy 31:25-26 reads, "That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, 26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee." The Old Testament bears record that the children of Israel failed miserably at keeping the law! They fell beneath the burden and weight of God's absolute standard of righteousness! In Acts 15, Peter took a stand against Jewish believers in the church at Jerusalem, who were attempting to bring Gentile believers in effect under the law, by insisting that they be circumcised to be saved! Notice Peter's words in Acts 15:10. "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"

Item two: The jar of bread or pot of manna. Exodus 16:32-33 reads, "And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. 33 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations." Moses directed at the Lord's command, that they place a special vessel in the ark, containing a sample of the angelic food, "manna" or (mystery bread). This was the heavenly bread delivered fresh every day, that sustained Israel in the wilderness. The pot of manna was a memorial to God's spiritual and physical provision. In giving the "manna" in the wilderness, God revealed that He was able to meet and sustain the physical and spiritual needs of the people.

The children of Israel however, were not satisfied with God's provision and complained! Numbers 11: 4-6 reads, "And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes." Verse 10 says, "Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased." The apostle Paul in Philippians tells us that he "learned to be content" with God's provision in his life. Israel failed the test. They refused to be content and instead griped and complained!

Item three: The stick or Aaron's budding rod. Numbers 17:10-11 reads, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not. 11 And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he." The story of the budding rod is recorded in Numbers 17. The children of Israel challenged God's decision and authority for Aaron's right to lead them as their high priest. God instructed Moses to select a representative from each tribe. They would bring an almond rod with the name of their tribe engraved upon it. Aaron's name was on the rod of the tribe of Levi. The rod of the man God had chosen to be high priest, would blossom. All twelve rods were placed in the Tabernacle before the ark of the testimony. The next morning, it was Aaron's rod that had budded, blossomed, and actually yielded almonds! Numbers 17:8 says, "And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds." Aaron's rod was placed in the ark for a memorial, that the people were not to rebel against God's appointed authority!

As a side note, some of these items that were placed in the ark, seemed to have disappeared along the way. In I Kings 8, at the completion of the Temple, King Solomon commands that they bring the ark of the covenant from the city of David, and place it in it's new home. Notice I Kings 8:9. "There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt." What happened to the pot of manna and Aaron's rod? Questions, questions, questions. Some suggest that Aaron's staff could have decomposed by Solomon's time, and the jar of manna could have been looted when the ark was in enemy hands. Today there is great speculation and debate over the existence and location of the ark of the covenant itself! Has God preserved the ark of the covenant? If so, where is it?

For sure, the ark of the covenant and it's contents have been preserved in Scripture as a picture or type of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:3-4 says, "And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant." Regardless of your ideas about the existence or the present location of the ark of the covenant with it's contents, we find their ultimate fulfilment in Jesus Christ. How?

The ark of the covenant speaks of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Jesus is God's gold box! The ark is one of the clearest types of Jesus Christ presented in the Bible. As with the brazen altar, the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense, the acacia wood overlaid with gold represent the unique union of Jesus Christ. The wood portrays the humanity of Christ, and the gold portrays His deity. Jesus was fully man and fully God at the same time! Someone has said, "The gold gave a glow to the wood in the ark, just as the deity of Christ glorified His humanity during His earthly ministry." Paul in Colossians 2:9 said it this way, "For in Him (in Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."

Just as the ark dwelt among mankind, so Jesus Christ dwelt among us. John 1:14 reads, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

As the ark represented the throne of God, where He manifested His glory, presently, Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God in all of His glory. Ephesians 1:20-21 says, "Which He (God) wrought in Christ, when He (God) raised Him (Christ) from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."

The ark of the covenant led God's people in the Old Testament. Joshua 3:3 reads, "And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it." Jesus Christ is our leader! Jesus told His disciples and He tells us today, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

Jesus is also pictured in the contents of God's gold box!

The unbroken tables of stone, bear witness that only Jesus could perfectly keep the law. Jesus Christ came into the world to fulfill the law, redeeming us from it's condemnation and curse! Galatians 4:4 reads, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Jesus as the sinless, holy, Son of God, lived the life we could not live and died the death we could not die! Jesus has established a better covenant by His own blood! Notice Hebrews 8:6-10. "But now hath He (Jesus) obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." Praise God we are no longer under the law of Moses, doomed to repeat the failures of Old Testament Israel. We are under the covenant of grace. This is an unconditional covenant! When we trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Lord by His Holy Spirit writes the law on our hearts!

The pot of manna speaks of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ to meet our needs. Ephesians 1:3 reads, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." With Jesus Christ, we have everything. Without Jesus Christ, we have nothing. John 3:36 says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

Jesus Christ is the true manna sent to earth from Heaven! He alone is sufficient to meet all our needs. In Philippians 4:19 Paul says, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Aaron's budding rod speaks of the one supernatural event which proved that Jesus was the Son of God. The rod of Aaron had died and supernaturally come to life again. They took Jesus, bound Him, beat Him, crucified Him, and placed His lifeless body in a sealed tomb. For three days the enemies of Christ, as well as Satan and his demonic hoard threw a party! But after the third day, Aaron's rod budded and brought forth fruit! Jesus came forth from the grave! Now all believers have within them the living hope of the resurrection. Jesus takes what seems to be dead, and gives it life in Him!

Jesus has fulfilled the type! We cannot live up to the standard of God's righteousness, Jesus did! We are not always content with God's provision, Jesus was! Though Jesus never owned a house, He never complained! We do not always respect God's authority, Jesus always did. He never disrespected or disobeyed God the Father's design for His life.

What does God desire from us today? What could YOU place in God's gold box? David answered this question in Psalm 51:16-17 when he said, "For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." We could give God an attitude of faith, contentment, obedience, humility, meekness, respect and service. These are the treasures God's desires in His gold box!

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