Josiah has been leading the nation in a most significant period of spiritual reform after the decline and apostasy during the leadership of his father Amon and grandfather Manasseh.
Having removed the idols from the land, having rediscovered the Book of the Law, refurbished the temple and renewed the covenant, the time had now come when the Ark of the Covenant must be returned to its rightful place in the spiritual life of the nation.
Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now the LORD your God, and his people Israel,2nd Chronicles 35:3
The sub-title of this study ‘A Plea for Christ-Centred Ministry’ sums up the application for the 21st Century Church. The Ark of the Covenant was intended to be in the holist place within the sanctuary. The sacred receptacle was at the heart of true Hebrew worship and represented the presence of God among his people. The Ark represents Christ in this New Testament era.
In normal times the Ark was never intended to be seen, being kept in the Holy of Holies; Christ is unseen by the naked eye having passed into the heavenlies for us.
The Ark with its blend of wood and gold represents Christ in his humanity and divinity.
The tables of law deposited inside the Ark relates to our Saviour’s perfect obedience to the law, which was in His heart.
The mercy seat laid on top of the Ark, preventing the terrors of the law being exposed to Israel, is indicative of our Lord’s work as Mediator standing between man and the broken law.
Once a year the mercy seat was sprinkled by blood on the great Day of Atonement; likewise Christ has shed His blood, presenting the same in glory forever, for the covering of our sins.
The presence of the Ark was the tangible assurance of God among His people; likewise God dwells in His New Testament Church through the ministry of His Son:
” No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
Therefore it is of the essence that we are Christ-Centred, Christ preaching, Christ exalting and Christ loving. If this is not the case then we must follow Josiah’s example in bringing back the Ark.
1: THE REMOVAL OF THE ARK
What is particularly intriguing about this passage is that the Ark was not in its rightful place within the Holy of Holies. At some point in the near past the Ark had been taken away from the Holy Place. It is most likely that this precious artefact was taken by the faithful priests snd hidden out of harm’s way during the wicked reigns of Manasseh and Amon. If these Kings and their supporters had taken the ark, they would have had destruction on their minds. This would have been the very reason why the priests faithfully hid and preserved it.
They represent the faithful remnant in days deep apostasy, as in the Dark Ages, who held onto the old Gospel in all it’s simplicity, preserving truth for future generations.
Whatever the world does with Christ, whatever failures exist in professing Christendom and among professing evangelicals let us jealously cling onto truth with spirit of a Waldo, a Huss or a Wycliffe. The future of the Gospel depends upon the work of the remnant.
This removal of the Ark is a reminder of the solemn moment when the Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant, as they slew Eli’s sons and defeated the men of Israel in battle. At that time the Ark was taken and was not reunited with the sanctuary until the erection of the temple by Solomon. In the intervening period it resided in Bethshemesh before being removed to the Kirthjathjearim, spending some time in the home of Obededom, in Mount Zion, before being taken to the new sanctuary. The Ark was removed because of judgement and it took many years before there was restoration. In like manner the removal of the Ark under Manasseh and Amon was a symbol of the judgement of God.
The presence of Christ is the most precious blessing that we experience within the Church. Sadly through our sin and our coldness of spirit He can withdraw from His people. The Holy Spirit can be grieved and even quenched and, as in the case of Laodecia, the Saviour can be shut out of the life of the local congregation.
Is the current prayerless and powerless state of the Church today in the Western and here in Ulster not proof that like Ephesus we have left our first love and like Laodecia, the Saviour is knocking outside the door tenderly rebuking our pride and self sufficiency?
2: THE REPLACING OF THE ARK
Some scholars believe that the idol which Manasseh had placed in the Temple and subsequently removed (2nd Chronicles 33:7,15) was sited within the inner sanctuary; this would explain the removal of the Ark. It is thought likely that Amon reinstated the idol, following in his father’s footsteps. The key thought is that with the removal of the ark, God’s way of worship was replaced with something else; that which was pagan, of the flesh and which represented total rebellion.
When Christ is not at the heart of His Church He becomes replaced. Sin and pride becomes elevated at the expense of the Saviour; even our doctrine and our knowledge can be an idol where we magnify what we know about Christ while we do not truly know Him in our hearts. If we are without the fullness of Christ’s presence what have we replaced Him with?
3: THE RESTORATION OF THE ARK
This is the story of Josiah’s preparation for the great Passover which would be the pinnacle of Josiah’s reign, the last great moment of blessing before judgement would fall. The old temple had seen many triumphant and tragic scenes but in terms of of victory this was a moment compared only to the time when the Ark was brought in under Solomon.
The Ark, however, was only brought in after the idol had been removed. While we may theorise about blessing and about knowing more of Christ it will only ever be theory as long as we refuse to repent of everything with which we replace Christ.
Whatever idol I have known,
What’re that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
This was a happy time of putting the wrongs to right, of instituting affairs according to God’s plan. Piece by piece Josiah was organising the nation in readiness for the great Passover. It was a careful methodical work of humble obedience that would lead to a great revival.
The Temple, the Book of the Law and the Ark of the Covenant were old; the Ark was particularly ancient stretching right back to the wilderness sojourn. It is easy for a modern generation to despise that which is old, yet there is nothing so priceless as the old truths which have been held onto and preached since the days of apostles, and which have been blessed with the seals of heaven.
In Gospel terms, however, the old paths are the ways sanctified by God, they are the route to blessing. The plain preaching of Christ crucified, His blood alone atoning for the sins of mankind, cannot be replaced even though it might be mocked by the world. Let us not neglect the Gospel and the Christ of God.