Day 43: The Ark of the Covenant
Exodus 25:1-22 The contents of the Ark of the Covenant, which were the tablets of the Lar, Aaron’s rod, and some manna, are types (TYPOLOGY!!) of some aspects of the New Covenant definitively established by Christ. (CCC 128,2130)
Ch 25:16 The tablets on which the Law was written is called “the testimony.” They contained the entire written covenant between God and Israel that was agreed to at Mt. Sinai. (CCC 2058-2059)
Ch 25:22 The “mercy seat” of the Ark is where God is present. Centuries later, when the first Temple was built and the Ark was situated in the Holy of Holies, the high priest would sprinkle the mercy seat with blood from an animal sacrifice once a year to atone for the sins of Israel. Cherubs: Contrary to erroneous interpretations of the commandment against “graven images,” sacred images are ENCOURAGED as a way of nourishing and strengthening faith in God and his providence. (CCC 433, 1192)
Exodus Chapters 26-31 These chapters give detailed instructions on building the Tabernacle, or tent, that would house the Ark of the Covenant. They also describe rules for priests, use of vestments, modes of offering sacrifices, and prescriptions for ceremonies and rituals by which the Israelites were to worship God. The dimensional proportions of the sanctuary resemble those of the Temple that will eventually be built in Jerusalem, complete with the veil that represents the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the room where the Ark would be kept. The dare and detail assigned to the Tabernacle of God’s presence is likewise reflected in the design and splendor of temples and churches built today. (CCC 1181)
Leviticus (Today, is mostly a recap of things we’ve already learned in Exodus)
Psalm 119 This psalm, the longest psalm written in Hebrew, was composed of twenty-two stanzas, each of which was comprised of eight verses. Moreover, the first letter of each stanza spells out the Hebrew letters IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER using the words from the Torah. Some of these words include LAW, WORD, WITNESS, JUDGEMENT, SAYING, DECREE, PRECEPT, and ORDER. This psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s many blessings and manifestations of love, especially expressed in his gift of the Mosaic Law, which serves as a roadmap to eternal life.
God’s Law is likened to a light that dispels darkness and confusion and leads to the fullness of joy and peace. The darkness represents ostensibly the dangers, persecutions, and attacks of Israel’s enemies On a deeper level, darkness is intimately linked to sin and the wiles of the Evil One, who is called the Prince of Darkness. It is vital then, for the faithful to keep their eyes fixed on the light of God’s Law. (St. John Paul II, General Audience, July 21, 2004, January 15, 2003, and November 14, 2001)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The Significance of Sinai
After the covenant meal, God recalls Moses to the top of the mountain (Ex 25-31).
The mountain is wrapped in fire and smoke as Moses enters the glory cloud of the Lord to receive the last of God’s instructions.
Having received the LAW, Moses now receives the LITURGY.
This liturgical legislation comes at a key point in the story.
Now that Israel has received the Torah (law) and the mission to be a priestly people, they will soon leave Mount Sinai to sojourn back to the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the land that God promised Abraham he would give to his descendants once he freed them from the land of slavery (Gn 15).
The question thus arises, “In leaving the holy mountain, will Israel be leaving God’s presence?”
The liturgical legislation revealed to Moses on the mountaintop answers this question by making clear that the TABERNACLE—where God will be perpetually present—and the liturgy surrounding it perpetuates God’s presence in the midst of Israel, functioning as the portable mountain of God based on the heavenly “pattern” shown to Moses on the mountain (Ex 25:9, 25:40).
This portable mountain of God contains many reminders of the original.
The TABERNACLE, also referred to as THE TENT OF MEETING, was defined by three distinct boundaries:
At the center, containing the Ark of the Covenant, was the HOLY OF HOLIES, which only the high priest could enter;
Surrounding the Holy of Holies was the HOLY PLACE, which the priests could enter; and
Around that the OUTER COURT, accessible to those Israelites who were ritually clean.
This threefold boundary is much like the boundaries given regarding Mount Sinai.
All Israel could encamp at the Mount as long as they were ritually washed (Ex 19:12-15)
Only the elders and priests could go part way up the mountain (Ex 24:9-11), and
Only Moses could go to the top (Ex 24:15).
Opposite the table that held the Bread of the Presence was the lampstand, which is described like a tree or bush bearing seven branches that support seven almond-shaped cups for oil.
When the seven lamps were burning, the lampstand would evoke the burning bush from which God revealed himself to Moses;
The menorah symbolized that God’s presence on the Mount is made perpetual in the tabernacle and the liturgy.
The Ark of the Covenant
As described in Exodus 25:10-22, 37:1-9, the Ark of the Covenant was a box made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold.
On top of the ark was the mercy seat with two cherubim made of gold who “spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to the other” (Ex 25:20).
Two poles were threaded through gold rings attached to the ark and used to carry the ark when Israel journeyed; otherwise, the ark was kept in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and then, later, in the Temple. Inside the ark were placed the tablets of the Law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s staff (Heb 9:4).
Where the ark was, God’s presence dwelt among his people.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
The Blessed Virgin Mary, The Ark of the New Covenant
* Michal E. Hunt, "The Blessed Virgin Mary, The Ark of the New Covenant." AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2002, Revised 2006.
The Ark of the Covenant
God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled the Ark. The Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God [Exodus 40:34-35]
The Ark contained the Ten Commandments [the words of God in stone], a pot of manna, and Aaron's rod that came back to life [Deuteronomy 10:3-5; Hebrews 9:4].
The Ark traveled to the hill country of Judah to rest in the house of Obed-edom [2 Samuel 6:1-11]
Dressed in a priestly ephod, King David approached the Ark and danced and leapt for joy [2 Samuel 6:14]
David shouted for joy in the presence of God and the holy Ark [2 Samuel 6:15]
David asked, "How is it that the Ark of the Lord comes to me?" [2 Samuel 6:9]
The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for 3 months [2 Samuel 6:11]
The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark [2 Samuel 6:11]
The Ark returned to its sanctuary and eventually ends up in Jerusalem where the presence and glory of God is revealed in the newly built Temple [2 Samuel 6:12; 1 Kings 8:9-11]
God made Aaron's rod (which would be kept in the Ark) return to life and budded to prove he was the legitimate High Priest [Numbers 17:8].
When the Ark was outside the Holy of Holies [when it was being transported] it was to be covered with a blue veil [Numbers 4:4-6]
In Revelation 11:19 John sees the Ark of the Covenant in heaven [this is the last verse of chapter 11]
The Virgin Mary
The Ark of the New Covenant
God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled Mary. At that time Mary's womb became the dwelling place of the presence of God [Luke 1:35].
The womb of the Virgin contained Jesus: the living Word of God enfleshed, the living bread from heaven, "the Branch" (Messianic title) who would die but come back to life [Luke 1:35].
Mary traveled to the hill country of Judah (Judea) to the home of Elizabeth [Luke 1:39]
John the Baptist, son of a priest who would himself becomes a priest, leapt for joy in Elizabeth's womb at the approach of Mary [Luke 1:43]
Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry of joy in the presence God within Mary [Luke 1:42]
Elizabeth asks, "Why is this granted unto me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" [Luke 1:43]
Mary remained in the house of her cousin Elizabeth for 3 months [Luke 1:56].
The word "blessed" is used 3 times in Luke 1:39-45 concerning Mary at Elizabeth's house.
Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth and eventually comes to Jerusalem, where she presents God the Son in the Temple [Luke 1:56; 2:21-22]
God would resurrect His Son, who had become enfleshed in Mary's womb and born to bring salvation to all mankind, to prove He is the eternal High Priest [Hebrews 4:14].
In Mary's appearances outside of heaven visionaries testify that she wears a blue veil.
In Revelation 12:1 John sees Mary in heaven. It is the same vision Juan Diego saw of Mary in 1531 — the Woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.
It is a little hard to get through the descriptions of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the veil, screen, and lampstands
Yet all of these things are SO IMPORTANT
Sometimes it is difficult to have a mental picture of what Scripture is describing
For example, the lamp stand may be hard to picture
BUT IT IS A MENORAH!!
The Ark of the Covenant is a box that is a certain size and on top are these angels that are extending their wings out over the mercy seat, the center of the ark and bowing their faces towards the mercy seat
And it is a TYPOLOGY of someone you may have heard of ;)
See the red ink above for the description of the Tabernacle
The veil that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom when our Lord Jesus gave up His spirit to the Father
Jesus poured out His mercy upon the world as the veil of His flesh is pierced by the soldier’s spear
The blood and water flow out
The blood is the EUCHARIST (TYPOLOGY 😉 )
The water is BAPTISM (WHAT’S THAT AGAIN? OH YEAH, TYPOLOGY 😉 )
The Holy of Holies is now being revealed because it is no longer off limits
Before, in the Old Testament, only the High Priest was allowed in the Holy of Holies
Here is God’s love that is IMPOSSIBLE to be held back anymore
Exodus 25:30 “You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me always.”
There is something remarkable about the bread of the Presence
Especially for Catholic Christians
In EVERY SINGLE CATHOLIC CHURCH ALL OVER THE WORLD, in the Tabernacle there is the bread of the very PRESENCE OF GOD
Not just in SIGN
Not just in SYMBOL
But it is present in TRUTH
It is present in SPIRIT
Here is Jesus Christ who continues to dwell among us in the bread of the Presence
Leviticus 19 can be confusing
There are some very wise things
We realize the difficulty in approaching Scripture without context
Leviticus is the story of the Israelites who are being reminded of THEIR OWN IDENTITY
The Israelites are being reminded of GOD’S IDENTITY
So God has to start SOMEWHERE
There are some things that may seem unfair to us when we read it
“Wait a second, why would this be the consequence if such an action happens?”
Some types of behavior may be more greatly punished than is in Scripture
Some types of behavior may be less punished than is in Scripture
Keep in mind that God is teaching His people who He is
He is teaching them JUSTICE FIRST
Leviticus 19:15 paraphrased says you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the mighty, but BE JUST IN ALL OF YOUR RULINGS
God has to teach His people justice before he can teach them mercy
God has to teach US what right and wrong are before He can teach us the subtle nuances of the “shades of grey” when it comes to TRUTH AND JUSTICE AND GOODNESS
Prayer by Fr Mike: “Father in Heaven, we give you praise. We give you thanks right now. Lord God, we praise you not only for your future deliverance for us. We also praise you for what you have done for us in the past. We praise you for all the good that you have brought into our lives. The fact that you have made us into your children through the gift of your Holy Spirit given to us at Baptism, we thank you for the gift of worship. We thank you for revealing your heart to us and how we are to approach you, Lord God. Without revealing how we are to approach you, we would be lost. We would have no idea how you desire us to come to you. We would have no idea how you desire us to live truly in freedom and in holiness. You are holy, you call us to be holy, and you make it possible by your Grace for us to be holy. Help us to choose holiness today. Help us to choose you today. Help us to glorify you today. We make this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
As we read about God's design of the tabernacle, I'm reminded of both Christ and his holy Church.
As the Law continues to be laid out in Leviticus 19, I'm picking up a few that sound pretty familiar to passages from several epistles in the New Testament. Christ's Covenant may be new and superior, but it is built on it's pre-exisiting prototype, the Old Covenant.