Outlines of Lectures on the Tabernacle of Witness: The Ark of the Covenant

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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 shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.
10. "And they shall make an• ark of shittim wood."
The historical order of the construction of the tabernacle and its vessels, as given in chapters 36, and 37, is different from the preceptive order in chapters 25 and 26.
In chapters 36 and 37, the divine historian begins with the account of the tabernacle and tent, its curtains and coverings, then with the boards and bars, &c., and then follows the account of the ark, the table, and the candlesticks, &c. And doubtless there is a reason for this difference.
The historical order is the natural order (compare chap. 11: 1-5, and 17-27). When the tabernacle was set up, then the various vessels were brought in and put in their proper and appointed places. All this is natural. But in chapters 25, 26, we get the order in which God mentions the various particulars, the divine order, the place they occupy in the divine mind.
When speaking of the offerings for the tabernacle, he begins with himself, " Let them bring me an offering," " Let them make me a sanctuary.' So when speaking of the vessels of the tabernacle- and the various particulars connected with it, he begins with that which pre-eminently is typical of the person of Christ, the ark of the covenant.
The Spirit of God invariably gives Christ the first place, and the center place. He is the Alpha and the Omega of all God's purposes and plans. He is God's center, the foundation, the chief corner-stone, and the head-stone of the corner. Precious Jesus! " God over all blessed forever," everlasting praises be unto thy name.
The tabernacle represents the. Church of God on earth, believers " builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2: 22). But when the Spirit of God states this, he does not simply say, " you also are builded, together," but " In whom ye also are builded together;" he begins with Christ.
It is a poor thing to meet together simply as christians for our own edification and comfort, and then to invite and expect Christ to come in. The divine thought is that we meet in the name of Jesus, around his blessed person, to maintain his honor, truth, and authority, that as so met, we may be an holy habitation of God through the Spirit. And " where two or three are gathered together in my name," says Christ, " there am I in the midst of them."
An ark of shittim wood."
The ark of the covenant is typical of the Lord Jesus, as the center of gathering and of blessing to the church of God.
The shittim wood is typical of his human nature, " as the word made flesh," the gold of his divine nature, God manifest in flesh. While the union of both represents him as Immanuel, God with us.
In the presentation of Christ, the Holy Ghost begins with his incarnation. And great stress is laid, in 1 John iv, 1, and 2 John 77For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 7), on the confession that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. In the ark of shittim wood we see Christ incarnate.
10. " 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."
This, at l ft. 9.888ins., or nearly l ft. 10ins., would be about 4 ft. 6ins. long, 2 ft. 6ins. wide, and 2 ft. 6ins. high.
Doubtless God had a reason for each of these measures, but as they are not explained as I am aware, we shall do best to leave them among the other " mysteries" connected with the person of Immanuel.
11. " And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold,, within and without shalt thou overlay it. '
There can be no mistaking the import of this. The divine nature and the divine glory in the person of the Lord Jesus here appears.
" WITH PURE GOLD," he was properly divine as well as human, and all the holiness, dignity and glory of deity was seen in him. Veiled, it may be, to human eyes, but there it was.
" Within and without shalt thou overlay it."
The intimate connection and the exquisite combination of the divine and the human in all the internal feelings and outward actings of Immanuel, is a subject of profound interest, to be approached with holy reverence and godly fear. The shoe must be taken from the foot while we tread this sacred ground.
The ark presents to us Christ in his person, according to the estimate of God and of the Spirit-taught soul, to whom the Father hath revealed him. The ark in the most holy place shows Christ within the vail, and not as he appeared to the carnal gaze of man while on earth, or to the natural mind even now.
Num.4:5,6, beautifully sets him forth in this latter point of view. " When the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come and his sons, and they shall take down the covering vail, and cover the ark of the testimony with it; and shall put thereon the covering of badgers' skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof." To the spiritual mind, he was God manifest in flesh; but to the natural mind, his flesh was " the covering vail," hiding the splendor of deity, while the badger's skin suggests the lowly form of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph and Mary yet over all this was seen a character of heavenliness, which marked him out to every beholder as not of the earth, but a stranger and a pilgrim here.
But in the ark itself we have, as I have said, his person, as in the holiest, and also as he was in his proper person while on earth.
And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it."
There were within the bosom of Jesus human thoughts, purposes, and affections, but no thought, purpose, or affection was only or merely human, but also divine, each had a divine overlaying, if I may so express it.
If he takes little children in his arms, this is not simply human tenderness, but also divine condescension and love, and the blessing pronounced by human lips confers divine and everlasting favor. Yes, and " the God shines glorious through the man," If he drops a tear of human sympathy at the grave of Lazarus, that teardrop sparkles with a love divine. And that clear, distinct human voice which utters the words, "Lazarus' come forth," and he came forth, is the voice of him, who in the beginning said, " let light be," and light was.
He sleeps exhausted with his many labors in the vessel's stern, while the elements, as though conscious that their master, slumbers, do their utmost to swamp that frail bark; but almighty power lies dormant in that weary frame. Hark! 'tis the well known voice of Mary's -son. The tempest hears it, and is still.
11. "And shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about."
As in the ark of shittim wood we have presented Christ incarnate, and in the ark overlaid with gold, God manifest in flesh; so in this golden crown, we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor" (Heb. 2: 9).
In the ark encircled with its golden crown, we see Jesus risen and glorified; the blood on the mercy seat at the basis of this crown, tells us of his atoning death: but when he had finished the work which his Father gave him to do on earth, he said, " and now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." And though we see- not yet all things put under him, yet we know that his prayer is answered, and that the risen man at God's right hand is there divinely glorified.
12, 13, 14. " 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 thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them."
These rings and staves adapted the ark to the wilderness condition of God's people, so as to be in readiness to accompany them in all their journeyings. And Jesus assures us, where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. xviii, 20). Wherever throughout "that great and terrible wilderness" the tabernacle of God was pitched, there the ark occupied its central, prominent and appointed place. So where saints are gathered according to God, there will the presence of Jesus be. But his own proper place must be reserved for him, and given to him, and God's order of gathering is, "Jesus in the midst."
14. "And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne by them."
There was no wagon and oxen provided for the ark (Num. vii, 9). But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none; because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon the shoulders " (See Num. 4: 4; 5: 15).
The ark was to be borne upon the shoulders of the priests, the Levites, of the family of Kohath. When David attempted to bring up the ark into the city of David, and placed it after the example of the Philistines on a new cart, God made a breach upon Uzza (1 Chron. 13). But when David, having discovered his mistake, put it on the shoulders of the Levites, according to God's order, God helped the Levites, and there was joy and blessing (1 Chron. 15).
So the setting forth or ministry of Christ, as God's ark, ought to be a matter of individual responsibility to God. It is not to be done by machinery. It is not an affair to be taken up by societies, formed according to the principles of men, and upon a worldly model. All this is a departure from the simplicity of the order of God, and from the examples of the early christians under the immediate guidance of the Holy Ghost, through the apostles and prophets.
Where Christ has given the gift, whether it be of the evangelist, the pastor, or the teacher, the possession of that gift lays the individual receiving it under solemn responsibility to Christ. And woe be to the evangelist, if he preach not the gospel. Woe to the pastor if he feed not the flock of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood: and to the teacher, if he take not heed to the ministry which he hath received in the Lord that he fulfill it. And woe be to him that hinders it. On the other hand, he that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward, and the Lord's word is, " Occupy till I come." " Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing."
O happy servant he,
In such a posture found,
He shall his Lord with rapture see,
And be with honor crowned.
When John Bunyan, then a prisoner in Bedford jail, was asked, If he were let free, would he pro,- mize not to preach again; his reply was, " If you let me out of prison to-day, I will preach again, by God's grace, to-morrow." He felt the pressure of the staves of the ark resting upon his shoulders.
The rings were to be of gold, and the staves of shittim wood overlaid with gold. This teaches us that the divine grace of the Lord Jesus and also his human sympathy and tenderness, and both coin.
blued, adapt him to the need of his people in their present wilderness condition. He can condescend to the weakness of the two or the three met in his name, and can be touched with a feeling of their infirmities, but he is also present in their midst in the all-sufficiency of divine grace and strength.
" The staves shall be in the rings of the ark they shall not be taken from it."
Not only were the children of Israel to be always ready to follow the leadings of the cloud, " to go by day or by night " (Num. 9: 21); but also the ark was ever in readiness to accompany them.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, says Christ, "there am d;" not, there will I be. He is always in readiness to meet with us; we have never to wait for him, though we have always to wait upon him.
Then, again, the worship of God in this dispensation is not confined or fixed to a certain locality or localities. The hour cometh and now is," says Christ, " when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father" (John iv, 21).
"Where'er we seek him he is found, And every spot is holy ground."
It is good to have a closet in our houses, consecrated by visits from the Father and the Son, and holy communings with them; and desirable to have a suitable place where brethren in Jesus may meet together free from all distraction; but the only true consecration is that which flows from the manifestation of the divine presence, and, the revelation of the glory of God in the person of the Lord Jesus,-in the present power of the Holy Ghost.
" And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee."
The ark was to be the depository of the unbroken tables of the law. The two tables of testimony first given, through Israel's utter failure, were broken beneath mount Sinai (Ex. 31: 18; 32: 19).
The second tables were put into the ark (Deut. 10: 1-5).
The shittim wood, as we have seen, sets forth the incarnation of Christ, and the gold his divine glory, and both the human and the divine combined in his mysterious and blessed person, so these unbroken tables of the law put into the ark and kept there, point out the unsullied obedience of his life as man.
As made of a woman, he was made under the law (Gal. 4: 4). And he kept it, as no other man did or could. But as Son of God, he did infinitely more. Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2: 6-8). That is, he obeyed as man, or rather as God-man, the will of his heavenly Father -a character of obedience infinitely higher, and divinely more precious than human obedience to law.
Law never demanded that the righteous should die for the guilty. Nay, law would have forbidden it. Law foreshadowed the substitution of the innocent for the guilty, and atonement by blood; and Christ by his atoning death fulfilled the shadows of the law. But in fulfilling them he went infinitely beyond the law's demands.
Law declares the righteous requirement of God from man in the flesh, and supposes in man's nature a tendency to evil, and forbids it. And hence, when brought to bear on man, it becomes the ministry of condemnation. It tests the nature and brings out its real character (Rom. 8: 7). Christ's nature was pure and holy, and hence his perfect obedience to all its principles and precepts, as Son of the virgin. But over and above all \ this, as the eternal Son of the eternal Father he obeyed his Father's will, and through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and from that height of excellent glory he has sent down the Holy Spirit to baptize into one body in fellowship with their exalted Head all believers in him. So that now, in virtue of this oneness, the believer stands accepted in him, in all that he was and did on earth, both as the obedient Son of man, and the obedient Son of the Father, in all that he suffered on the accursed tree, when he offered up himself as a sweet-smelling savor unto God, and in all that he now is, as the glorified man at God's right hand above. He himself is our righteousness, and we are made the righteousness of God in him. T. N.