By J. Vernon McGee
We have now come to the sanctum sanctorum of the Tabernacle. As we come in closer to the dwelling place of God, the emphasis is removed from the work of Christ to the Person of Christ. There were two articles of furniture in the Holy of Holies: the ark and the mercy seat. We shall direct our attention first to the ark. The instructions for it are found in Exodus 25:
And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit 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 shalt thou overlay it, 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 corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it. And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. (Exodus 25:10-16)
Israel was a theocracy, and Jehovah was King. In this they were unlike the nations round about them. The ark was God's throne. He did not sit upon it in any anthropomorphic sense, but He dwelt between the cherubim:
The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims. (Psalm 99:1)
If its place in the blueprint had anything to do with it, the ark was the most important article of furniture, for the instructions for it were the The artist, George Howell, has sketched the Tabernacle interior without the separating veil. The rear compartment shows the Holy of Holies which housed the Ark of the Covenant. The front compartment pictures the Holy Place in which were the Lampstand of Gold, the Altar of Gold, and the Table of Shewbread. first given of any part of the Tabernacle. The fact that it was God's throne lent importance to it. No Israelite ever saw it, so sacred was it. Only the high priest was permitted to behold it. On the wilderness march it was carefully wrapped, first in the veil and then with badgers' skins. The chest, measuring two and one-half by one and one-half by one and one-half cubits, was made of shittim wood, overlaid both inside and out with gold. It was thus a true symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ, setting forth both His deity, represented by the gold, and His humanity, represented by the wood. It spoke of Him in the hypostatic union -- very God of very God and very man of very man. The ark could not be spoken of as merely a wooden box, for it contained gold; and it could not be called a golden chest, for it contained wood. It required both to maintain the symbolism pointing to Christ as the God-Man. To overlook this duality is to entertain a monstrous notion of His Person. There is no doctrine of Scripture so filled with infinite mystery, so far removed from the skein of man's thinking, so foreign to the realm of explanation, than is the hypostatic union in Christ. Yet there is no symbol so simple as the ark -- merely a box made of wood and gold -- yet it speaks of things unfathomable. Truly, God chooses the simple things to confound the wise. That simple box tells out the whole story, so far as man can take it in, of the unsearchable mysteries of the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He was not merely a thaumaturgist. Neither was He a man with an over-developed God-consciousness. He was God.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9)
He spoke as God. He put Himself on the same plane with God: Ye believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1)
He that hath seen me hath seen the Father [God]. (John 14:9)
Likewise, He was perfect man. He grew tired and sat down at a well in Samaria in the cool of the day. He slept, He ate, He drank, and He laughed and wept. And beyond all that, He suffered. All these are human characteristics.
The gold and the wood in the ark were both required; yet neither was mingled with the other, nor was the identity of one lost in the other. Christ was both God and man, but these two natures were never fused or merged. He never functioned at the same time as both God and man. What He did was either perfectly human or perfectly divine. Christ was a theanthropic Person and the only Mediator between God and men.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
The ark was not merely an empty box. It contained three items:
Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant. (Hebrews 9:4)
The tables of the covenant speak of the kingship of Christ. He was born a king, He lived a king, He died a king, He rose from the dead as a king, and He is coming again to this earth as the King. God's program is moving today, and has been from all eternity to the time when Christ shall rule over this earth, for he will turn and turn until He comes whose right it is to rule (see Ezekiel 21:27). This earth needs a ruler, man needs a king, and some day He is coming as King of kings and Lord of lords.
The pot of manna speaks of Christ as prophet. He spoke for God:
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35)
Christ not only spoke for God, but He was God's message to man. He was the Logos, the Word of God, the very Alphabet of God, and the Alpha and Omega. He was God's final message to man. Since Christ came, heaven has been silent, for God has no addenda to place after Christ. There can be no postscript to the letter where Christ is the embodiment of that letter. God has told out His heart in Christ.
Aaron's rod in the ark speaks of the work of Christ as Priest. The prophet spoke for God before men; the priest spoke for man before God. As a priest, Christ offered Himself. As a priest, He passed into heaven, and even now sits on God's right hand. We have spoken previously of the work of Christ as Priest. Suffice it to say here that there is a man in the glory at this very moment for us. As Aaron's rod which budded (the authority of His priesthood) was in the Holy of Holies, thus today there is in heaven at God's right hand the man Christ Jesus, who was raised from the dead. He is the unique example of resurrection up to the present hour. He is there for us.
These threefold functions describe the office of Christ as Mediator. There must be one who can represent man before God and one to represent God before man. He must have authority to rule. Christ fulfills all this, for He was God before man, and today He is man before God. Because He is both God and man, He is able to bring a holy God and sinner man together. He is the answer to Job's heart cry:
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both. (Job 9:32, 33)
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us. (John 1:14)