The Tabernacle: The Ark–Its Compartment, Construction and Contents (Part 2)
Such was the significance of the Ark of the Covenant that it is no exaggeration to assert that the remainder of the Tabernacle complex existed to house it and give it meaning. That is to say, there was no need for a Tabernacle if the Ark didn't exist, and there was no reason for God to have provided additional furniture if He had no place for an Ark. The Ark was primary, principal and prominent within the Tabernacle.
The reason, of course, is that together with the Mercy Seat, it formed the throne of God, the place from which God promised He would meet with Moses (Ex. 25:22, KJV). In addition to meeting with him, God also guaranteed that He would commune with Moses there. Thus the Ark of the Covenant was a unique place. It was the point where God Himself dwelt, something that had not happened since meeting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
It does not require much insight to note that the Ark speaks profoundly of Christ. Every detail can be directly traced back to Him, beginning with its solitariness within that last compartment. It had no rival within the Holy of Holies. Hebrews 9 states that the ministry of the Golden Altar related to the Holy of Holies, but it was not located there. For the Golden Altar to be within the vail would be to detract from the centrality of the Ark. As it stood in that ten cubits squared compartment, the Ark would have been conspicuous. The High Priest entering for the first time, would not have been confused as to what was what. The Ark stood alone, and in this way, it pictures the Supremacy of Christ. There is none like Him.
In previous articles, we have noted the significance of the items of furniture that had a framework of Shittim wood and a golden overlay. These speak of the two natures of Christ–human and divine–within the one person. It is not the current intention to belabour this point, but it is of note that it was the case for the Ark also. If ever there was an object that spoke of this glorious hypostatic union, then it was the Ark. But also of note is its height. God instructed Moses that the height was to be 'a cubit and a half' (Ex. 25:10), making it the same height as the central network of the Brazen altar and the Table of Shewbread. This association informs us that sacrifice was the basis for the Table's provision and the source of the blood that satisfied the eye of God. This relationship connected the Courtyard to the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies.
Of particular note were the contents within the Ark. Hebrews 9:4 tells us that it held three separate items; 1) the golden pot that had the manner; 2) Aaron's rod that budded; 3) the tables of the covenant. At first blush, there might seem to be no connection between these items, but that would be to miss the point. Each of these artefacts represented a significant failure of the people in the wilderness. The incident concerning the manna is described in Exodus 16 and has at its core dissatisfaction with God's provision. Leviticus 16 and 17 record the event surrounding Aaron's rod and underlines a rebellion against God's appointed administration. Exodus 32 gives the account of the debacle at the mount and marks a rebellion against God's revelation. As Moses placed these items into the Ark, the people were reminded of their various failures and God's grace in accounting for them.
The application to Christ is most touching. All of our sins have been met in the person and work of Christ. The judgment required for our sin fell upon Him. He 'bare our sins in His own body on the tree' (1 Pet. 2:24, KJV) when God 'made Him to be sin for us' (2 Co. 5:21).
Thus, its aloneness in its compartment, its associations in its construction, and the admonition in its contents, all confirm that the Ark of the covenant speaks entirely of Christ.