Why was God so particular about the ark? (1 Samuel 6:19) -- "But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them"
1 Samuel 6:19
ESV - 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow.
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I would say that God attached such importance to the ark of the covenant, and to its handling, for multiple reasons: 1) First and foremost, because the ark contained the stone tablets with the commandments that God Himself had written (Exodus 34:1) and given to Israel as a summary of His relationship to them, and of how they were to relate to one another. This indicated Israel's unique status (out of all the nations of the earth) in God's eyes, including being the people from whom the One who would fulfill those commandments perfectly would eventually come. 2) Also, even at times when God might not provide any other visible sign of His presence, the tablets in the ark were a tangible manifestation and constant reminder of His active involvement in the life of the nation. 3) At God's command (and as also noted in Hebrews 9:3-4), the ark contained not only the stone tablets on which the ten commandments were written, but also a golden vessel containing some of the manna with which God had fed the Israelites during their forty years in the wilderness after their departure from Egypt (starting in Exodus 16)(Exodus 16:33). The ark may have also contained the golden replicas of the tumors and rodents with which God afflicted the Philistines after they had captured the ark in battle with Israel, which the Philistines had put in the ark as a guilt offering when they returned the ark to Israel (1 Samuel 4:11; 5:9; 6:1-4). 4) Finally, the ornately fashioned cover of the ark contained the mercy seat on which God Himself descended when speaking with Moses (Exodus 25:17-22). God also ordered the ark to be constructed in such a way that it could be carried by means of poles that were placed through the rings on the ark, so that it would not be necessary for those bearing the ark to actually touch it. All these characteristics emphasized the exceptionally sacred nature of the ark, and indicated that it was to be treated with the same conscious respect and care that a person would show in the presence of God Himself, rather than casually or haphazardly (even if done reflexively or unintentionally (2 Samuel 6:6-7)).
In order to better understand the importance of the Arc of the Covenant, we need to take a basic look at the overall design of the Tabernacle. It is important that we do not attempt to convert any of the units of measure that God instructed Moses to use for the Tabernacle for every numerical dimension and every material that God instructed Moses to use has symbolic value. The design of the Tabernacle was a blueprint, if I may use the term, for the spiritual man that God desired. When we look at the dimensions for the Tabernacle and compare it to the body of a man (minus the Head and legs) we would see that the Arc of the Covenant, placed in the Holy of Holies, would be situated in the belly of the symbolic man. This is very significant for the Hebrew people believed that the seat of our emotions were in our belly and not in the heart as the Greeks believed. Since the Arc of the Covenant symbolized God's throne on earth and the seat of His power it makes sense that God would be very particular as to the design and treatment thereof. Paul makes it clear that our body is the temple/dwelling place of God (1 Cor. 6:19) and Solomon in proverbs 2:23 exhorts us to "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." In the same way that the law (stone tablets) the staff of Aaron (authority) and the container with manna (our testimony) were kept in the Arc of the Covenant. We should keep God’s law in our hearts, we should stand in His authority against the forces of darkness and be ready to give testimony of our faith and conviction. Just as the blood of the sin sacrifice was sprinkled against the inside of the “Holy of Holies” and poured out over the “Mercy Seat” on the “Day of Atonement” to sanctify the tabernacle and atone for the sins of the people of Israel we must use the blood of Jesus Christ (God’s sacrifice for the our sins) to sanctify and consecrate our hearts and the seat of our emotions so God can descend into our hearts just as He descended upon the Mercy Seat” in a cloud of fire (Ex 33:7-11) in the Days of Moses. From there He will reign over our live and direct our footsteps. We must bow to His authority in our lives and submit to His rule. In summary the Arc of the Covenant being a symbol of the throne of our hearts. The word of God says in Act 17:24 “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;” He dwells in our hearts and wants to sit on the throne of our hearts to rule our lives but it needs to be sanctified by the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ before God can enter for He is to pure and holy to look upon iniquity. That is the reason why the design and prescribed handling of the Arc of the covenant was so precise. We should take note of these prescriptions as it has great bearing on our lives today. As a side note: The “Arc of the covenant” was the only place were atonement for sin could be obtained by the priest for the people. In about 612 BC Jeremiah hid the major items in the temple of which the “Arc of the Covenant” was the most important and a secret place to keep it safe from the invasion of the Babylonians. This secret place turned out to be directly below the place where Jesus would be crucified nearly 600 years later. When Ron Waytt discovered the “Arc of the Covenant” in January 1982 he made an interesting discovery. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, there was an earthquake that split the rock face, His blood ran down the cross in to this fissure down 22ft of rock and onto the “Mercy Seat” thus atoning for the sins of the whole world in the only place where such an atonement could possibly be done according to the Law of Moses. Our God is an awesome God.
The ark was so special because it really was the presence of God upon the earth. Exodus: 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. Exodus 26: 34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. Exodus 29: 11 Then you shall kill the bull before [the presence of] the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, Exodus 29:42-46 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that iI am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. Because God is holy, wherever God’s presence dwells, is the Most Holy Place on earth. Moses had to take off his sandals when he met God at the burning bush because the ground was holy. The Israelites could not even touch the foot of Mount Sinai or they would die because it was holy. God’s holiness could not tolerate the presence of sin unless it was atoned for. Hence, all the sacrifices. But the people were still sinful. That is why they could not look in the ark or touch it, for they would instantly die. But the good news is that through the birth, life, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, atonement for sin has been made, once for all time. Jesus has opened the door to the Most Holy Place in heaven, the throne room of God. Everyone who believes in Jesus has become united with Christ and a part of us is seated with him in this throne room. Jesus also invites us into the presence of God through our prayers. However, the most extraordinary truth is that with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God now dwells within every born-again believer. Every Christian is the Most Holy Place of God upon this earth. What an extraordinary honour and humbling privilege. Does this truth motivate us to offer our entire beings as a living sacrifice in gratitude for what Jesus has done?
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