GOD BESIDE US
From the beginning, walking in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, God wanted to live among His people.
But we know the story: our sin and His holiness created a gap in our relationship (Genesis 3:8).
It was temporarily patched during the time of Moses by God’s bold move to allow His presence to travel alongside His people through a special box, the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:8-22).
[Side note for us word geeks . . . “Ark” doesn’t mean boat, but rather container.
→ The “ark” of the Covenant is the Hebrew word aron, meaning chest or coffer (yes, also used for “coffin”) for holding something valuable.
→ Baby Moses was placed into an “ark” of bulrushes in the river, a different Hebrew word tebah, meaning box.
→ Noah’s “ark” is also the Hebrew word tebah, meaning box.
→ Jews today place the Torahs in their synagogues in a “holy ark” (Aaron Kodesh), a special box made to preserve its contents, facing toward Israel.
Interestingly, all these “arks” are containers that protect things. They are places of refuge.]
But what the Israelites couldn’t have known then (we can barely grasp it now), is that the symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant would one day become our reality—God living inside of us.
GOD IN A BOX?
It seems strange to us now. God in a box? The Ark was a small chest made of acacia wood, covered in purest gold. Around 4 feet tall and around 2½ feet wide, it was kept in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, and later in Solomon’s temple.
Its lid—called the mercy seat—was a heavy gold plate with two gold cherubim on top, facing each other, wings spread out.
God would appear in a cloud between the wings of the cherubim (Exodus 25:22).
WHAT WAS IN THE ARK…THEN AND NOW?
Three important items were inside the Ark. Can we uncover the foreshadowing of Jesus in them? And discover the living reality of them now in us? [Print this list of scriptures to study for yourself in more detail.]
- Then . . . enclosed in the ark were the two tablets of stone, the Ten Commandments. They symbolized God’s covenant with His people.
- Now . . . Jesus (the Word became flesh) lives in us, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
- Then . . . the Ark contained a gold jar of unspoiled manna to remind the Hebrews that God provided for them during their wilderness wanderings.
- Now . . . we have the living Bread inside of us, again reminding us that God continues to meet our daily needs, today and forever.
3. Aaron’s rod
- Then . . . Aaron’s walking stick with its miraculous buds was kept in the Ark to symbolize God’s power.
- Now . . . God’s very Spirit lives on in His priesthood of believers, each one of us together who declare His praises, shining light in dark places.
WHERE DOES JESUS LIVE NOW?
No one knows for sure what happened to the physical Ark of the Covenant (despite the famous movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark). When the Babylonians plundered Solomon’s great temple in Jerusalem in 597 BC, many presume Nebuchadnezzar’s men stole the Ark. It’s presumably never been seen again, although theories continue to abound about its location.
So where is the true home of the Lord’s presence?
We know where He lives now—in His followers. Can there be any greater honor than to house the Lord’s presence in us, having Him go wherever we go, always bringing His presence to others when we show up?
May we never take this gift lightly, this privilege of being a living treasure chest of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And may we be extra mindful this Christmas to carry Jesus in us with love, joy, and peace.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Please print, study and pray through these fascinating stories of the Ark of the Covenant—then and now—and give thanks for the present of His presence in us.
How often are you aware that you carry the Lord’s presence everywhere you go? How can you be more mindful of it? Please share in the comments.