You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you.
The section that describes the ark of the covenant — 25:10-22 — gets pretty detailed. The length and width are given, as well as the material of the ark and its overlay. There is a good bit of symbolism in many of the attributes of the ark — as is true for most of the tabernacle and things. These symbols are often interpreted rightly to be a picture of Christ, but I would like to look at how some of the symbols might apply to me as one who is supposed to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.
First, the ark is made of wood. This is not a permanent material. Wood is temporary; rots away over time. More, the particular wood prescribed is thought to be a variety that (a) is thorny and gnarled on the outside, (b) tends to blacken as it ages, and (c) is common to the region. Those things — rough on the outside, blackening with age, and common — describe human beings quite well. We tend to be a bit rough on the outside and we do blacken with sin as we age and we are fairly common. But God does not leave things here.
Second, the ark is overlaid with gold. Gold, even today, carries with it the idea of permanence and glory. So this perishable puts on imperishable, as Paul writes much later on. The wood that otherwise passes away is covered over with gold, wrapping the passing in permanence. This is a picture of salvation, particularly the part of salvation called sanctification. In that phase of salvation (there are three phases mentioned by Paul — justification, sanctification, and glorification), I am being changed into the likeness of Christ; the wood is overlaid with gold; my perishable puts on God’s imperishable.
Third and finally for this morning, the testimony is in the ark. The testimony is almost synonymous with The Law. Over and over again, The Bible speaks of believers having God’s Law/testimony within us (Psalm 37:31, 40:8; Isaiah 51:7; Jeremiah 31:33; Romans 2:15). The idea of having God’s Law within me is not that I have a set of rules just etched on my brain cells, but that the presence of God’s precepts in me is evidenced by how I live my life. The choices I make and the way that I think should bear witness to my contents being God’s Law. But the testimony that God tells Moses to place in the ark is not limited to The Law. Aaron’s rod and a jar full of manna are also placed in there, reminders of God’s miraculous saving power and God’s provision respectively. I should not just be filled up with God’s Law which might lead to legalism, but I should also be filled with an awareness of His ability to save whiners and complainers and such like me as well as an awareness that He provides for our needs, beginning with salvation and progressing from there.
The practical implications of this are obvious. I am that acacia wood: prickly and rough to the touch and blackening with sin as I age unless God intervenes. But God covers me with gold — His holiness and glory and righteousness — so that I can be in His presence. He then fills me with His Law and an awareness of His mighty saving power and His provision for all my needs (even and especially when there seems no way to supply those needs). Let me live out the Law within me and keep always before my mind’s eye the awareness of His power and provision.
Father, thank You for saving me and for providing my needs and showing Yourself mighty on my behalf. Please work in me to live out Your Law within me and to be mindful of Your power and provision always present and ready to act with what is best for me in mind.