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The background to this exhortation

First, a brief history of this exhortation. It originally stemmed from a Wednesday night class at which we got onto the subject of arks. I would like to share with you what I learned from that evening, as well as the things I discovered during almost half a year of focusing on the subject.

If we were to ask someone at random to think of all the arks in the Bible, we would probably get a normal average answer of two arks. The first one that comes to most people’s minds is usually Noah’s Ark. We are quite familiar with the story of the one faithful man in the world and his family, building an ark and filling it with two of every animal (with variations based on the animal’s cleanliness). The ark protected the inhabitants as God rained down judgment (literally) on the sinful world. This story is familiar with to those even without a Biblical background: it is often regarded as a children’s story.

If one has slightly more of a Biblical knowledge, one might give a second answer to the list: the Ark of the Covenant. This is the most heavily mentioned ark in Scripture, as its story involves several generations of Israel’s history. We know that it was created in the wilderness by Moses and the people of Israel. We also know that there was placed into the Ark three things: the Ten Commandments, a jar of Manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. The children of Israel (and any nation who got their hands on it) often viewed it as a war banner; whoever carried the Ark into battle had God on their side. There is, in fact, a third time the English word ARK is mentioned in Scripture, and this also is relatively well known among Bible loving Christadelphians. .

We read:

“And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink” (Exod 2:1-3). 

Moses, it seemed, had more than one involvement with arks. As we read, in order to preserve her child’s life, Moses’ mother hid him in an ark, perhaps thinking back to Noah and how it saved his family. We know that God watched out for the young Moses, eventually allowing him to be raised in the palace of the Pharaoh.

In both Noah and Moses (as a baby)’s case, the word for ark is tay-baw’, H717: “Perhaps of foreign derivation; a box: — ark” — Per Strong’s.

It changes, somewhat, when referring to the Ark of the Covenant: aw-rone’, H727: From H717 (in the sense of gathering); a box: — ark, chest, coffin.

In light of the other possibilities of “boxes” in the Bible, I searched for the Hebrew words used for ark (tay-baw’ and aw-rone). Tay-baw’ only ever occurs in the case of Noah and Moses as a child.

Other uses of aw-rone’? 

When we look at the word aw-rone’, we find it occurs regarding two other boxes in Scripture:

The first is thus:

“And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin [aw-rone’] in Egypt” (Gen 50:24-26).

The word used for Joseph’s coffin is the same word used for the Ark of the Covenant. We will go into more detail on that in a moment.

The second situation is this:

“And the king called for Jehoiada the chief, and said unto him, Why hast thou not required of the Levites to bring in out of Judah and out of Jerusalem the collection, according to the commandment of Moses the servant of the Lord, and of the congregation of Israel, for the tabernacle of witness? For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim. And at the king’s commandment they made a chest, [aw-rone] and set it without at the gate of the house of the Lord. And they made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in to the Lord the collection that Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness. And all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest [aw-rone], until they had made an end. Now it came to pass, that at what time the chest [aw-rone] was brought unto the king’s office by the hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, the king’s scribe and the high priest’s officer came and emptied the chest [aw-rone], and took it, and carried it to his place again. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance. And the king and Jehoiada gave it to such as did the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and hired masons and carpenters to repair the house of the Lord, and also such as wrought iron and brass to mend the house of the Lord. So the workmen wrought, and the work was perfected by them, and they set the house of God in his state, and strengthened it” (2Chron 24:6-13). 

This was an interesting time for Judah. It was just after the evil Athaliah had been removed from the scene and we have a new king. At Jehoiada’s suggestion, the king orders that funds be made to repair the temple. What we are seeing is a refocusing of Judah, a restoration of God’s temple, and as such, a return to focus from Athaliah’s wicked influence. Granted, this return to glory lasted only as long as Jehoiada’s life did, but for a brief shimmering moment, the land rejoiced for God’s glory.

Now there are numerous exhortational points that can be made from each of these boxes. But there is only one we will focus on this morning.

When we think of a box, we must ask what is the purpose of a box? While we could use a box for various things, be it standing up to reach something, or blocking a door to keep the cold out, there is only one real original intention: to put something in, so that that things may eventually be taken out.

This is something that all of the 5 examples have in common: something was placed in each box, only to be taken out at a later point (some metaphorically)

As we just looked at the ark of Jehoiada, we understand that it was money placed in the ark. That money was then taken out and used to repair God’s temple. In the ark was more than mere coinage. It was a refocusing, as we have already stated, a restoration of Judah’s spiritual focus, even if only for a moment.

The first example we were given was the ark. By far the largest box recorded, we now ask: what was placed in this box?

The answer: re-creation. Noah, his family, and all the animals in the box were God’s way of resetting earth, giving it a second chance. In order to do this, he put the most important thing he could possibly put into the box: restoration. When the world was wiped of the face of God’s sight, he left a remnant that would be the re-creation of the world.

Joseph’s coffin 

As most coffins contain bodies, it seems natural that Joseph’s coffin contained something similar. But there is something special about Joseph’s bones. We read:

“And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (Gen 50:24-25). 

So the bones are more than just a set of bones: there is a promise attached. GOD WILL VISIT THEM! They would leave the land of Egypt, at some point in the future. What was put into the box was not salvation specifically, but faith. A promise of God’s grace and a fortelling of future events.

Next example, Moses’ baby basket. In this case, similar to Noah, there is a live individual placed in the box. But even more importantly was the fulfillment that Moses represented. His life was the answer to Joseph’s final promise. God placed his messenger in the box in the bulrushes, the servant that would bring God’s message to Pharaoh, Egypt, and most importantly His people. The message that God was the lord of all creation and that He would fulfill the promise of Joseph’s bones:

“And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you” (Exod 13:19).

Now, the Ark of the Covenant is the most mentioned ark in the Bible. Inside were three particular items:

The tablets containing the ten commandments given to Moses.

The pot of manna.

Aaron’s rod that budded.

Now we must ask what significance these objects had. There were numerous miracles in the wilderness. Why not sand from the red sea? Why not the water from the rock Moses struck? Why not the ROCK he struck?1

The commandments are an easy example: they are literally, and metaphorically, the law. The old covenant given to Moses.

The bread might take some figuring out. But let us think about it: the bread was what brought life and sustenance to the children of Israel when they needed such life.

And that seems familiar when we consider

“I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:48-51). 

So the manna is representative of Christ, a fulfillment of the previous law.

Which leaves the rod that budded.

The key thing to remember about this object it that as a rod, it was no longer alive. Another word commonly used for this is “dead.” So we have a dead object, suddenly brought back to life. There are many possibilities and symbols that the rod can represent, but for our case it represents resurrection. The law, the fulfillment of the law, and the hope of resurrection and the coming kingdom.

So God’s plan, beginning to end, was contained in the box. On each occasion, the item or items placed into the box was the most precious thing, the most important thing God desired in the box, that when it was taken out, God’s will was fulfilled.

When Noah was taken out, God’s creation replenished the earth

When Moses was taken out of the ark, God’s people were taken out of Egypt

When Jehoiada’s ark was opened, the temple was restored

While Joseph’s was not opened, it was taken out of Egypt, a fulfillment of the promises he originally made

The Ark of the Covenant was lost, and has yet to be opened as we are still awaiting the day of resurrection (See Rev 11:19).

The box itself was not the important object, but the object in the box and what it represented.

Now, there must be a practical application to all of this.

The Bible 

This is just a book. On its own, it holds no more significance than me holding up a copy of Huckleberry Finn. The fact that I can hold it does no more than me holding a box.But inside this book, the Bible, are volumes of information, lessons, plans, intentions, miracles, and so much I could go on for hours. Placed in the book is God’s message to us, his purpose for this planet. But we can use none of this unless this book is opened up and the words taken out.

But even more personally, let us look at a verse:

“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2Tim 2:21). 

We, brethren and sisters, are vessels. Or more specifically, our heart or mind is a vessel. What we put into our heart, what we place in ourselves is similar to placing something in a box.

Now Christ distinguishes what items actually matter as far as what we put in.

“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:18-23).

It is not physical things like food and drink that Christ states that defile a man, but what comes from the heart. And in order for something to be taken out, something must be put in.

So what do we put into our heart? What goes in that must come out? In truth, Everything. Everything we experience in our day to day lives is recorded in our hearts. The sights, the sounds, the feelings, even the smells, all of it is recorded an placed in our hearts to be taken out at a later time.

The question is, do we have control over what our hearts take in? Absolutely. If we see a movie, we remember the film. If we smell a flower, we recall the scent. If we read a book, we can bring back the words from memory. There is no real way to stop this process. It is constantly working.

It makes a difference, therefore, what we place in our hearts. What we watch, what we read.

Why? Aren’t we in control of what we take out? Can’t we choose to do and say things?

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt 6:19-23). 

If we put in things that are not of God, that is what will be found in our hearts. If we put in things of God, again, things of God will be found within. When we are asked to open our hearts, when we speak to those around us, be it in the truth or in the world, we take out from our hearts what is within. Therefore it is important that what we place in our hearts be things we are willing to share with those around us.

Furthermore, when we stand before Christ, when we are judged before the throne, do we think that God through Christ is going to be concerned with the number of films we have watched, or best hits songs from the radio? Or will His concern be with the truth, with his word which we place in our hearts?

And this is the reason we are gathered here today. To refocus and fill our hearts with God’s word, with His plan and purpose for us, for this world. It does not mean we leave here today and go out to fill ourselves with whatever we please. We must constantly fill ourselves, continually with God’s will so that when that day comes and Christ returns we can go forward, hearts full of precious things, ready to be opened for our Lord.

Ethan Bearden (Austin Leander, TX)

Notes:

1. [Editorial note]. I  am personally of the opinion that the rod with which Moses struck the rock was Aaron’s rod, which is why Moses was punished for his action. It is never referred to again as being in the Ark: see 1Kgs 8:9.

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