It was only a box. But what a box! It was made of shittim wood overlain with gold within and without and with a crown of gold around it. A ring of gold was cast at each corner. Staves were fashioned of shittim and also overlain with gold. A stave was placed through rings on each side by which the priests could carry the ark of the covenant. Since the Israelites at that time were a traveling people, mobility, even of their furniture for worship, was important. This magnificence was topped by further breathtaking beauty! A mercy seat, of the same width and length as the ark and made of pure gold, was above the ark of the covenant. Two golden cherubim were placed, a cherub at each end, whose wings stretched over the mercy seat. Such a view must have dumbfounded all who glimpsed it so wondrous was its beauty.
The golden beauty and breathtaking craftsmanship of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat, were insignificant compared to their function. They were the point of contact with God. In Exodus 25:22 God said, “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” The ark of the covenant was the place where Israel, through their representative, the high priest, could commune with God. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary gives the meaning of commune as “To converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity.” The ark with it’s mercy seat was the place where man, the acme of God’s creation but still a speck of filth compared to His majesty, could commune with his Creator, the Power above all power, the glory of all glories!
All this gives special meaning to the message to us in Ephesians 2. After explaining the estrangement from God of the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit said, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make of himself of two one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Does the ark still exist? It has been swallowed by the mists of antiquity. Was it melted down for the gold by enemies of the Jews? Is it buried beneath ruins in the city of Jerusalem? No one knows and, anyway its efficacy faded when Christ blotted out the “law contained in ordinances.” Colossians 2:14. In His body, the church (Col. 1:18), men are brought together or reconciled with each other and with God. And as the skill and ingenuity of bygone artisans was manifested by the ark of the covenant and its mercy seat, the manifold wisdom of God is revealed by the church today. Ephesians 3:10.