Thursday, December 24, 2015

God's Instructions Today Take Tomorrow Into Account


The Wooden Chest

Exodus 25:10-16: “And they shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high.  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it.  And you shall cast four gold rings for it, and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it.  And you shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.  And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.  The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it.  And you shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you.”

This is the beginning of the very detailed instructions that God gives to Moses for the people with respect to the construction of an “ark”. Most of us immediately think of Noah’s Ark when we hear this word. However, the word has a much simpler meaning, that of a chest in which things are protected. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as a “large strong box, typically made of wood and used for storage or shipping” of something valuable. The Dictionary gives a “medicine chest” as an example.  And that definition fits both Noah’s Ark and this Ark (which later becomes known as the ‘ark of the Covenant’ or the ‘ark of the Testimony’). Both were used to store, or protect, and to transport or ship their valuable contents.  In the case of Noah, it was two of every living creature and in the case of Ark of the children of Israel it was God’s testimony or laws.
Not only was this chest to be constructed precisely to specifications in size, but also it was not to be any cheap old box that was just made-to-measure with respect to magnitude. It was to be overlaid with pure gold, inside and out, with four large gold rings through which carrying poles would be inserted.  God knew that the Ark would eventually have to be moved about and carried.  He knew how many people it would take to carry it and how much they could reasonably lift. And He provided for that.
God also instructed that once the carrying poles were inserted, they were not to be removed. This was in case the priests would have to move the ark quickly during the long life of the Israelites that was still before them. God had that in mind too.
Here’s the point: when God gives us instructions today – He has the unmatchable advantage of knowing exactly what will happen and what we will need tomorrow. But as it was with Children of Israel who took so long to be able to rely on that God with that knowledge, so it is with us.
This short passage ends with God instructing that “His testimony” be put into the ark that the Israelites were to build.  This word “testimony” is used once earlier in Scripture, in Exodus 16:34 and in both cases it refers to the “Decalogue” or the Ten Commandments.  However, since the Ten Commandments were not given to Moses until Exodus 20, one could well ask “What is going on here?”  We are left with two options.  Either the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) is ‘anachronistic’ here – that is, this is one place the account is out of chronological order.  Or (and this is the option I prefer given all else that is taking place in order), Exodus 16:34 refers to what Aaron did some time after the Decalogue was given in Exodus 20 and the author was just telling us about it here when he was writing the account.  May I suggest, and perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek, that Author Moses had a bit of God’s own personality when it came to time for elsewhere in Scripture we read, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4).

 
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