The Bible consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament, namely, the old covenant and the new covenant, which God has given mankind. At the center of the Old Testament-the old covenant, there was the Holy Place, and in the innermost called the Most Holy Place there was the ark of the covenant.
The ark of the covenant was a chest that contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. Since it contained the law of God, it was called the Ark of the Law, and it was also referred to as the Ark of the Testimony because it contained the testimony of God. In general, it is also known as the Holy Ark.
There are many records of the events relating to the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament. This is evidence for the importance of the ark of the covenant. Some people were blessed through the ark of the covenant, while some were cursed and destroyed. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us (1 Co 10:11). Through the past history, we should realize the reality of the ark of the covenant and take part in the blessing of salvation.
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”Ge 2:16-17
Considering the history of Eden recorded in the book of Genesis, we can see that God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit, whereby death came upon all mankind. However, in the Garden of Eden, where the history of death began, there was also the secret of eternal life.
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”… After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Ge 3:22-24
In the Garden of Eden there was the tree of life; even mortal sinners could live forever if they ate from it. Then God placed cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life, so that sinners wouldn’t be able to eat from the tree of life without permission.
What is the reality of the tree of life which the cherubim guarded? God’s laws and regulations, which had been handed down in unwritten form from Adam, were reorganized and codified in the time of Moses. Among the laws and regulations, the regulations in regard to the sanctuary show us the secret of the tree of life which the cherubim guarded.
“Have them make a chest of acacia wood… Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. Make an atonement cover of pure gold-two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.” Ex 25:10-22
When God gave the Law to Moses, He told him to build a sanctuary. Then God commanded Moses to put the ark, which contained the tablets of the covenant, in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and to place cherubim at the ends of the atonement cover, the top of the ark of the covenant. God said that He would meet with the Israelites between the two cherubim on the ark of the covenant and give them all His commands there. The cherubim, who had guarded the way to the tree of life, now guarded the ark of the covenant in the sanctuary. This implies that the ark of the covenant is the tree of life.
The ark of the covenant had been moved from place to place since the tabernacle was built in the desert. During that period, those who honored and served God by respecting the ark of the covenant were blessed, but those who despised God were cursed.
“Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.’”1 Sa 2:30
Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli who was a judge of Israel, were scoundrels. They always transgressed against God’s laws and regulations, despised God’s sacrifices, and committed many wicked acts. In spite of God’s warning, they continued to do evil, and finally they were defeated in the battle against the Philistines and the ark of God was captured.
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God… the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “We’re in trouble! Nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert. Be strong, Philistines! Be men,… and fight!” So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.1 Sa 4:4-11
In Israel’s 40-year history in the desert, the ark of the covenant always went ahead of the Israelites, and it served as a shield whenever they were in trouble or faced difficulties. It was because God, dwelling between the two cherubim, fought for Israel.
Israel realized this and brought the ark of the covenant from Shiloh before the battle against the Philistines. Then the people shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang, and the Philistines trembled with fear. However, Israel was greatly defeated at the battle, and Hophni and Phinehas were killed. This occurred just as God had warned Eli against his family.
The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died,… His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas,… went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. As she was dying,… She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel”-because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Sa 4:17-22
Thus, the ark of God was the most important key factor affecting the fate of Israel. When the people treated the ark of the covenant with the utmost fear and respect, the glory of God shone brightly upon Israel, but when the ark of the covenant was taken away, plagues came upon all the land of Israel and the glory of God departed from Israel.
Even afterwards, those who treated the ark of the covenant with contempt suffered disasters continuously, as recorded in the Bible.
But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them, and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the LORD. Come down and take it up to your place.” So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill… It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. 1 Sa 6:19-7:2
The people of Beth Shemesh broke God’s rule and dared to look into the ark of God. Then God struck them down and 50,070 people were killed. Thus, there were many incidents related to the ark of the covenant until Solomon built the temple and put the ark of the covenant in it.
David and all the Israelites with him went to Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to bring up from there the ark of God the LORD, who is enthroned between the cherubim-the ark that is called by the Name. They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart,… When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God… . David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” He did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the LORD blessed his household and everything he had. 1 Ch 13:6-14
When the Israelites were about to move the ark of the covenant, Uzzah was killed there beside the ark because he grabbed hold of it. When David saw this, he was afraid that he couldn’t move the ark of the covenant into the city of David; instead, he left it in the house of Obed-Edom. Because of the ark of the covenant, God’s blessings were brought upon the house of Obed-Edom.
God didn’t forgive those who broke His command and treated the ark of the covenant with contempt, and brought disaster upon them. On the other hand, God poured out overflowing blessings upon those who treated the ark of the covenant with great respect. David, who was afraid when he saw the death of Uzzah, finally realized the blessings of God that the ark of the covenant brought, and moved the ark into the city of David.
So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing… David also wore a linen ephod. So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouts, with the sounding of rams’ horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps. As the ark of the covenant of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart. 1 Ch 15:25-29
David rejoiced and danced like a little child as the ark of the covenant of God was entering the city of David. However, Michal didn’t realize God’s blessings through the ark of the covenant, and despised David when she saw him dancing and celebrating, so she had no children to the day of her death.
Afterward, David presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God, and he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of God, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise God (1 Ch 16:1-4). In the reign of Solomon, the son of David, the temple was completed and the ark of God, which had been moved from place to place, was put in the temple. When Solomon built the temple and brought the ark of the covenant and all the sacred furnishings in the temple, then the glory of God filled the temple (1 Ki 8:1-11).
In the Old Testament times, God was with His people and bestowed His grace upon them through the ark of the covenant. Now, let’s find out what God is teaching us through the ark of the covenant in this age-what the most important meaning of the ark is.
“…In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the LORD, “men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.” Jer 3:14-18
God said that the time was coming when men would no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of God,” and that Jerusalem would be called the Throne of God. The Apostle Paul testified that the Jerusalem is our Mother.
But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.Gal 4:26
Ultimately, the reality of the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place, where God was enthroned between the cherubim and His glory flowed, is Jerusalem our Mother. Therefore, if anyone loses Jerusalem and She is taken away from him, God’s glory is to depart from him. The people of Beth Shemesh and Uzzah were destroyed by treating the ark of the covenant with contempt, while the family of Obed-Edom were blessed by treating the ark of the covenant with great respect. This history teaches us how precious Mother is to us.
As Solomon’s temple was the place where the ark of the covenant was finally placed, so our body is the temple where the ark of God dwells in this age.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 1 Co 3:16-17
Now, we are built as God’s temple. So, we should have our Mother, who is the tree of life and the ark of the covenant that the cherubim guard, within us. If one does not receive Mother, he is the one who does not have the ark of the covenant in him. If anyone departs from the faith in Mother, God’s glory departs from him.
The temple, where God’s glory has departed from, is nothing no matter how gorgeous it is. God said, “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” Keeping these words of God in mind, we should honor Mother and become God’s temple where the ark of God dwells. Let us not be like Hophni and Phinehas who did evil so that the ark of the covenant was taken away, but be like Obed-Edom who kept the ark of God in his house, so he and his entire household were blessed. Like him, let’s have Jerusalem our Mother-the reality of the ark of the covenant-in our hearts and honor Her, so that we can always receive God’s blessings. I hope you all the beautiful children of Zion will be the temple, filled with God’s glory, and proclaim Mother to all people around the world.