THE ARK AND THE MERCY SEAT
We come now to the only
article of furniture in the most holy place, the ark and its covering lid, the golden
It was constructed of acacia
wood overlaid with pure gold, while the mercy seat, with the cherubim beaten out of
either end of it, was all pure gold. The
details are recorded in Ex 25:10-22.
The acacia wood here, as in
the other articles of tabernacle furniture, represents the Lord’s humanity, while
His deity is portrayed by the gold, their combination proclaiming His dual nature: He
was perfect Man, but no less also perfect God.
The dimensions were two and
a half cubits long, one and a half cubits broad, and one and a half cubits high; and
as has been noted in previous studies, these half numbers appear to emphasize the
fact that no type is capable of setting forth all the perfections of Christ.
Solomon is generally recognized as being a type of Christ in His millennial
glory, and the confession of the queen of Sheba in regard to Solomon’s glory,
“The half hath not been told me,” is the declaration of the truth that no type
can fully express the glory of Christ. As
has also been noted, however, half numbers in Scripture appear to convey their
meaning by being doubled to make them whole numbers.
These dimensions of the ark therefore, doubled, become five by three by three;
and since three is the number of manifestation or resurrection, and five, of
responsibility, they declare that He Who is represented by the ark, has been raised
from death because of the willing obedience that led Him to a perfect fulfillment of
responsibility in relation to the Father’s will by the laying down of His life at
“... and shalt make upon
it a crown of gold round about,” Ex 25:11. This
reminds us that because He was willing to submit to the ignominy and pain of being
crowned with thorns, He is now “crowned with glory and honor,” at God’s right
hand, Heb 2:9.
The four golden rings
(symbol of what is eternal), one in each corner, verse 12, used to carry the ark, may
represent the four Gospels, which are the means by which Christ is “carried” to
the world by means of the eternal Word. Since
four is the number of earth and testing, their being four, would remind us that the
Word, in which Christ is presented as the Savior of the world, is that by which every
man will eventually be tested or judged, “He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not
My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall
judge him in the last day,” Jn 12:48.
The two staves, inserted
through the rings as the means of carrying the ark, may represent the Old and New
Testaments, for as the ark was confined between them, so was Christ “confined” by
the written Word. All that is to be
known of Him is written there. It is
only the limitation of our finite minds that prevents us from seeing Him clearly,
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known,” 1 Cor 13:12.
thou shalt put into the ark the testimony (the tables of the law) which I shall give
thee,” verse 16; but Heb 9:4 adds that in addition there were also placed in the
ark the golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded.
the ark is a type of Christ, these things within it represent things that were in
Him, and certainly the symbols aren’t hard to decipher.
Ps 40:8 translates the symbol of the tables of the law, for it must be
remembered that “the law” is used frequently to designate the Word of God, “I
delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”
Christ’s every thought, word and deed were governed by the Scriptures.
Since the manna is a type of
Christ as the spiritual food that nourishes the believer’s new life, this
representative portion preserved in the golden pot reminds us that that same Christ
Who walked the earth, despised and rejected, as the Living Word, is crowned now with
glory and honor in heaven.
In Aaron’s burgeoning rod
(it miraculously bore buds, blossoms, and almonds all at the same time, in spite of
having been cut off from the tree), Nu 17:8, we have a vivid picture of Him, Who
having been “cut off” at Calvary, is “the resurrection and the life,” Jn
11:25, giving to all who trust Him, life more abundant.
Where unbelief sees careless
recording, faith sees the display of Divine wisdom.
The Exodus account mentions only the presence of the tables of the law in the
ark; and only when we come to the New Testament do we learn that there were also the
golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. The seeming careless omission of these latter two from the Exodus
account serves only to point up the significance of the mercy seat that covered the
ark. That law which man had broken was
covered by both the golden mercy seat, and also the blood that was sprinkled upon it.
But the Levitical ritual was only a shadow of better things yet to come: a
better covenant, a better sacrifice, a better house, a better priesthood.
Those sacrifices could not put sin away permanently, or give peace to the
conscience. There was no spiritual
“manna,” no resurrection, until Christ’s sacrifice put sin away for ever, and
gave peace of conscience to the believer. In
that mercy seat of pure gold we have a type of Christ as God the Son, but in the
blood with which it was sprinkled we are reminded that that same Son of God became
Son of Man that He might takes man’s guilty place, and die to put away sin for
centuries those two cherubim (representative of those placed at the east of Eden when
Adam was expelled from the garden), stood guarding the presence of God from the
intrusion of sinful man; and each day of atonement they beheld the high priest
sprinkle the blood of the sin offering; but it wasn’t until the Lord Jesus Christ
had presented Himself as the one perfect Sacrifice that needed no repetition, that we
read of their watch or guardianship coming to an end.
On the resurrection morning we read that, “Mary stood without at the
sepulchre weeping ... and seeth two angels in white sitting (symbolic of
rest), the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had
lain,” Jn 20:11-12. The long period of
guardianship was ended. The perfect Sacrifice had been offered.
The way had been provided whereby man could return to God, for He Whose body
had lain between those two cherubim, was “The way, the truth and the life.”