The Ark and Its Contents

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The reality of Jehovah's presence in the midst of His people was borne witness to in many distinct ways. He was graciously pleased not only to dwell amongst them but to accompany them in all their journeyings as their Leader and Protector. The tabernacle of witness and the ark of His covenant provided a sufficient guarantee against disorder in their ranks, or danger from outside. The people had the knowledge of this for their own comfort. It was outwardly attested by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The strength and happiness of the people depended upon their spiritual discernment of the great truth that Jehovah was with them. The Gentiles even had to own this obvious fact although it excited their envy and hatred. Num. 9 sets before us in great detail how Jehovah was guiding them in their journeyings by the cloud, with its “appearance of fire by night”; as the next chapter shows that He was not only their Leader, but Protector—the silver trumpets proclaiming His authority and instructions to the utmost parts of the camp. The tribes had their respective positions allotted to them in the camp (Num. 2); as also, in this chapter, the order of its setting forward when called to march, that thus there should be no uncertainty or confusion in the minds of any of them.
Now in all the perfect arrangement for the blessing and safety of Israel, there was an undercurrent of grace which would admit and welcome the stranger to a share in the blessing of Jehovah's people. “And Moses said unto Hobab... We are journeying unto the place of which Jehovah said, I will give it you. Come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for Jehovah hath spoken good concerning Israel.... And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness Jehovah shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee” (Num. 10:29-32).
And why not? Israel's separation from the nations in nearness to Jehovah had been secured: their supremacy was acknowledged and their God worshipped by the stranger (Ex. 18:7-12). Such a gracious invitation was quite in keeping with the ways of God towards His people, and shall surely be made good in millennial days. “And they departed from the mount of Jehovah three days' journey: and the ark of the covenant of Jehovah went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them. And the cloud of Jehovah [was] upon them by day, when they went out of the camp. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, “Rise up, O Jehovah, and let thine enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee flee before thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Jehovah, unto the many thousands of Israel” (Num. 10:32-36).
It is of importance to notice here that the ark with its contents was fully owned as the symbol of Jehovah's presence, containing in itself every memorial of past deliverance and pledge of victory and blessing for Israel in the future: so that to such an one as Moses, when the ark set forward, it was Jehovah going before them; and when it rested, Jehovah was welcomed back to the many thousands of Israel. That the ark was, in a very special way, a type of Christ, the Leader of His people, appears evident in the early days of Israel when about to enter upon the possession of the land of their inheritance which God gave them. For Josh. 3 and 4 read in the light of Col. 2 and 3, show that the passing over of the ark of the covenant before the children of Israel into, and its coming out of, Jordan, was a prefiguring of the death and resurrection of Christ in its power to bring the believer now as having died with Him, into “the heavenlies” where we have our conflict with the powers of darkness (Eph. 6:10-20). It was the only way open to them and it was strange to them. “Ye have not passed this way heretofore.” It was for Christ Himself the path of life, i.e. through death and resurrection. “Thou wilt show me the path of life” ( Psa. 16). For His people it constitutes the only way into the heavenly position of which Canaan was a figure. With the knowledge that Christ has died for my sins, and borne the judgment upon the cross, I cheerfully and deliberately identify myself with Him in His death, “that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). We are called to make good our title to be in “the heavenlies” by death and resurrection. It is thus that death, man's greatest enemy, becomes one of the possessions of the believer, who thereby finds escape from that place and state to which God's judgment applied. Previous to this the ark had no typical association with resurrection, but henceforth it was to be, in the minds of the people, connected inseparably with that mighty power of God working for their complete deliverance from the sorrows and toils of the wilderness, and bringing them into ultimate rest in the heavenly inheritance.
Moreover, as their deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 12,14.) was to be had in perpetual remembrance, and the passover to be observed by an ordinance forever, so were the twelve stones taken up from the midst of Jordan and set up in Gilgal, to be a perpetual witness of the power of Christ working on behalf of His people. “And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What [mean] these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land” (Josh. 4:20-22). Their right and title to be in Canaan at all was found in this, “the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.” Victory and triumph were theirs, because Jehovah, the living God, was in their midst.
(continued from p. 199)
(To be continued)