The word here translated chest, in the original, is the same as that, in other places, translated ark and coffin. There are five of these mentioned in the Old Testament. 1st, Noah’s ark, denoting salvation. 2nd. The ark of bulrushes in which Moses, when a babe, was laid, denoting preparation. 3rd, The coffin in which Joseph was laid, denoting sanctification or separation, 4th, The ark of the covenant, over which was the mercy seat, denoting acceptance and 5th, The chest in which were placed the offerings of the people, denoting dedication.
It was no accident that these five different arks appeared in their order, for salvation is first in the experience of the believer and the things which accompany salvation follow in their order. Noah’s ark was ordained for the salvation of those whom God chose. The Lord shut them in this ark of salvation, they did not shut themselves in. There was but one window, which was in the top. Here we see God’s mercy in sparing Noah the sight of the destruction around him; also, to ace the light, Noah had to look up. What a mercy in times of stress to be enabled to look away from all that distresses us, all the turmoil around us, and to look up by faith to Jesus. The second ark, in which Moses was laid, was at a time in the history of the Israelites when they were oppressed by the Egyptians. The Hebrews were multiplying so, that the Pharaoh, which knew not Joseph, feared they would revolt. To prevent this, he ordered all male babies to be destroyed. Moses’ mother hid her child until he could no longer be hidden, then she made this ark of bulrushes, put her child therein, and laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. Pharaoh’s daughter, coming to bathe, took the child and he was brought up in Pharaoh’s house, as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, where he was educated as a prince. Here was an opportunity for Moses to be a great man in the world, but Moses, by faith, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, recognized his own people, and chose rather to suffer with them. The Lord was watching over the infant Moses, preparing him for the work that He had for him to do. in the deliverance of the Israelites. So the Lord watches over his people, preparing their hearts to seek him for deliverance from the bondage of Satan and Sin.
Joseph, before he died, took an oath of the children of Israel, that when the Lord should visit his people with deliverance, they should carry his bones with them; so when he died they embalmed him and put him in a coffin in Egypt, and when their deliverance came, they did as Joseph had commanded, carrying his coffin through the Red Sea and in all their wanderings in the wilderness until they went into the land of Canaan, Joseph was a type of Christ, and Joseph’s body journeying with them was a token of their being a people separate unto the Lord. When the Israelites passed through the Red Sea Joseph’s body was with them and the Red Sea closed behind them for them never to return to Egyptian bondage, and even though in their hearts they might lust after the things of Egypt, they could not go back to it, even if they would, and in all their murmurings and lustings after the flesh-pots of Egypt, there was Joseph’s body, a silent testimony that they were a separate nation, and could not go with the world. What a picture of the believer! Even after experiencing many mercies at the hand of the Lord, our hearts are so desperately wicked that were it not for God’s grace we should turn back to the world: but those who are a separate people unto the Lord are dead to sin, so how can they live any longer therein; and if our hearts would turn again unto sin, we cannot live in it, for we are dead to it by the body of Christ. When the believer has the remembrance of His body, His sufferings and death in eight, sin becomes exceeding sinful.
The next ark was the ark of the covenant, over which was the mercy seat, and in which was the pot of manna, the unbroken tables of commandments, and Aaron’s rod that budded. This ark was made of shittim-wood, a desert growth. In this ark, being a type of Christ, the wood signified his humanity, and being a desert growth was in accord with Isaiah, who, when prophesying of Jesus, said he should be “as a root out of a dry ground.” The over-lay of gold signified his Deity. The unbroken law was laid in this ark, and in Jesus is the only place where the law is kept; here also was the manna which kept alive the Israelites, and in Jesus is the sustenance of his people. Aaron was the High Priest for the Israelites, so Jesus is the High Priest of our profession. Over the ark was the mercy Heat. This ark and the mercy seat were in the holiest place, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter to make atonement for the people. The High Priest’s garment had bells upon it, and as long as the people heard the bells they knew that the High Priest lived. We, in this age of grace, know that our High Priest still lives, we hear the joyful sound – the proof of it – in the ministry of the gospel. The people also knew, when the High Priest presented himself alive, that his offering had been accepted. All this is symbolical of our great High Priest who still lives to make intercession for us.
The Fifth ark was the chest of the text, which was placed at the gate of the house of the Lord for the reception of the offerings which the people gave willingly, which commandment the Lord laid upon them by Moses in the wilderness, and consisted of such things as the people had to give, not simply money. Turning to the New Testament we find that this was still kept up in the time of Christ, for Jesus watched various ones casting into the treasury: among them was a poor widow who cast in two mites which make a farthing. We hear people speak of giving the widow’s mite when they perhaps give five or ten cents for some purpose but this is not the widow’s mite at all. The Scripture says she “cast in all that she had, even all her living.” In so doing she was casting herself wholly in dependance upon her Lord. So, the Lord’s people, when moved by the love of God and the remembrance of his mercies to them, surrender their all to him. All they have is willingly given in his service, their joy is to minister to the brethren of their substance, they love to lay aside earthly cares and assemble themselves together to hear Christ preached, sometimes having to make sacrifices to get there, but the love which they have for their Lord makes them do all these things out of a willing heart. In Acts we read of the church having all things in common, not counting anything their own, but Ananias and Sapphira kept something for themselves, and then, lying about it, they were stricken with death. So a deathlike spirit comes upon those who hold back ought that they have, they lose the joy that there is in spending and being spent in God’s service. Paul exhorts believers (notice believers, not those dead in sin) that they present their bodies a living sacrifice, which is their reasonable service, their willing service, but as the hymn says, “Yet if I might make some reserve, and duty did not call, I love my God with zeal so great, that I should give him all.”
Thus, from these five arks, we see that these blessings are for believers: that their salvation is of God, and comes first, before any of these other things can follow. The ark of dedication was the last, and so it is with believers, their service to the Lord is the result of first, their salvation, second, the preparation of the heart to receive these things, third, the consequent separation from the world, fourth, their acceptance in the Beloved, and fifth, dedication, their sincere desire to show forth by their walk and conversation the praise of him who has called them out of darkness into his most marvelous light.
Notes of a sermon delivered by Elder H H. Lefferts at Mt. Zion meeting house June 25, 1933
(Taken by Sister Grace Aston)
Republished – Signs of the Times
Volume 149, No. 10