FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ARK OF THE COVENANT
August 15, 2011
Today’s reading: Revelation 11:19-12:10
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.”
The ark of the covenant was the holiest and most important article in all Israel. It contained the stone tablets of the law (Ex 25:16,21; 40:20; Dt 10:5), and thus was first called the ark of the commandments (Ex 30:6; 31:7; 39:35), and later the ark of the covenant of the Lord (Nm 10:33).
The ark played a significant part in the life of Israel. It preceded the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan, with the waters of the Jordan parting to allow them to cross on dry ground. The ark was paraded around Jericho, and on the seventh day the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites stormed the city and took it (Jos 6:20). Their enemies were frightened of the presence of the ark (1 Sm 4:6-7). The ark, captured by the Philistines, wreaked havoc among them and their god Dagon (1 Sm 5:7).
There was divine power in the ark of the covenant!
Later the prophet Jeremiah, following a divine revelation, brought the ark to Mount Nebo, found a room in a cave, put the ark there, and blocked up the entrance (2 Mc 2:4-5). Those who tried to mark the path later could not find it (2 Mc 2:6). Ultimately the ark could no longer be found.
Jeremiah had said: “The place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud” (2 Mc 2:7-8a).
Then John had his explosive revelation of his vision at Patmos. It was a time of crisis among the faithful, who were being ruthlessly persecuted by the Romans. Even with the threat of martyrdom, the Christians were being exhorted to await the fulfillment of God’s mighty promises. They were encouraged to look to the triumph of God in the world.
The Christians, especially the Jewish Christians, would have been very much aware of what Jeremiah said about the most precious ark of the covenant. It would again be found when God gathers His people together again and shows them His mercy. Then the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud.
Now John spoke of his vision of heavenly worship. The elders said: “We give thanks to you, Lord God almighty, who are and who were. For you have assumed your great power and have established your reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for the dead to be judged, and to recompense your servants, the prophets, and the holy ones and those who fear your name, the small and the great alike, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:17-18).
Could the time indicated by Jeremiah have come?
And then what happened next was just mind-boggling. “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.” (Rev 11:19a). After so many centuries, the ark of the covenant reappeared!
Now something even more remarkable followed. There was a great theophany, with “flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.” (Rev 11:19b). Something extraordinary was about to happen. Was the glory of the Lord about to be seen in the cloud?
What happened next was amazing. “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1).
What appeared was Mary. Mary was, and is, the ark of the covenant.
Now the ark also contained the manna and the rod of Aaron. In the ark “were the gold jar containing the manna, the staff of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant.” (Heb 9:4). These three objects were very significant. They symbolized God’s covenant with His people, whom He would care for (provider), minister to (priest), and rule (king and lawmaker).
As precious and holy as the three objects the ark bore were, they paled in comparison to what Mary bore.
The ark contained the manna, which was God’s miraculous provision of food in the desert, keeping them alive over forty years. Mary bore in her womb the Bread of Life himself, with the promise of eternal life. Jesus himself said, “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6:58).
The ark contained the rod of Aaron, the high priest. Mary bore in her womb Jesus, the eternal High Priest.
The ark contained the tablets of the law, the very word of God. Mary bore in her womb the Word made flesh, God Himself.
The ark was of the Old Covenant. Mary is the ark of the New Covenant.
(Reprinted from “Forty More Days with Mary,” Day 9)