The Reading: Exodus 25:10-22
“put into the ark the testimony which I shall give” (v.16) RSV
The Ark resided in the Holy of Holies and it specifically represented the presence of God. The word ‘ark’ literally means a box or boat. Of course there is the well known ark of Noah, but the ark of God was a carefully constructed box which measured 2½ cubits (112cm) by 1½ (77cm) by 1½ cubits (77cm). It was covered with gold inside and out, and it was carried by two poles that fitted through rings which were attached to each of its four corners.
This box contained “the testimony” (v.16) of God. That is, it contained the two tablets of stone that Moses had brought down from Mount Sinai upon which were written the Ten Commandments. Thus the law of God resided in the ark, representing his just and holy presence.
However the ark did not only consist of the box, for God instructed that above it should sit the “mercy seat” (v.17). This construction represented the love of God which overcame his justice. The two cherubim sat opposite each other with their wings touching so that they created a holy space between themselves. This space (note, no idol or representation of God) was filled with the love of God.
As God said, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat … I will speak with you …” (V.22). Here is revealed the whole purpose of religion, to meet with the living God. The ark was normally kept in the most holy place, but it had a chequered history, once being captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:1-7:2). Later King David tried to bring it to Jerusalem (before the Temple was built). His first attempt was disastrous because he did not carry it as God had instructed. Consequently Uzzah died (2 Samuel 6:6-7). On the second attempt it was carried with due reverence and all was well.
God is holy and is to be obeyed, but he is also merciful and longs to forgive and to restore. So when we come to him we trust not in our merit but in his steadfast love and mercy.
Praise you Lord for your love and holiness. Amen.
1 Read of other times the ark went on a journey.
2 Read a New Testament account of the ark.