ARK OF THE COVENANT IN FLESH AND SPIRIT

 

In my previous posting I described the Ark of the Covenant as the enclosure located in the area of the temple known as the Holy of Holies. I ended the posting with the comment that the ark of the covenant is mentioned again in Revelation, but that this ark is probably a very different one. In my novel Jacob, book three of the four-book Buddy series, Earl Cook connects this later ark with the earlier one in his talk to fellow Christians in a Bible study:

This one’s about the Ark of the Covenant. This ark was a wooden box, overlaid with gold and topped with two cherubs. Inside the box were relics of past interactions between God and man, including the staff that Aaron used, the one that turned into a snake in front of pharaoh, and a sample of the life-sustaining bread that fell from heaven during the great exodus from Egypt and, most important, the tablets upon which God had written the Ten Commandments and which he gave to Moses on the mountain. These tablets of the Law represented the first Word of God covenant between God and man, or the Old Testament. The Ark of the Covenant was placed within the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in Solomon’s temple. At the dedication of both of these temples the glory of God, called the Shekinah, descended in a cloud and dwelt within the temples. There is a great significance to this indwelling of the Shekinah glory, and I’ll probably go into it in another sermon. But for now I want to focus on the Ark, which has had a very colorful history. There’s a question as to whether Menelek, the queen of Sheba’s son with Solomon, went back to Ethiopia with a copy of it or actually had stolen the real thing. To this day, that version is jealously guarded by Ethiopians. Nevertheless, it was eventually lost. Apparently, the prophet Jeremiah buried it in a cave toward the end of the sixth century B.C. when Jerusalem was in danger of being overrun by enemy forces. There’s another story in that too, but to forge ahead, the Ark of the Covenant is finally mentioned again toward the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, where John sees it in heaven. But this may be a different Ark altogether.

Let me tell you why. In Revelation 12, immediately after John’s sighting of the Ark in heaven, he goes on to describe another heavenly wonder: a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a man-child who is to rule the world, obviously Jesus. This woman has variously been identified as several different personages by people of differing faiths, each one being the favorite of one faith or another. Many have thought of this woman as representing Israel. Catholics have picked up on this passage, claiming her to be Mary. For reasons that I won’t go into now, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. But it’s very close. Whether this woman actually is Mary or not, it does evoke an image that makes me want to say, ‘Of course! It can be no other way.’ That image, which I cherish now with all my heart, I know to be true, and I want to share it with you now. Mary herself, in containing the Word of God in her womb, was herself the flesh-and-blood Ark of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. That may well have been the Ark that John saw in heaven.”

But there may also be a yet greater Person to whom this later ark may be attributed, wherein the connection is spiritual rather than fleshly. The Biblical account of this ark is presented in Revelation 11:19 through 12:17:

“And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderclaps, and an earthquake, and great hail.

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven – a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she, being with child, cried, travealing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and, behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the worman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.

“And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

“And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

The possible spiritual connection is described in Chapter 8 of my nonfiction book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, wherein I link the Shekinah Glory to the Holy Spirit, noting that this connection is a very direct suggestion to the Holy Spirit’s femininity:

Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8 provide prominent examples of the Shekinah as a precursor to the indwelling Holy Spirit of the New Testament. Exodus 40:33-38 describes the indwelling of the Tabernacle in the wilderness:

“And [Moses] reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”

The description “cloud of the Lord” , “fire by night” and “taken up” leaves no doubt that this “cloud” is equivalent to the Shekinah of the Red Sea adventure and of Isaiah 4:5. The corresponding incident with respect to Solomon’s Temple, taken from 1 Kings 8:6-13, is given below:

And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their two wings of the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its staves above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the inner sanctuary, but they were not seen outside; and there they are unto this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. Then spoke Solomon, The Lord said he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.”

In this passage the meaning of “cloud” is closely linked with “dwelling place” and “glory of the Lord”, which again point to the phrase Shekinah Glory.

The connection between these precursor events and the Holy Spirit who indwells Christian believers is given in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, wherein Paul asserts that the Church herself, through her constituents, is a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The facts embedded in these passages are no surprise to Christians, who generally accept without question that believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and comprise, as the Church, a holy temple. What some of us may not be aware of is that this temple and its indwelling by the Holy Spirit was represented numerous times as the Glory of God in the Old Testament. Turning to the Internet, the Wikipedia entry for “Shekinah” begins as follows:

Hebrew [Shekinah] is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew ancient blessing. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God, especially in the temple in Jerusalem.” An accompanying figure shows the Shekinah, or the Glory of God, indwelling the temple as described in 1 Kings 8.”

Noting the female gender of this indwelling Shekinah, we find here by comparing the indwelling presence of the Glory in Solomon’s temple with the description in Ephesians 2 of the Holy Spirit indwelling the human temple that Scripture itself, by furnishing this direct comparison, supports an interpretation of the Holy Spirit as a female Entity in the face of conventional Christian thought, as driven by the use in Scripture of the male pronoun in reference to the Holy Spirit.”

Just as Revelation 11 and 12 symbolize Mary as the ark of the covenant in flesh, so do those same passages symbolize God the Holy Spirit as the ark of the Word, God’s covenant to mankind, in spirit.

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