‘Jesus, priceless treasure, source of purest pleasure, truest friend to me.’* Tell Jesus how precious he is to you.
* ‘Jesus, Priceless Treasure,’ J Franck, trans. C Winkworth http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh532.sht
37 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood – two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 2 He overlaid it with pure gold, both inside and out, and made a gold moulding around it. 3 He cast four gold rings for it and fastened them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 4 Then he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. 5 And he inserted the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it.
6 He made the atonement cover of pure gold – two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 7 Then he made two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 8 He made one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; at the two ends he made them of one piece with the cover. 9 The cherubim had their wings spread upwards, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim faced each other, looking towards the cover.
10 They made the table of acacia wood – two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. 11 Then they overlaid it with pure gold and made a gold moulding around it. 12 They also made around it a rim a handbreadth wide and put a gold moulding on the rim. 13 They cast four gold rings for the table and fastened them to the four corners, where the four legs were. 14 The rings were put close to the rim to hold the poles used in carrying the table. 15 The poles for carrying the table were made of acacia wood and were overlaid with gold. 16 And they made from pure gold the articles for the table – its plates and dishes and bowls and its pitchers for the pouring out of drink offerings.
17 They made the lampstand of pure gold. They hammered out its base and shaft, and made its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. 18 Six branches extended from the sides of the lampstand – three on one side and three on the other. 19 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms were on one branch, three on the next branch and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. 20 And on the lampstand were four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. 21 One bud was under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair – six branches in all. 22 The buds and the branches were all of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.
23 They made its seven lamps, as well as its wick trimmers and trays, of pure gold. 24 They made the lampstand and all its accessories from one talent of pure gold.
The altar of incense
25 They made the altar of incense out of acacia wood. It was square, a cubit long and a cubit wide and two cubits high – its horns of one piece with it. 26 They overlaid the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and made a gold moulding around it. 27 They made two gold rings below the moulding – two on each of the opposite sides – to hold the poles used to carry it. 28 They made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold.
29 They also made the sacred anointing oil and the pure, fragrant incense – the work of a perfumer.
The US National Archives Rotunda houses America’s ‘Charters of Freedom’: its Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. At the enshrining ceremony in 1952, President Truman said, ‘We are engaged here today in a symbolic act. We are enshrining these documents for future ages… This magnificent hall has been constructed to exhibit them, and the vault beneath, that we have built to protect them, is as safe from destruction as anything that the wit of modern man can devise.’** Precious things are esteemed and protected.
Bezalel made an ark ‘overlaid … with pure gold, both inside and out’ (vs 1,2) and an ‘atonement cover of pure gold’ (v 6), flanked by a pair of golden cherubim (vs 7–9), which represented God’s throne. This ark would house ‘the tablets of the covenant law’ (Exodus 25:16). This sacred covenant-treaty was like a birth certificate – defining who Israel was and to whom she belonged – and a constitution – the holy laws of a holy God for a holy nation.
Gold signifies something pure, untarnished and precious. Bronze was used for the courtyard, and for the altar of burnt offering and basin found there (38:1–20). But in the sanctuary, all that glittered – ark (37:1–9), table (37:10–16), lampstand (37:17–24), incense altar (37:25–28) – truly was gold!
Can you honestly say to God, ‘Truly I love your commandments more than gold, more than fine gold’ (Psalm 119:127, NRSVA)?
Deeper Bible study
‘Yet God raised Jesus to life! God’s Spirit now lives in you, and he will raise you to life by his Spirit.’1
Today we have a continuation of the make/made principle we considered yesterday: God commands, we obey. Every fibre of the human heart wants to rebel against such limitation, but the truth is, learning to obey God is the key to real freedom. Here we see the Israelites following his instructions for the table (vs 10–16), the lampstand (vs 17–24) and the altar of incense (vs 25–29). The component worthy of special attention, however, is the ark (vs 1–9), the signature work of our spirit-inspired friend Bezalel (v 1).2
The ark went by several names: the ark of God, the ark of the covenant and the ark of the testimony. It was important because it contained a ‘gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant’,3 that is, the Ten Commandments. No doubt the Israelites highly valued the ark because it contained relics reminding them of God’s mighty work in the past, but its greatest significance was what it meant for them in the present. Moses, the one who benefited from friend-to-friend conversation with God, understood that the ark was tantamount to God’s presence with his people.4 Years later, King David had the same understanding.5
What symbolises God’s presence with you today? Worship, prayer, the Eucharist, nature, his Word, or something else? The key in all of these, however, is to keep our hearts focused on the one to whom the symbols point. As New Testament Christians, we have one additional advantage the Israelites were only beginning to anticipate: the presence of the Holy Spirit. That was the gift Jesus promised his disciples and which was poured out at Pentecost. As his followers today, that Real Presence is with us wherever we go.6
When are you most aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in your life?
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 1 Chronicles 7–10; Psalm 68
Pray for Scripture Union
Give thanks for Annabel Mundy who started as a Development Hub Assistant at the end of April and pray that she will settle into her new role and make a positive contribution to the ministry.