I read Hebrews 9 a bunch of times before something dawned on me—the Ark of the Covenant had things stored inside of it!
That makes sense. The primary purpose of an ark is to contain things. The same word is used of the box Noah built to carry a remnant of the world’s population through the flood. Perhaps I remembered the details of the Ark more from watching Indiana Jones than from reading the Bible.
The Ark contained: “a golden jar holding manna, Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant” (Heb. 9:4).
Families often keep a trunk in the attic full of articles that evoke precious memories—picture albums, awards, diaries, the children’s art projects. It serves as a potent reminder of what life was once like. Scrapbooks are the same idea.
What is the significance of these three items, if God commanded they be kept forever in such a special place?
The Jar of Manna—A Reminder of God’s Care
When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt, He took them into the wilderness. They were hungry, and cried out to God for food. God rained bread from heaven, called manna. It was white and flaky, and tasted like honey. Each day, God provided just enough manna for a single day—an omer per person (Ex. 16:16–18), which is about two dry quarts.
Then the Lord commanded, “let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 16:32). God wanted His people to have a physical memorial of His provision for them, a reminder of the days when they were utterly dependent upon Him for sustenance.
What a powerful lesson! Let none of us forget the times when we utterly relied upon God for our daily bread. We learned during the early days of a marriage, or the first few years of a new preaching work, that we can count on God to provide.
Now and then, get out the photo album and remember. We should still feel dependent on God and be thankful, even when our homes are comfortable and our plates are full.
Aaron’s Rod Which Budded—A Reminder of God’s Authority
In Numbers 16, the people grumbled and sought to replace the leadership of Moses and Aaron. God commanded twelve sticks be placed in front of the tabernacle, each with the name of one of the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel written upon it. The next morning, the stick belonging to Aaron, head of the tribe of Levi, had sprouted green growth, produced blossoms, and even produced ripe almonds (Num. 17:8). By this miracle, God left no question that the priestly tribe of Levi would have God’s authority to lead the people in spiritual matters. God commanded that the rod “be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me” (Num. 17:10).
God’s authority is important to remember today, for it is frequently challenged. God gave all authority to Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:29; 28:19–20; John 12:49) who is head of the church. In turn, Jesus appointed the Apostles and prophets to reveal God’s word to mankind (John 20:21; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 2:12–13; 2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 1:6–10). The Apostles wrote the word in various documents, which are collected in our New Testaments today (Eph. 3:2–5). God caused the Apostles to perform signs and miracles, to prove that their teaching carried God’s approval (Mark 16:15–18; Heb. 2:3–4). The Bible is perfect, the inspired word of God Himself (1 Tim. 3:16–17).
Many, unsatisfied with the message of the Apostles, seek teachers who will tickle their ears with emotions, opinions, visions, and traditions. They encourage rebellion against the divinely established authority of God’s written word. Let us remember that the Bible remains the only source of authority for our faith and practice that God has ordained.
The Tables of the Covenant—A Reminder of God’s Rules
When God called Moses up to Mt. Sinai to deliver the Law, He gave Moses two tablets of stone, upon which were written the law of God (Ex. 31:18; Deut. 9:10). God commanded they be kept in the ark as a “testimony” to the people (Ex. 25:16; 40:20; Deut. 10:5).
Though only the Ten Commandments were written on the tablets (Deut. 10:4), they represented the entire code of behavior God commanded. The rest of the Law of Moses was in a book next to the ark (Deut. 31:26). God promised that if they obeyed the words of the law, He would bless and protect them.
Let us treasure within our hearts the principles God has given to us. They are meant to protect us and uplift us, not hold us back or kill our fun. If we obey His word, then we will enjoy the best life possible here on this earth, free from slavery to sin, and also look forward to His eternal fellowship in Heaven.
Sadly, Israel did not maintain these memorials permanently. By 1 Kings 8:9, Aaron’s rod and the jar of manna had been lost. Soon after, King Manasseh removed the ark and tablets (2 Chron. 35:3). The people forgot God’s care, God’s authority, God’s rules, and were cast off into exile.
We don’t have a literal box of objects today, but let us sanctify Christ as Lord in the ark of our hearts, and never forget His care and His word. —John Guzzetta