The Purpose of the Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant was one of the most sacred objects in the Old Testament. God gave very specific instructions to Moses on how to build the Ark and what items were to be placed inside it. This shows the great significance and divine purpose of the Ark. As Evangelical and Charismatic Christians, we believe the Ark serves as a testimony to God’s power, glory, and desire to dwell with His people.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Ark housed the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, a reminder of God’s laws and covenant with Israel.
  • It contained a jar of manna, emphasizing God’s miraculous provision.
  • Aaron’s staff was a sign of God’s authority and the validation of His chosen priests and leaders.
  • The Ark was a representation of God’s presence. Its covering cherubim figures suggest angels worshipping at God’s throne.
  • God displayed His glory and power through the Ark, using it to part the Jordan River and knock down the walls of Jericho.
  • Its holiness was protected with dire warnings, as the Ark was not to be touched unworthily.

The Ark teaches us vital spiritual truths that are still relevant today about revering God’s word, experiencing His supernatural power, and seeking His presence.

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The Purpose of the Ark of the Covenant

The Design and Contents of the Ark

According to Exodus 25, God commanded Moses: “Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high” (Exodus 25:10, NKJV). The Ark of the Covenant was a small wooden chest, overlaid with pure gold inside and out. It had four gold rings on the corners so that poles covered in gold could pass through them, enabling the Levites to carry the Ark without touching it directly.

The mercy seat, or atonement cover, sat atop the Ark. It was solid gold with two cherubim facing each other, wings outstretched. God said, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim…I will speak to you” (Exodus 25:22, NKJV). This shows the Ark was the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence and glory.

Inside the Ark were three sacred items, representing God’s covenant with Israel:

The stone tablets of the Ten Commandments– God gave these laws to Moses on Mount Sinai as part of His covenant with Israel (Exodus 31:18). Placing them within the Ark signifies the importance of obeying God’s commands.

A golden pot of manna– When Israel wandered in the wilderness, God miraculously provided manna from heaven to feed them (Exodus 16:35). This emphasizes God’s faithful provision.

Aaron’s staff that budded– Aaron’s authority as high priest was validated when his staff miraculously budded and produced almonds, while the other staffs did not (Numbers 17:8). This reminds us that God chooses and empowers His servants.

The Ark and God’s Presence

The Ark’s main purpose was to be the visible representation of God’s holy presence with His people. After it was constructed, the Bible says, “the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34 NKJV). The pillar of cloud signified God’s guiding presence, while the glory cloud was evidence of His manifest power in the tabernacle.

Whenever Israel broke camp to journey through the wilderness, the Ark went before them: “the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them…to search out a resting place for them” (Numbers 10:33 NKJV). God was their leader, going ahead to bring them into the Promised Land. During the crossing of the Jordan River into Canaan, God worked a miracle when the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the water, causing the river to stand up in a heap (Joshua 3:15-17).

After Israel conquered Jericho, Joshua commanded the priests to carry the Ark around the city for seven days. On the seventh day, when they gave a long blast on the trumpets, the walls supernaturally collapsed (Joshua 6:4-20)! The Ark was an instrument of God’s power and deliverance for Israel.

The Holiness of the Ark

As the earthly throne of God’s presence, the Ark was considered extremely holy. Specific instructions were given to protect it: “They shall not touch any holy thing lest they die” (Numbers 4:15 NKJV). When the Philistines temporarily captured the Ark and set it up in the temple of their god Dagon, the idol was found bowing reverently before the Ark two mornings in a row! The Philistines were soon afflicted with tumors for their disrespect (1 Samuel 5:1-6).

After a man named Uzzah touched the Ark to steady it and was immediately struck dead by God, David was afraid to continue moving the Ark. Instead, it rested in the house of Obed-Edom for three months, where it blessed his entire household (2 Samuel 6:6-11). David then followed the Lord’s instructions by having the Levites carry the Ark on poles to Jerusalem, demonstrating the right reverence for its holiness (1 Chronicles 15).

As Charismatic believers, we must approach God with utmost honor and awe, acknowledging the glory due His name (Psalm 29:2). Though we are under the New Covenant and do not fear death if we accidentally touch a holy object, we must remember that God’s power and righteousness are unchanging. He desires our sincere worship.

The Ark in Significance and Symbolism

The Ark of the Covenant takes on expanded meaning and significance when viewed as a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. The Ark was the place where the presence of the Lord dwelled, just as Christ is the living embodiment of God on earth (Colossians 2:9).

The atonement cover prefigures Christ’s sacrificial death for us. The sprinkled blood of animals was temporary, but Christ’s shed blood brings eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12). As our heavenly high priest, Jesus is the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).

The manna in the Ark symbolizes Jesus as the bread of life who came down from heaven to give eternal life to the world (John 6:48-51). Jesus fulfilled what the Ark and the earthly tabernacle represented – Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). All the artifacts of worship and sacrifice found purpose and completion in Him.

The Ark and the End Times

Some Bible scholars link the Ark of the Covenant to end times prophecies in Revelation. As Evangelical Christians, we affirm that a great tribulation will come upon the earth prior to Christ’s Second Coming and millennial reign. Revelation 11:19 says, “Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.”

This correlates to other Scriptures describing heavenly temples and tabernacles where God is worshipped continuously by angels, elders, and the redeemed saints (Revelation 4-5, 7:15). The Ark of the Old Covenant has its perfect fulfilment in glory, when we will behold God’s presence fully.

The discovery or rebuilding of the literal Ark of the Covenant on earth has also been proposed as having relevance to end times prophecy. However, from a Christian perspective, we do not need to find any lost relics to validate God’s promises. Christ has already come as our complete atonement. Our focus should be on redemption, not artifacts.

Applications for Today

While we no longer have the golden Ark, its legacy and significance continue. Here are some ways the Ark of the Covenant still teaches us vital spiritual truths:

  • God’s word and law (Ten Commandments) are unchanging truth we must reverence.
  • God faithfully provides for His children in all circumstances.
  • God empowers ordinary people for service and ministry when He calls them.
  • We must passionately seek the manifest presence of God, both corporately and individually.
  • Worship that pleases God is done in spirit and truth, with hearts that are in awe of His glory.
  • None can approach on their own merits. Only through Christ’s atonement are we made worthy to commune with the Most Holy God.

The earthly Ark was a shadow of heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5) pointing to the redemption we have in Jesus Christ. As New Testament believers, we can boldly approach God’s throne of grace to find mercy and help (Hebrews 4:16). His presence dwells in us through the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as Savior. The divine purpose of the Ark of the Covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in those who worship God in spirit and truth today.

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