By Not Known
The Ark of the Covenant has had a great run in the popular imagination thanks to
an apparently endless series of movies.
The reality is rather more plain. The Ark was a wooden box with corner rings to
insert carrying poles. It was only 1.2 metres by O.762 by O.762 – smaller than our
communion table. It’s only distinguishing features were a gold covering and two
heavenly cherubs on the lid.
The Ark held the Ten Commandments, a pot of manna from the exodus journey
and Aaron’s rod. These were reminders of God’s provision during the exodus and
God’s law for his covenant people. The Ark’s lid was the ‘mercy seat’ on which
blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. The Ark was placed in the inner
sanctuary and was a powerful symbol of God’s presence, law and grace.
The Ark was not a magician’s box and had no special powers. Its value was as a
symbol that pointed beyond itself to God and his relationship with his people. It
was a summons to be loyal to the God who had saved them.
Israel forgot that. They treated the Ark like an idol and thought that its mere
presence would bring them good luck from God (1 Sam 4). They were wrong. The
reminder of their salvation became the occasion of their judgement and that of
the Philistines who captured it (1 Sam 4-7).
We Protestant Christians criticise others for treating idols, religious statues, prayer
beads and other holy objects as having magic-like powers. But do we act as though
wearing a cross, carrying a Bible, coming to church services and such like have
Samuel got it right (1 Sam 7:3). What mattered was to open the Ark, look at its
contents and do what God really wanted. God’s people had to confess and repent
of their sin, commit themselves to the Lord from the heart out and then change
their lives. They had to throw themselves on God’s ‘mercy seat’ and do what God’s
The same applies to us. Do we move beyond just wearing or displaying a cross to
turn to and trust the Cross of Jesus for forgiveness? Do we open our Bible and
‘hear, learn and do’ what it says?
There is no magic in the Christian faith. It’s rather more plain: God who is
awesome in his justice, extravagant in his mercy and who calls us to trust his son
and live in him and for him.