The Ark

Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9.

“And there I will meet with thee” (Exod. 25:22). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Its Construction

The same two materials that were used in the making of the incense altar and the table were used in the ark of the covenant. It was shittim wood covered inside and outside with fine gold. It was the wood that did not corrupt, covered with the precious metal that would not rust. The gold in its unchanged beauty spoke of the deity of Christ; the wood that once grew in the shittim tree tells us of the unstained humanity of our Lord. Our Redeemer was He “Whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2); and yet it was He who “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

The dimensions of the ark were: two and a half cubits long, one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. Thus the ratio of the numbers are five, three, and three. Five as said before is the number that is written on us because of our five senses. Righteousness in the linen fence of the court was against us, that fence was five cubits high. Righteousness was between us and God because of what we were in our members. But the altar of burnt offering was five cubits in length and five cubits in breadth, suggesting that the sacrifice there was God’s provision to meet our need. The three half cubits in the height and breadth of the ark of the covenant speak of the triune God who Himself provided the ark and mercy seat. In the altar of burnt offering also, the numbers are five and three. Three, the revelation of what God is; five, the revelation of what I am. These two vessels of the tabernacle, the altar of burnt offering with its sacrifice, and the ark of the covenant, with its mercy seat, combine the thought of me and my need, with the thought of God and His provision.

Staves And Rings

The very explicit instructions that the staves were to be in the rings of the ark and not taken from it, shows the continuous identification of the ark with Israel in all their wanderings. It was a pilgrim ark while they were a pilgrim people. The staves must never be withdrawn.

It was in the wilderness with its trials and its failures that the mercy seat was needed by the people of God; those staves to bear the ark were the assurance that the mercy seat would ever be with them. What a gracious provision that was! Some people today who do not know themselves blindly imagine that they do not need a mercy seat. Strangers do not have to penetrate into the secret imaginations of the hearts of these people to know they need a mercy seat; it is apparent to others in their daily lives, but they themselves have so deceived themselves that they profess to believe that now they never sin at all. God who knew His people knew that they needed a mercy seat, always, wherever they might be, and so He provided an ark with staves and rings that the “propitiation” might ever be with them. The candlestick had no staves; the candlestick will have its perfect fulfillment when the wilderness is over and Christ and His saints are manifest as one in glory. But the ark was for a wilderness people.

The Crown And The Cherubim

The precious blood sprinkled on the mercy seat spoke of the death of Christ, but the crown of gold at the top of the ark spoke of His resurrection. The only crown our Lord wore when here was the crown of thorns (John 19:2); in resurrection God His Father has crowned Him with “glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9).

The first place in the Bible that cherubim are mentioned is in Genesis 3:24. The cherubim there have a flaming sword between them; on the mercy seat they have the precious blood between them. This is what redemption has wrought. The flaming sword that kept the way of the tree of life pierced the heart of the Shepherd of the sheep (Zech. 13:7), and made a way of peace and life for us (Heb. 10:19-22). It may have been a suggestion of all this when in the empty sepulchre of our Lord, Mary Magdalene saw “two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:12). Between these two heavenly beings the blood stained garments of our Lord were lying. These two holy angels with the precious blood between them in an empty grave seemed to say, Now the antitype of the mercy seat has come; here the ark of the covenant with its mercy seat above is fulfilled.

The cherubim or seraphim are seen in Isaiah 6:1-7 in the presence of God; in the presence also of an altar and of an accepted sacrifice. When the prophet cries, “Woe is me for I am undone,” immediately one of the seraphim flies with a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs from the altar, and with it touched the lips of Isaiah, saying, “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” (Isa. 6:7). If cherubim are the guardians of God’s throne as so many think, then it is striking that these heavenly beings applied mercy and cleansing to the humiliated prophet. Grace is in the light of the throne of God (Rom. 5:21). Salvation is according to the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:21).

In Revelation 5:8-9 the cherubim or “living creatures” are seen again in proximity to the throne of God. There with the redeemed they worship. It is the presence of “the Lamb” in the midst of the throne that causes these exalted beings to bend in glad exultation before God. The cherubim belong to God’s throne and they delight in redemption by blood.

In Revelation 20:11, the throne of God is seen without cherubim and without a mercy seat; then the wicked dead are arraigned before the dread tribunal of justice; the books are opened, and “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).