The Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat

A new order of man has been brought about in Christ risen from the dead. I do not mean to convey by this statement that Christ was not of an entirely new order when He was upon earth, but when He came to earth, He took part of the old order as far as flesh and blood was concerned, “Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14), so that it is only in resurrection that we see Him entirely apart from the old order, a new Man in an entirely now place.

But this Man was not installed in the place and circumstances in which He now is, the place and circumstances which were proper and congenial to this order of man, until the term of the probation of the first and earthly order had run its course. When every means which divine wisdom and goodness could devise to bring back the flesh from its wanderings had been exhausted (and this was not until the kindness and love of God had been presented to men, and had been rejected; only then was the trial complete, and the probation of man concluded) then the cross comes into view, and this blessed Man, the only righteous One, in whom there was no moral taint of the first and rebellious man, who was Son of God, and also Son of Man, seed of the woman, and altogether “that holy thing” from His very conception, goes to that cross, that in His body on the tree He might bear the judgment due to sin, and put it away by the sacrifice of Himself.

He had a right to offer Himself thus, because it was the will of God that He should do so, and He had a right to do it because He was the seed of the woman, the weak creature who had been overthrown by the superior might and cunning of the author of all evil and rebellion against God. He had a right to do it, because He came (although all spotless Himself) on the line of that devil-destroyed and sin-ruined race. He came not in any abrupt, despotic, or arbitrary assertion of sovereign power, but according to moral rectitude and righteousness. A virgin gives birth to a son, which is the witness of God’s gracious intervention on man’s behalf. In this One, this seed of the woman, the devil must discover One who is come to grapple with his hitherto invincible forces, wrest the victory from his hand, and hurl him from his seat with crushed head into the dust of utter humiliation and destruction.

Adown the ages men had anxiously looked for a redeemer and found none. No one could redeem his brother or pay the ransom for him. Moses attempted it, but was refused, for he also needed as other men a redeemer for himself. It was not so much a question of the right to redeem; I suppose any one had that, it was the ability that was wanting. Christ had both the right and the power to take up man’s ruined fortunes. He gave Himself a ransom for all. Who can fathom the depths of that judgment? Who can portray the darkness of that hour? Had this Man been no more than the seed of the woman He had never emerged out of that tempest, black with wrath, and curse, and indignation. The victim is consumed upon the altar, flesh is brought to an end in the execution of the judgment which lay upon it, the blood is poured out, the fierce blast of divine judgment has spent itself upon his devoted head, and there is a great calm. He is taken down from the tree and buried. But death cannot hold Him. It could, and did hold every other man that ever went down into it. From that prison house no one had ever returned to blow the trumpet of victory and salvation in the ears of men. But this Man enters the stronghold of darkness, and the clouds of night disappear, the foundations tremble, the pillars are dissolved, and death and the one who had the power of it are both annulled. He rose again the third day, and in His blessed Person man has gone to take up an entirely new place before the face of God in heaven. And in Him in resurrection we see a Man after a new order, in whom there is no taint of the old and fleshly order.

But yet He is Man, and not only Man but last Adam. Having come of a woman, and having borne the judgment which lay upon the race, having given Himself a ransom for all, having accomplished righteousness, and redemption and salvation having been established in Him, He has the prerogative of life-giving and judgment in relation to the human race. He has power over all flesh. The Father has given this office to Him, but it is given to Him as One who has a moral right and claim to it.

Now this is the Man who is in the presence of God. There is no other, and no other order of man can ever draw nigh. But everything that any poor child of Adam needs is found in this Man; forgiveness, righteousness, redemption, life, salvation, and the love of God, all are in Him. He is the true Ark of the covenant. In this Man God speaks to all.

Let me turn your thoughts for a brief moment to the ark of the covenant. The ark was in the tabernacle which was set up by Moses inside the veil. It was all of gold. It contained the two tables of stone, the rod of priesthood, and the pot of manna. In it we see there was everything (in type) for God, and everything for man. And everything was there for man, because everything was there for God. What God required from man He had written upon two stony tablets, and Moses was told from the very outset to put them into the ark. The commandments had been addressed to the people, and God had spoken by an audible voice, but what God was looking for was not to be found in Israel, hence the ten words were engraven upon stone, and the two tables were placed in the ark, for God had in view One who would be all that He desired. That Man is His own Son. All that God desired, demanded, or sought for (and as far as the flesh is concerned never found) has been found in Christ. In this Man God has found His satisfaction and delight. But more than this, for He in whom God has found obedience, righteousness, love, truth, and everything His heart could and did desire from man, has given Himself a ransom for all, and in Him risen from the dead we see the true Ark of the covenant, in whom there is, as I have said, everything for God, and who is the mercy seat from which He can address men universally in the most perfect grace. The lid of the ark was the mercy seat, and it was sprinkled with blood, so that there was continually under the eye of God the witness of accomplished righteousness, for the life of flesh was gone in the judgment borne by Christ. In Christ God has found perfect rest. All that He required from man, He has found in Man—the second Man and last Adam.

On the cross His blood was poured out for sin, and “the life of all flesh is in the blood,” and in Christ it has been brought to an end. The judgment has not been cancelled, neither has it been executed upon the sinner. The seed of the woman has offered Himself, that in the sight of every intelligent being in the vast universe, God might express Himself with regard to sin, and that the thing that was so offensive to God in rebellious man might, in the death of the righteous One, be brought to an end, so that in Christ in resurrection God might begin afresh with a new order of man altogether.

The cross of Christ was the end of God’s contention with flesh. His Spirit strove with men universally before the flood, but in the end He says, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” and gives him one hundred and twenty years until the old world was overthrown by a flood. In the past dispensation He suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, winked at their abominable idolatries, while by fruitful seasons, rain, and sunshine, keeping up a testimony as to His goodness among them; but Israel He took up, cultivated, chastened, strove with by His Spirit, until they rejected Christ. This closed the probation of man, except that the Jews were given one more chance in the presentation of Christ to them, but they were convicted of always resisting the Holy Spirit; as their fathers did so did they, and the stoning of Stephen is the end of God’s strivings with men.

Another Man is established in the presence of God. No man need be alarmed at finding evil in the flesh. The truth is there is no good there. God has refused it root and fruit. It is not to live before Him, nor glory in His presence. It must now be Christ or nothing for every man. There is everything for God in Christ, and everything for every other man in Christ. There is no demand now on the part of God upon any man. Nothing is expected from either reader or writer of this paper. The demand has been fully met, and God is resting in Christ. But you and I must come to this Man. We must submit to Him. He has power over all flesh. God has placed everything in Him for the blessing, the eternal blessing of His poor lost creature man. Forgiveness is there for all. Believers can speak of Him as the One in whom we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins. He has the Spirit for man, that we may live of His life, and be led in the paths of righteousness, and in the end have our mortal bodies quickened and be conformed to His image.

Let me repeat it, Christ is the true Ark of the Covenant. All that was desired and demanded from man has been found in Christ. Everything is there for the satisfaction of the heart of God, and for the carrying out of His purposes. He demanded righteousness from man, and He has found it in Man. He demanded holiness from man, and He has found it in Man, He demanded love from Man, and He has found it in Man, but all is found in the Man Christ Jesus. But more than this, the Man in whom God has found all that His heart could desire, has given Himself a ransom for all other men; and in this way He has become the Antitype, not only of the ark of the covenant, but of the mercy seat. In this Man God approaches the ruined children of Adam in grace. There is no demand now on the part of God, for in the One in whom God addresses Himself to men He has found all His demands completely met. Outside Christ there is nothing for God, neither shall there ever be anything outside that blessed One in which God shall be able to take pleasure. But blessed forever be His holy name! there is nothing required, for in Christ is all God’s satisfaction and delight.

And God offers this Man as a covering for the whole human race “A MAN shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and as a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” What more is wanted? Nothing but the most absolute and complete submission to that Man of the whole moral being of both reader and writer of this paper. If this be so, it will be to the eternal blessing of both. May it please the God of all grace to grant it.