Keeping to our purpose of investigating the Godhead Theolo-gy of the Tabernacle, we must pass over much here, that does not directly lend itself to our mission. There are some observations that may be made concerning the Ark, beyond the fact that it is made of shittem wood overlaid with gold (a parable of the dual nature of Christ). Chiefly, we will mention this: the Ark (also called the Ark of the Testimony) was a chest that contained certain prodigious items that bear testimony of our Savior. There were the actual two tablets of stone, upon which were written the Ten Commandments; also, a jar of manna taken from the wilderness journey of the Israelites, and, in addition, Aaron’s rod that budded (Heb 9:4). These three items testify of Christ in very clear ways that none can deny: The tablets of stone, on which the Ten Commandments were written, contain the moral law for man, so it is the correct Way for mankind to live; the jar of manna, taken from the wilderness, testifies of the bread from heaven, which is the Truth; Aaron’s rod, that miraculously put forth shoots, even though it was a dead stick, speaks of Life. Did Jesus not say that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)? Moreover, the Law (the Way) testifies of Father God; the Manna (the Truth) testifies of the Son of God; and the Rod that Budded (Life) testifies of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote of Christ, and said: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” —Colossians 2:9.
To come to the true essence of the Ark of the Testimony, and exactly what it was a parable of, we will jump forward to the New Testament writing of the book of Revelation. A survey of a statement from Revelation 2:17 will bring us to a deeper under-standing of the Ark and its contents. Revelation 2:17: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, ...” ～ The victor (Grk., tō nikōnti, lit. “the one overcoming;” the idea is: not finished, but an ongoing work) is promised an amazing reward, i.e. “ ... will I give to eat of the hidden manna.” This statement appears nowhere else in the Bible; but the meaning is quite clear from its rabbinical association to biblical events. Though the statement concerning eating “hidden manna” is introduced in our holy Scriptures here for the first time, it was a traditional saying of the rabbis. Such phrases are called rabbinical speech. It was part of a manner of speaking common to all public speakers in the arena of popular thought, such as religion or politics. Such statements as this convey a wealth of information with only a few words. The reference is to the “manna” which was placed in a golden jar by Aaron at Moses’ command, and “hidden” in the Ark of the Testi-mony (Ex 16:33 cf. Heb 9:4), beneath the Mercyseat. In the course of time the Ark of the Testimony, with its lid (i.e. the Mercyseat), disappeared from the holy Temple in Jerusalem. There are different traditions as to the vanishing of this most sacred article of the Jewish faith. About the only thing the traditions have in common is roughly the time of disappearance; namely, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (586 B.C.). This was in the days of the prophet Jeremiah, who figures into the tradition prominently.
One story is that prior to the fall of the city, many treasures of the temple were “hidden” somewhere in Jerusalem, presumably on the temple mount. It is thought that Jeremiah oversaw this concealment. This could very well have been the case, since Jeremiah was a priest, a member of the household of Hilkiah. His home town was Anathoth (Jer 1:1). So, he was most likely a descendant of Abiathar (1 Kgs 2:26). Chiefly among the hidden items was the Ark of the Testimony. The “hidden” Ark became referred to by the term “hidden manna.” The Rabbis believed that both the “hidden” Ark and their long awaited Messiah would appear at the same time. Or, at least, the discovery of their Ark of the Testimony would be the signal that their Messiah was immi-nent. Therefore, when the teachers of the law would announce in the synagogues, “Soon, we will eat the hidden manna,” all understood the idiom to mean, “Soon the Messiah will come.” Of course, the discovery of the Ark is intended by the phrase: “eat hidden manna;” but by extrapolation, and the primary message covertly hidden three layers deep in idiom, is the coming of the Messiah—the Son of David.
Christ (which is the Greek word for Messiah—the anointed one) is telling the Church at Pergamos, and the church of God in general: “Messiah has come, and for those of you who are overcoming, the hidden manna is available to eat.” One might do well to associate this with the words of Jesus from John’s gospel, “The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. ... Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. ... This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” —John 6:41, 47-51, 58.
John, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, was led to record the above discourse that was given in the Capernaum synagogue (John 6:59). Rarely had Jesus been more straightforward. In the Jewish synagogue, to the Jewish crowd, as he stood in the place of the teaching Rabbi, in the very spot where the “hidden manna” was commonly spoken of for the purpose of arousing the emotional expectation of the crowd to anticipate the arrival of their Messiah, now, before them all, against the backdrop of the miracle of the loaves and fishes (same ch vv5-14), the carpenter from Nazareth says, “I am the true manna which came from heaven. If you eat of me you shall have eternal life.”
Might we be so bold as to suggest: Just as the manna in the wilderness was hidden in the Ark of the Testimony (an earthly chest made of shittem wood overlaid with gold—representing purity), even so, the true “bread which came down from heaven” was hidden in the virgin womb of an earthly vessel, which was truly a pure Ark for the covenant of God—we call that Ark, Mary.
Lest we be the object of ridicule, and even stoning, the obvious must be stated, somewhat parenthetically: The Ark of the Testi-mony was not the object of Israel’s worship. The object of Israel’s worship was He for whom the Ark was but the host, that is: the Shakinah that dwelt on the Mercyseat between the Cherubim. This personal presence of Yahweh was represented by the three testimonies within the chest:
The Law, which speaks to the Father;
The Golden Jar of Manna, which speaks to the Son, the
bread from heaven; and
Aaron’s rod that budded, which speaks to the Holy Spirit.
All this, in Mary’s pure womb.
The priesthood was expecting the Ark of the Testimony, hidden some 586 years earlier, to be discovered at any moment, Messianic expectation was high. It should have come as no surprise to them, that the Ark was, indeed, discovered in the hill country of Judea, in the home of a priest of Aaron. In fact, it was a daughter of Aaron, Elisabeth, who made the initial find (Luke 1:39ff), “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” —Luke 1:39-45.
It is more than happenstance that Mary remained in the home of Zacharias and Elisabeth for a period of three months (Luke 1:56). Luke, a Gentile, who was most likely from the city of Antioch of Syria, writes here in a true Hebraic fashion, by recording great truths in a covert manner. He mentions the three months stay in the home of Zacharias, because the Ark of the Old Covenant spent a similar stay, for the same amount of time, in the home of the priest Obededom (2 Sam 6:11 cf. 1 Chr 26:4). The home of Obededom and the home of Zacharias were located in the same place—about 1000 years apart. Such a wondrous event could not have been arranged by human effort—the hand of God was at work here. What could it all mean? The Ark of the Covenant pictures the person and ministry of Christ in a marvelous manner.
The Rabbis had been more right than they knew. The discovery of the Ark, by the daughter of Aaron, signaled the coming of the Messiah, who would come into the world via the womb of Mary. Thus, the contents of the Ark of the Covenant, i.e. the tablets of the Law, the golden jar of manna, and the budded rod of Aaron, that speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively, were robed in flesh, and dwelled among us. “And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In one place (John 14:6) He would speak of His relationship with the aforesaid Tablets of the Law, the Golden Jar of Manna, and Aaron’s Budded Rod this way:
“I am the way,” (the Law);
“I am ... the truth,” (the Manna, representative of the Word);
“I am ... the life,” (the Budded Rod). (John 14:6)
The Apostle Paul knew the revelation of this mystery, which was kept secret since the world began; he and the other New Testament writers have made it manifest by the Scriptures of the prophets to all nations for the obedience of faith (Rom 16:25-26). Paul makes a clear declaration of who Jesus is in Colossians 2:9-10, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:”
The discovery of the Ark and its “hidden manna” (namely, the Messiah) was entrusted to one priestly family: Zacharias; his wife, Elisabeth; and their son, John the Baptist. All three had their lines of introduction.
Elisabeth announced her discovery upon her encounter with Mary, “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” —Luke 1:41-45.
And Zacharias, upon the birth of his son John, proclaimed: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;” (Luke 1:68-69). In these lines, Zacharias spoke of Mary’s baby that was but three months inside her womb. He, further, spoke in harmony with his wife. As Elisabeth called Him her “LORD” (Luke 1:43), so, too, does Zacharias in v76. Speaking now to his son John, he prophesies, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the LORD to prepare his ways;” (Luke 1:76 cf. Isa 40:3). (See Luke 1:43 cf. 3:4.) All students of the Bible, everywhere, and in every age of the Lord’s church, understand Zacharias to be speaking about Jesus—for Whom John is sent to prepare the way. It is plain that this family of Aaron understood the weighty circumstances surrounding the identity of the person being clothed upon with flesh in the womb of Mary, for Zacharias is quoting Isaiah 40:3. It is here that the prophet sees the son of Elisabeth and the son of Mary, and speaks of them in these terms:
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the LORD (YHWH),
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
(Isaiah 40:3 cf. Luke 3:4)
In this messianic passage, concerning John and Jesus, which Zacharias clearly applied to the two, Jesus is referred to as “LORD” (YHWH or Yahweh) and “God.” When Luke uses the Greek kurios to translate both Elisabeth’s and Zacharias’ reference to Jesus, he uses it in the sense of “supreme master,” for it is used in the place of the Tetragrammaton, “YHWH,” of Isaiah 40:3, which is the name of God Almighty, Yahweh. The message is clear indeed—the Messiah, before whose face John would prepare the way, is Yahweh God!
Concerning the identity of the Messiah as Yahweh, one should consult Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Of particular interest is Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah declares the Messiah to have existence “from everlasting.” The Hebrew word translated “ever-lasting” is ôlâm (Strong’s #H5769), which means: eternity; always; perpetual; used here in the sense of “the days of eternity.” It is incomprehensible why the Jews, then and now, did not—and have not—accepted their Messiah as their God. For truly, who is eternal but Yahweh?
The parents of John the Baptist had discovered both the Ark and the Messiah. The revelation was yet to come to the son, who, as a priest, was led not to minister in the Temple. But forsaking the Temple, John went into the desert until the appointed time (Luke 1:80). His testimony concerning the “hidden manna” (the Messiah) was this: “And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” —John 1:33-34.
John would state the preexistence of the Messiah in these terms: “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (John 1:27). And “He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all” (John 3:30-31). And, further, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” —John 1:29.
☩ David Ignatius
Excerpted from the book entitled "Godhead Theology," by Bishop Jerry Hayes.
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