|25th April, 1999|
On a visit to Jerusalem, standing by the Western Wall where Jews come to pray, a man dressed as a Rabbi approached me. He spends his days speaking secretively to Christian tourists. He told me in hushed tones the Israeli Government was planning to build the Third Temple. The first was built by Solomon. The second was built after the Exile and expanded by Herod but destroyed by the Romans 1900 years ago. Now they must build the third Temple, first destroying the ancient Islamic Dome of the Rock mosque.
I told him the destruction of that sacred Islamic mosque would commence a fierce war between Israel and all the Islamic countries. He persisted, and told me that the Ark of the Covenant had been found by Israeli archaeologists using penetrating lasers through the Temple Mount which struck something metal hidden deep beneath the second Temple site built by Herod. The lasers proved the size was just right, and the metal would have been the gold covering. I thought this man eccentric and said no more about it. Over the years I have read of several pastors, mainly from Pentecostal churches, who have returned home, saying that they know the where-abouts of the Ark of the Covenant. Many are on the Internet. Recently a number of theories have been advanced claiming the location of the Ark. Some claim Ethiopia, others Rome, some Jordan, others Jerusalem. Some may ask, "What is the Ark of the Covenant?" It was an ornate, gold-plated wooden chest that in biblical times housed the two tablets of the Law given to Moses by God.
The Ark rested in the Holy of Holies inside the Temple and was seen only by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. Priestly helpers, called Levites, carried the Ark on long poles during the Hebrews' wanderings over 40 years in the wilderness. Following the conquest of Canaan, the Ark resided at Shiloh. It was carried into battle by the Israelites. It was taken to Jerusalem by King David, and placed in the Temple by King Solomon. When the Assyrians threatened to invade, Jeremiah hid it under a rubbish heap and it has not been seen since. It would be the greatest archaeological discovery ever, if it were found.
Exodus 25:10-25 was a high point in Israel's history. Inside the tent of worship called the Tabernacle, which the Hebrews carried with them through the wilderness, was the Holy of Holies. This cube of curtains was entered only by the High Priest once a year. Inside was a box made of acacia wood from the Sinai wilderness. It was covered with thin gold leaf. Inside this wooden box were two stones inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Later, a gold pot containing some of the manna, which they ate in the desert, and Aaron's Rod, symbol of his High Priestly office, were added. On top of this precious box were two carved angels with their wings stretched out over the lid. This was the seat of God where His glory and mercy was known. It was called "The Mercy Seat". It was also called "God's Footstool." We have an Egyptian drawing of something similar, but with two Egyptian figures on the lid. At each corner was a gold ring through which were placed wooden poles for carrying the sacred Ark.
The box was quite small - 110 centimetres long and 66 centimetres wide and deep. The wealth of the box was not in its gold leaf, but in its significance. For here God's forgiveness was offered to the people when the blood of a sacrifice was sprinkled on it each year for the sins of the people. This box spoke of their forgiveness. It contained God's Law. The Hebrews carried that box with them, wherever they went. It went before them into the Promised Land Joshua 3,4. Joshua and his men marched behind it as they carried it round the walls of Jericho. It was as if the Ark was saying: God is with you, wherever you go. Acknowledge Him.
The enemies of Israel knew that if they were going to defeat Israel, they must capture Israel's Ark. The Philistines were the first Raiders of the Lost Ark! Later the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar raided the Ark in 586 BC. But the Bible says it was hidden by Jeremiah in a cave deep below a rubbish dump to hide it. Some think the next raiders of the Lost Ark were the Romans. Titus returned, according to the carved arch midway between the Roman Forum and the Coliseum, with Jewish slaves being forced to carrying the Covenant Box.
Does the Ark exist still? Some scholars think it is hidden in the limestone caves under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Some believe that the small wooden box made 3000 years ago would have disintegrated by now. Some believe it is in a cave recently excavated beneath the place of the skull where Jesus was crucified, the place known as Golgotha.
Steven Spielberg, believes that in 1936 some Nazis found the Ark of the Covenant in the ruined city of Tanis in North Africa, where it had been taken 2,500 years earlier. His film shows the Nazis removing it to a secret base in the Mediterranean. Indiana Jones is an American archaeologist who tries to rescue it. He faces death, overcomes a pit full of snakes, a flaming aircraft, speeding trucks running over him, and a score of other events, stock fare for stunt men. Predictably, the Nazis are defeated. The Box is labelled "Top Secret" and taken to the never-ending rows of Government stores in USA.
Another American claims he discovered the Ark on 6th January 1982, but the Israeli Government ordered its whereabouts kept secret! Ron Wyatt, excavated at the cliff face of Golgotha. He claims he found three holes, 13 inches square, and three feet deep, cut into the rock. He claims these were sockets for Roman crosses. Some coins found, come from the era prior to 130AD. He claims to have found a large round stone, 13'2" across, weighing several tons, which he claims fits the opening of "The Garden Tomb" nearby. The most amazing claim however, concerns a crack in the rock within the central post-hole. This leads deep within the rock. After four years of excavation, a small entrance to a chamber underneath was discovered. The chamber measured 22 feet deep by 14 feet wide and 8 feet high. Inside he claims were the ancient Temple furniture covered with skins and held down with rocks. He believed this was the hidden treasure of Jeremiah. Behind it was the Ark of the Covenant!
Ron Wyatt says he took samples of dried blood from it. Jewish authorities were called from the Department of Antiquities. One collapsed and was taken to hospital. A second died. A third was murdered that night. Israeli Authorities then sealed the chamber because it could cause Orthodox Jews to want to build the Third Temple, could lead to the blowing up of the Dome of the Rock, and start a holy war. This supposed discovery has more thrills than Indiana Jones!
Ron Wyatt produces plans that place the Ark of the Covenant, directly under that crack in the rock on the centre post-hole where Jesus was crucified. From His pierced side water and blood flowed down. Moses used to sprinkle the Mercy Seat with water and blood! The scraping of the blood from the Ark beneath was supposedly tested in an American laboratory, revealed no X chromosome, showing that the bearer of the blood had no human father! The bearer had a virgin birth! He claims the blood dripped on the Mercy Seat of the Covenant Box hidden in the cave below the place of crucifixion! This is better than Speilberg! I believe this is fundamentalist fantasy. I do not believe this happened! It is good theology but I suspect bad archaeology and untrue history.
These people make four errors in thinking about God's Ark. Good films are rarely good theology. Theological fun is rarely based upon archaeological fact. The errors of Spielberg and Wyatt are repeated by many Christians whose concept of God is far too small.
1. God cannot be kept in a box. The Raiders of the Lost Ark, thought they had captured God in the sacred box. Some Christians confine God within a Church. When they come to church they think of God, but forget that God is with them wherever they go. Some confine God to the Anglo-Saxon race, forgetting that God cannot be confined to our race. God cannot be locked in a box!
2. God's power lies not within a box but within Him. Raiders of the Lost Ark know that power was in the box. Some Christians think that God's power is confined to the stories contained in the Bible, or to events that happen in church where a person can be forgiven or healed, or to activities held on a Sunday or to our racial ideas. The Hebrews thought like that. When the Ark was captured by the enemies they thought they had lost God's power. But God's power is loose in the world and available wherever people call upon Him.
3. God is with the Ark, but also with you. The Raiders of the Lost Ark, thought they could put God away when they put the box away. The Hebrews thought unless they had the Box with them, God was not with them. They even put the Ark on wheels to take God with them. But His presence goes with you, whether you have the Ark or not. God is where you are.
4. God cannot be "Top Secret", lost and locked away. The Raiders labeled God: "Top Secret", and hid Him away in Government Stores somewhere. But God cannot be labelled, lost or locked away! God is here, now. He is not top secret, that is why we talk Him.
Christians have a unique understanding of the Ark of the Covenant. We believe the Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of God's presence, power, Word and forgiveness to the Hebrews of the Old Testament. And Christ is the embodiment of the Ark for the Christian of the New Testament. With Jesus we do not need an Ark of The Covenant. Because Jesus Christ does all that the Ark did. He is our new Covenant.
He is the Word. The old Ark contained the Ten Commandments. Today the Word of God lies in Jesus. He brought the Word, He spoke the Word, He is the Word. The Bible is written record of His Word.
He is the Bread. The old Ark contained some manna from the wilderness to remind them of their dependence upon God. Jesus also is the Bread of life which came down from heaven.
He is the High Priest. The old Ark contained Aaron's rod, symbol of God's saving mercy at the mercy seat. Jesus is the High Priest who entered heaven to obtain our forgiveness. His shed blood enables our sins to be covered. Jesus saves us. Like the Ark of the Covenant, Jesus enables us to know God's presence, mercy, forgiveness, Word and power.
Remember the theme: God is with you, wherever you go. Acknowledge Him. Will you acknowledge Him? Will you accept Jesus as Lord? In the Salvation Army, the front seat is called after the wings of the two angels on the Covenant Box, "The Mercy Seat". Here, at the mercy seat, you can find forgiveness of sins, and the presence of God forever. Come to the Mercy Seat, and find Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
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