In a recent story by Owen Jarus, an ancient text reveals clues about the location of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is a gold-overlaid box, covered on top by the wings of two golden angel sculptures, with the tablets of the law, the manna (bread from heaven that the Israelites ate in the wilderness on their way to the promised land of Canaan), and Aaron’s rod which budded. It was a symbol of God’s presence among His people, and the centerpiece of worship in the tabernacle, and later in the temple after Solomon built the temple of the LORD.
God gave instructions for making the Ark in Exodus chapter 25:
10 And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. 11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about…13 And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold…17 And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. 18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat…21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims 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 was carried on long wooden poles by the descendants of Levi. One time, when the ark was placed on a cart, it was tipping over. Uzzah tried to catch the ark with his hand to keep it from falling to the ground. He was struck dead by God on the spot for his indiscretion, because the ark was holy, not to be touched by human hands.
2 Samuel 6:6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.
The Ark was the center of worship, the most holy thing in the tabernacle, the symbol of God’s presence among His people, from which He spoke to them. It was to be handled strictly as God commanded and not otherwise.
The Ark was lost when the Chaldeans under King Nebudchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and stole all the gold items from the temple of the LORD. It was never found again. It has been popular to speculate on where the Ark might be found today. Some have claimed that it rests in Ethiopia. The 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark popularized the lore surrounding the recovery of the Ark, which, in the film, struck the soldiers of the 3rd Reich with deadly supernatural power which they were trying to harness for their own evil purposes.
Is the Ark going to be found? And if it is, what will be its significance? Some have said, for example in the article linked above, that in the time of the reign of the promised Messiah, the Son of David, the Ark will be found and regain prominence in the worship of God’s people. But what do the prophets say about it? Jeremiah spoke of the future day of the reign of the Messianic King, a time of spiritual blessing and prosperity, in these words:
Jeremiah 3:14b I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
We see a few things in this picture of the Messianic age: 1. Jews would return to Zion. 2. Pastors would feed the people of God with knowledge and understanding. 3. The Ark would not be remembered or visited. 4. The nations would gather to Jerusalem to obey the LORD.
The Ark will never again be a center of worship. In fact, according to this prophecy, it will not “be remembered.” Now, we know that the Ark has not been visited ever since it was lost centuries before the birth of Christ. But how is it that it is no longer “remembered?” It’s because now Christ Jesus, the Messiah of the Jewish people, is the center of worship. While the Ark was merely a symbol of God’s presence, Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) It is unto Him that the nations are gathering, and the remnant of the Jews, God’s elect from every nation. The place of His presence is His Holy Church, which is Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. (Hebrews 12:22) He has appointed pastors to feed His flock with knowledge and understanding. (Ephesians 4:11) Although He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, He is present with His people in Spirit, especially in the fellowship of the redeemed, which is His body. There, that is, in every true church on earth where His word is authentically proclaimed, He speaks to His people and makes His word effective by His Spirit working in them.
So what does this mean, when it comes to stories and clues about the present location of the Ark of the Covenant? It will probably never be found, and certainly, is no longer needed. If it ever is found, which I doubt that God will allow, it will be nothing more than a museum piece. It will not be remembered or visited as before. It is not needed at all because Jesus the Messiah is God, present among His people in word and Spirit.