The Ark of the Covenant. In the most holy place of the sanctuary was the ark with its cover, the mercy seat. Because the ark contained "the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments," Ex. 34:28, it is frequently called "the ark of the covenant," and Christ Himself, who spoke the law from Sinai, is called "the Angel of the covenant." Heb. 9:4; PP 252.
The instructions for making the ark were very specific: Thou shalt "make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without . . . and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four courner . . . and thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings . . . they shall not be taken from it. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee." Ex. 25:10-16. These instructions were accompanied by the oft repeated command, "After the pattern, (the model) . . . even so shall ye make." Ex. 25:9. To Bezaleel, the master workman in gold and other metal, was committed the sacred and exalted task of making the ark. Ex. 37:1.
An Ark. a Place of Safety. Webster defines the word ark as a place of safety or refuge. Besides the ark of the covenant, the Bible mentions two other arks, both of which were designed as places of safety. First, Nosh's ark in which all the righteous people of his day found refuge; second, the ark that Jochebed made for the safety of her baby Moses. Likewise, the ark of the covenant was a place of safety - safety for the law of Jehovah embosomed within it.
The law was put into the ark and covered with the mercy seat, a symbol of the seat, or throne, of the Ruler of all. This was the safest place in all the universe, and shows how supremely sacred Heaven regards the law of God, His fundamental law, the constitution of His universal government.
The Ark. God's "Treasure Chest." The ark has been called God's treasure chest, because within its heart rested His law, His special treasure. As in all the other places where wood was used in the construction of the sanctuary, the ark also was made of shittim wood - the thorny acacia of the wilderness. Fausset's Bible Encyclopedia gives us this beautiful thought: "In the thorn of man's curse appeared the Angel of the covenant to Moses in the burning bush at Horeb, to bless man, and out of this wood was formed the ark of the covenant, the typical source of his blessing." And the source of our blessing and our eternal safety is in obedience to the law that was enclosed within it.
Noah's ark and Moses' ark were made water tight by a coating of pitch "within and without," Gen. 6:14; Ex. 2:3, but the sacred ark of God's covenant was overlaid "within and without" with pure gold. Ex. 37:2. As gold represents Divinity, so this double covering of gold represented God's double protection of His law. Being made of gold and wood, the ark was a symbol of the divine human character of Christ, who said, "I delight to do thy will 0 My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart." Ps. 40:8. 0, precious ark of safety! God could place His law in that heart for He knew that there it was safe. It would never be betrayed; it would never be forsaken; it would never be misrepresented. And what God did for His only begotten Son, He will do for every other son within whose heart His law abides.
The Golden Crown. The border of crowns of pure gold encircling the ark fittingly typified not only the "many crowns" which the Saviour will wear, Rev. 19:12, - but it also represents the crowns which He will place upon the heads of all the redeemed, whose "delight is in the law of the Lord" and upon which they meditate day and night," Ps. 1:2, - those in whose lives God has written His law "not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." II Cor. 3:3. As in the table and the golden altar, this border of crowns also
represents authority and power - power over sin, which is the transgression of the law. I John 3:4. There is no promise of a crown for those who wilfully disregard any of its sacred teachings, or who attempt to change or destroy even "one jot or one tittle" of the law of God. This, even Christ Himself could not do. Matt. 5: 17,18.
The Staves. The staves also were made of shittim wood and covered with pure gold. They were put into rings of cast gold, "that the ark may be borne with them," and at no time were they to be taken from it. Ex. 25:12,14,15. This was a very definite command of God, a command not mentioned in connection with any other article of sanctuary furniture. Why? There can be but one answer: because this"treasure chest" of God, containing His choicest treasure, must never be touched by human hands - hands that have known sin. In moving from place to place, the ark, covered with the veil, Num. 4:5, "His flesh," was borne with its staves resting on the shoulders of chosen Levites, divinely appointed for this responsible task.
The penalty for disobedience on this point is shown when David undertook to bring the ark to Jerusalem. âWhen they came unto the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and He smote him, because he put his hand to the ark; and there he died before the Lord." I Chron. 13:9,10. This deeply grieved David, but it certainly teaches us that we should regard the holy law of God with the utmost reverence, never treat it with indifference, or knowingly disregard any of its precepts.
"Tables of Testimony." The tables of stone on which God wrote the Ten Commandments are called "tables of testimony," and the ark is called the "ark of the testimony." Ex. 32:15; 30:6. The Hebrew meaning of the word testimony is witness, evidence. proof. Thus the Ten Commandments are a "witness" of God's authority; they are the "evidence" or "proof" that the great Creator is the only true God. This witness, evidence, proof centers especially in the fourth or Sabbath commandment, which Satan has so cunningly endeavored to abolish. Let us beware of his satanic deceptions, lest we aid him in his nefarious work. The law of God within the heart of Christ, Ps. 40:8, that "precious ark of safety," made His life an "evidence," a "proof," a "witness" to the world "that they might know the only true God," and have "life eternal." John 17:3.
The Tables Written on Both Sides. "Thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee." Ex. 25:16. "And He gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony. tables of stone, written with the finger of God." Ex. 31:18. "The writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables." Ex. 32:16. Unlike the writing of man, the writing of God, "graven," carved in stone in sunken pattern as with a cutting tool used by engravers and sculptors, an indelible writing that could never be erased or changed. (See Webster).
"The tables were written on both their sides." Ex. 32:15. We sometimes think of these tables of stone as written on one side only. Is this correct, or are we to take Exodus 32:15 as it reads? If we are to take the Bible as it reads, it seems plain that the ten commandments are duplicated, being written on both sides of the tables. This is stated in another way in Deuteronomy 4: 13, which reads: "He wrote them (the Ten Commandments) upon two tables of stone;" that is, all the ten were written on each table. Thus when the tables were "folded together like a book," EW 32, the first four commandments would be on the left table and the last six on the right, Matt. 22:37-40, no matter which way the tables were folded, and each table would contain the entire Ten Commandments.
Moffatt's translation of Exodus 32:15 reads: "tablets written on both sides, on this side and that." Another authority comes in a personal letter from the Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati, Ohio: "Rabbi Abraham Ibin Ezra (1092-1167) interprets the words literally; viz., that the writing was duplicated on both sides. This seems to be the connotation of the verse." Then the rabbi adds that Deuteronomy 4:13 "is used to support the view that each table contained all the ten commandments." While even rabbinical interpretations differ on some points, they agree that the writing was duplicated, written on both sides of the tables.
The Significance of Duplicating the Law. Since it appears clear that the law of God was duplicated on the tables of stone, we may ask, Why is this? Why was the law written twice? Doubtless for the same reason that Pharaoh's dream was doubled unto him twice - "because the thing is established by God." Gen. 41:32. Anciently, valuable documents as scrolls were sometimes written within and without and then sealed. Their accuracy and validity were ascertained if, when the seal was broken, the writing within corresponded to that without. Thus, God would make his law unquestionable accurate and valid - "established by God."
An illustration of this custom is given in Ezekiel 2:9,10 and also in Revelation 5:1. Of the former, Jameson, Faussett, and Brown's Commentary says: â'Within and without' - on the face and on the back. Usually the parchment was written only on the inside when rolled up; but so full was God's message of impending woes in Ezekiel 2:9,10, that it was written also on the back." The same authority, commenting on the scroll of Revelation 5:1, described by Moffatt as "a scroll with the writing on the back as well as inside," says, "The writing on the back implies fullness and completeness, so that nothing more needs to be added. The roll, or book, appears from the context to be "the title deed of man's inheritance," D.E. Burgh, redeemed by Christ, and contains the successive steps by which he shall recover it from the usurper, and obtain actual possession of the kingdom already purchased for Himself and His elect saints.â
So God's law written on both front and back of the tables of stone, indicates their unusual importance, also their "fullness and completeness, so nothing more needs to be added." They express "the who duty of man." Eccl. 12:13.
There is no place in the Bible where the character of the law of God, its sacredness, its validity, its immutability, its perpetuity, and its relation to our salvation is so naturally, so plainly, and so forcefully presented as in the most holy place of the sanctuary. Satan, whose enmity against God's law resulted in his being cast out of Heaven, would have men believe that God's law is a yoke of bondage, but James, inspired by the Spirit of God, calls it "the perfect law of liberty." James 1:25. Paul tells us that sin, "the transgression of the law," I John 3:4, is our bondage - "the bondage of corruption," Rom. 8:21, from which those who obey God shall be delivered. And John says, "His commandments are not grievous." In fact, in keeping His commandments we show that we love God and that we know Him. I John 5:3; 2: 3,4. God's law of love is not a "new commandment . . . but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning." Deut. 5:6-22. The "new commandment," I John 2:7,8, which Christ came to give to the world, was the "old commandment" stripped of all its man-made regulations, See Matt. 5-7, - regulations that were indeed a yoke of bondage.
The Pot of Manna and Aaron's Rod. In addition to the tables of the covenant, the ark contained "the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded." Heb. 9:4. When were these added? At the time when, contrary to God's direction, some of the people went out to gather manna on the Sabbath, the Lord said to Moses, "Take a pot (a golden pot), and put an omer (.4428 gal. or nearly two quarts) full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations . . . . So Aaron laid it up before the testimony, to be kept." Ex. 16:33,34. God's purpose in preserving for many years a sample of this food, which otherwise spoiled overnight, was not only to give His people an evidence of His constant care over them, but to remove from all minds any groundless speculations by furture generations as to how the vast multitude of Israel were fed during their forty years' wandering in the wilderness, where no other food of any kind and no water (except from the rock) could be obtained. Num. 20:5.
Aaron's rod was placed "before the testimony" at the time of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram against Moses and Aaron, Num. 16:3, God's chosen leaders. Although occupying important positions as Levites, these men sought "the priesthood also." Num. 16:10. This spirit of self-exaltation was the same spirit that Lucifer had, and it was very displeasing to the Lord. God recognized Aaron as high priest by the miracle of Aaron's rod that over night `brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds." Num. 17:8. Then the Lord said unto Moses, "Bring
Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from Me." Num. 17:10.
It seems that both the pot of manna and Aaron!s rod were kept in the ark during the forty years' wandering of Israel. But when the ark was put into Solomon's temple at the time of the dedication of the temple, nearly 500 years later, we are told that "there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when. . . the children of Israel . . . came out of the land of Egypt." I Kings 8:9.
Where Is the Ark Now? From the time of Solomon until the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in B. C. 606, the ark with its sacred treasure was unmolested. At that time righteous men, under the faithful witness of Jeremiah, "determined to place beyond the reach of ruthless hands the sacred ark containing the tables of stone . . . . With mourning and sadness they secreted the ark in a cave, where it was to be hidden from the people of Israel and Judah because of their sins, and was to be no more restored to them." PK 453. After the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, the temple was restored. But at its dedication "no cloud of glory was seen to fill the newly erected sanctuary. The Shekinah no longer abode between the cherubim in the most holy place; the ark, the mercy seat, and the tables of the testimony were not to be found therein. No voice sounded from heaven to make known to the inquiring priest the will of Jehovah." GC 24. No wonder that many of the "ancient men that had seen the first house . . . . wept with a loud voice." Ezra 3:12.
Where Are the Tables of Stone? God's law, written with His own finger, is the standard by which all men, good and bad, shall be judged. James 2:12. Therefore, when in 1844 the Judgment of "the house of God" began in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, the tables of stone which with the ark had been secreted in a cave, evidently had at some time later been rescued and divinely transported to the most holy place in heaven, there to be God's law book, by which every case shall be decided for eternal life or eternal destruction. "The tables of stone are hidden by God, to be produced in the great Judgment day, just as He wrote them." R&H March 26, 1908, p.8. "In the temple in heaven, the dwelling place of God, . . in the most holy place, is His law, "the tables of stone," EW 33, the great rule of right by which all mankind are tested. GC 415. Here it must remain as the standard by which the wicked will be judged during the thousand years.
At the end of the thousand years, when the New Jerusalem comes down to be located on the new earth, the hosts of Satan surround the City planning to capture it. In it is a throne, "high and lifted up." upon which sits the Son of God. To the astonishment of the surrounding hosts, "there appears against the sky a hand holding two tables of stone folded together like a book." EW 32; GC 668. "The hand open the tables, and there are seen the precepts of the decalogue, traced as with a pen of fire." GC 639. The wicked see "the tables of the divine law, the statutes which they have despised and transgressed." GC 668. They are in the hands of Christ their Author who gave His life, not "to destroy the law . . . but to fulfil" it, Matt. 5:17, and thus demonstrate that God's law, "holy, and just, and good," is eternal, Rom 7:12, as enduring as its Author Eternal. Such a law, being an expression of the mind and will of God, must be as enduring as its Author." 4T 257. This is the last mention we have of the tables of stone. From the hands of Christ, they will undoubtedly be returned to their place in God's eternal throne, "close by Jehovah." EW 255. Here, as long as God rules, they will remain as evidence that God's law, that great law of divine love, engraved on these tables by His own hand and embosomed in His treasure chest, is the eternal foundation of His throne, the fundamental law of His universal and eternal government. To destroy this law would be to undermine His throne and overthrow His government.
The Special Work of All Who Enter the Most Holy Place. In this connection it is important to note that when the Judgment was set in 1844, when "the time of the dead that they should be judged" arrived, Rev. 11:18, at this time a knowledge of the law of God, which for centuries had been buried under the rubbish of error, was restored to His people. Rev. 11:19. This
was under the sounding of the seventh angel, Rev. 11:15, the last angel to give a message to the human race, for "in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he should begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished." Rev. 10:7. Then "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ." Rev. 11:15. From these texts it seems self-evident that the special work of all who enter the most holy place, is to unite with the seventh angel in proclaiming the everlasting obligation of obedience to the law of God as found in the ark. God's last message, which is now being preached in all parts of the world, is to develop a people who "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." Rev. 14:12. When this is accomplished, âthe mystery of Godâ shall be finished.