Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
So what have the first five books of the Bible been all about? Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy all culminate with one thing happening in one place. That place is located between the angels, on top of the Ark, in a place called the Mercy Seat! That is where God meets with man and atonement takes place!
It’s been forty years since Israel left Egypt when the book of Deuteronomy begins and it’s time to enter the Promised Land. Things have not gone well up until now and the Lord wants them to remember and learn from what has happened up to this point. So, Moses writes the book of Deuteronomy as lessons to the younger generation going into the Promised Land. For the last forty years, the people have been complaining and whining about food and each other since they left Egypt! They built a golden calf and were actually worshipping it! The ground opened up and swallowed several of them, a plague killed 14,700 people, the two oldest sons of Aaron were burned to death by a fire from the Holy of Holies, snakes killed an unknown number of people (many), another plague killed 22,500 people after some of the men of Israel turned to foreign women (some were prostitutes), they lost battles because they would not listen to the Lord and there is much more!! And now, at the end of the forty years of wondering, everyone who was twenty years old or older is dead except for Moses, Joshua and Caleb. And Moses can’t go with them! On a good note, the Tabernacle is finished, sacrifices are being made and the Ark of the Covenant is finished and is inside the inner room, called the Most Holy Place.
No one knows for sure exactly what the Ark of the Covenant looked like. It was about two feet by two feet by four feet. The Ark was designed to sit on the floor of dust and it would hold up the mercy seat, which was the throne of God! The mercy seat (also called the place of atonement), was the lid of the Ark and on top there were two golden angels called cherubim with outstretched wings. Above the mercy seat between the angels, is where God's presence would dwell with the people. It was literally the Judgment Seat of God when God was present.
The Lid is the divider. And sitting right in between God (His Holy presence in the Most Holy Place) and man (the dust of the ground) is the broken law separating man from God! Remember, dust represents sinful man - you and I - in a fallen state before the Lord! (Something to think about.) The ark would sit in the Holy of Holies hidden behind a very thick curtain which made it absolutely dark in the Holy of Holies (also called the Most Holy Place) and there were no lamps or lights allowed in the room. Only the glory of God would light the room when He was present.
Without God there was darkness. (The application for a heart devoid of the Holy Spirit is obvious…) As John was writing in 1 John 1:5-7, he said this… "This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin." (NLT) The fact that there was no source of light in the Holy of Holies, in the Tabernacle, as well as in the Temple, was very well-known to John and the other disciples.
Surprisingly, not only did the Ark sit on the dirt floor but it also contained broken pieces of stone. During the golden calf incident, Moses threw the two tablets to the ground and broke them into pieces. Although God later has Moses make two more stones which the Lord inscribed with the law (the Ten Commandments), these broken stones had been made by God Himself. Made by God and broken by a man. But God will give Moses and the people of Israel a chance for redemption through the blood of the sacrifice (more on that later.) All of this knowledge about the Ark and the broken stones will give us a much better understanding of what the Lord has done for us! And it will also help us as we go forward in our Chronological studies. I hope the light of His Presence will shine bright for you as we study together!
To gain an understanding of the purpose of the Ark of the Covenant, the Lid (the Mercy Seat) and the tablets contained inside the Ark. Through this study, we will see God’s provision to deliver man from the eternal consequences of the broken law through the blood of the sacrifice.
God makes a way of atonement for the people through the shedding of blood.
The Ark of the Covenant is a picture of the way of salvation offered through the work of Jesus Christ and His blood.
We are all like the broken tablets of the law but God makes us new and writes a new law on our hearts.
“At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. Also make a wooden Ark—a sacred chest to store them in. Come up to me on the mountain, and I will write on the tablets the same words that were on the ones you smashed. Then place the tablets in the Ark.’” (Deuteronomy 10:1-2 NLT). The rewriting of the Tablets is an important part of the knowledge that God is revealing to us! In order to understand more about what God is showing us, we must try to understand more about the Ark and it’s Lid.
Although we look at the Ark of the Covenant as one piece, it is actually two. It is made up of the Ark, which is the box, and the Lid which is the Mercy Seat. They are two things that make one thing. The box is the Hebrew word- 'arown - it means chest, ark, money chest, Ark of the Covenant, coffin. It is used 201 times in the Old Testament and it is a simple word. It was a box made of acacia wood. (Hebrew shittah) It was overlaid with gold and had four rings holding two rods or staves that were not to be removed.
This looks like another picture of Christ as both fully God and fully man. The Ark, made of metal and wood, it would hold up the glory of God by which mercy would come to the people. As with so many of the items found in the construction of the Tabernacle, it also represents so much more. It was two pieces (chest and lid). It was made of two materials and it had two purposes. One, it contained the broken pieces of the law and a few other items and two, it would be the place where God would dwell.
Inside the ark, covered by the mercy seat, there were three different kinds of things. Inside a golden chest, you would expect to find treasures. But in this box there were no treasures. There were three common items. Stone, bread and a stick!
The first item in the Ark of the Covenant are the two broken tablets which God had made by His own hand and Moses threw to the ground. The broken pieces of these tablets are a clear reminder of the broken law that man continually refuses to obey. When Adam and Eve broke the only commandment that God had given them, all of future humanity fell with them. (See: Exodus 25:16, 40:20.)
Most people speak of the two tablets placed in the Ark when there were actually four! The two new copies of the Ten Commandments are placed in the Ark as well! The stone itself was made by God during creation, but they are shaped by man! God would write His law upon them. They were new tablets that were the exact representation of the original unbroken tablets. God wrote the Ten Commandments on these two stones and ordered them to be placed in the Ark. (Deuteronomy 10:2)
Deuteronomy 10:3-4, “So I made an Ark of acacia wood and cut two stone tablets like the first two. Then I went up the mountain with the tablets in my hand. Once again the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets and gave them to me. They were the same words the Lord had spoken to you from the heart of the fire on the day you were assembled at the foot of the mountain.” (NLT) The Lord is painting a teaching picture here with these four tablets. In fact, it is a picture of everything we have learned through the Chronological Bible Study. Like the first two stones, God made Adam and then formed Eve by His own hand. God’s glorious image is breathed into them! When Adam and Eve sinned, God's creation was broken. The fall of man is clearly seen in the broken tablets of the law! The broken law (tablets) is placed in the Ark under God as He sits in divine judgment upon the Lid of the Ark!
What would appear to be unusable broken tablets, would now be used to show mankind the brokenness of the human heart! They teach the need for us to become new, clean tablets through surrender to the Lord! Clean tablets that God can write His words upon.
The broken tablets would have reminded Moses of his failure when he threw the stones to the ground that God had made. He was so angry at the people of Israel that he lost his temper. We know that God is not pleased with Moses' actions because he would not make a second set of stones for Moses!
The broken tablets also teach us that we are broken and cannot please God on our own. We must give ourselves completely to the Lord! Then as new clean tablets, God can write upon our hearts and make us whole! He writes a new law on our hearts! We become the poetry of God! His masterpiece! His work of art! Ephesians 2:10 calls us just that! “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works!” (KJV) The Greek word used here is Poema! We get the word poem or masterpiece from that word! We were broken, unusable tablets that could not put ourselves back together again! (Humpty Dumpty? LOL!) But God! God makes us whole again! He writes a new law upon our hearts! The law of love!
And that is exactly what the Lord did for me when I surrendered to Him! I am His workmanship! A letter from God written upon my heart! And so are you, if you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior! Paul understood this… 2 Corinthians 3:3 says, “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.” (NLT) The new tablets in the Ark are a symbol of what God does in the hearts of those who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
They are a symbol of the Savior who would be both man and God! Just as the tablets were made by both man and God! In verse 6 Paul says, “This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” (NLT)
They are a picture of the two natures found within those of us who are saved. The old nature that we inherited from. They symbolize the brokenness and the wholeness that exists within us while we are here in this body. All have sinned and come short of God's glory and Israel was no exception. They broke the law many times, but because of what would happen on top of the Ark, they could receive the wholeness of God's forgiveness and live for God.
“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat.” (Exodus 25:17-18). “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 25:22).
There, on top of the Lid covering the Ark, God would dwell among the people of Israel. There, God could see the broken law as He looked down underneath His throne. Judgment and condemnation would be the results of the broken law. But God loved His people as God loves all of us. So, He made a way for them to cover their sin so that His wrath would not destroy them. Once per year, sacrifices would be made and the lifeblood of those sacrifices would be taken and sprinkled upon the Lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The Mercy Seat. The place of atonement. As we have studied in other lessons, God requires blood as the atonement for sin. Why? Because blood is life. The book of Romans tells us that the wages or the cost of sin is death! It cost a life! But God is showing us what He is going to do with His Son, Jesus Christ. The blood that was sprinkled upon the Lid of the Ark of the Covenant was a covering for the broken law. So, when God looked down, instead of seeing the broken law and bringing immediate judgment and condemnation on the people, He saw the blood of the sacrifice.
What a picture of Christ! It's His blood that was shed on the cross for us! His blood doesn't just cover our sin, but removes it! The sacrifice at the earthly Tabernacle was only good for one year. God did that intentionally so that we might understand there was only one sacrifice that could suffice for all time. It was the sacrifice made by Jesus Himself. He died once for all!
Application - What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Grace?
The rest of Deuteronomy 10 is very interesting. “‘And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you?
He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.’” (10:12:13 NLT) Of course, the Lord knew that Israel would not fear Him or live in a way that pleases Him because they would not obey His commands and decrees. But the Lord goes on to point out that He still loves them. He not only loves them and wants them to love Him in return, but He also is doing everything that He is doing for their own good. And all of that applies to us as well. What the Lord has done since the beginning has been for our good. Why were we made? To love the Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind! And to do that with all of the strength that we can gather together! Jesus said, “‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.’” (John 14:15).
“‘Look, the highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God. Yet the Lord chose your ancestors as the objects of his love. And he chose you, their descendants, above all other nations, as is evident today. Therefore, change your hearts and stop being stubborn. For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God…’” (Deuteronomy 10:14-17 NLT).
The Lord is saying, “I AM AN AWESOME GOD!!!!” But I still look down to you and love you! I chose you! Stop being stubborn and love me like I love you!” This knowledge of how God feels about us should shake us to the very core of our being! He loves Israel and He loves us too! He loves us so much that He sent His only Son for us. His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness!
The place of atonement is no longer in a Tent or a Temple in Israel. The place of atonement is now in our hearts. It is in our hearts that God now dwells by Grace through Faith! Maybe it's time that we take a look at ourselves and see if we truly love the Lord our God the way we want others to think that we do? Maybe for some of us, it's time that we stop being stubborn and change our hearts? He loves us so much! In fact He loves us enough to correct us as His children. He will never leave us nor forsake us. If He has done all of this for us what is the least we can do for Him?
God speaks to Moses and the people to give them the design and purpose of the Ark.
God acts through his presence over the Ark of the Covenant where he allows Atonement for the sins of the people.
God reveals the coming Messiah that would once and for all make Atonement in the True Tabernacle which is in Heaven.
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