Some things are just bound to stir up people’s natural curiosity. One mention of the Ark of the Covenant and we’re lost in romantic notions of Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg. And as we know, there are as many theories of its location as there are specialists in the field. Countries claiming to currently hold it range from Israel to Ethiopia, and of course it is impossible to verify the claims because, after all, who wants to look upon it let alone touch it and die!? Just what WOULD we do with it if we ever did find it? I am assured that there are many groups working on that question even as I type, yet as a recent article in the Jewish Chronicle (26th August 16 – http://www.thejc.com/…/could-buccaneering-rabbi-uncover-los…) proves, its allure and ability to capture our fertile imagination has lost nothing over the centuries. That the Ark’s power to instil fear has not diminished can easily be measured by a visit to the Mishkan (Tabernacle) replica constructed in the Negev (see photo). Even knowing on my last visit that this was merely a copy of the original prevented me from lifting the lid…..To be fair to the Rabbi in question, he does himself question whether we should even try to find it (despite his solid belief that he knows where it is).
Yet maybe we’re making too much of all this. Are we actually meant to know where it is, let alone find it and use it? Would a future Temple minus the Ark still be a Temple? The question becomes more focussed when we consider what the Ark stood for and represented in the Temple: the immanent dwelling place of the presence of G-d. Between the Cheruvim on the Mercy Seat the Shekinah the visible manifested presence of the Lord was found. A wild imagination might fill the blanks on what the High Priest would actually see as he entered on Yom Kippur, yet again such spiritual pyrotechnical considerations aside, just what are we meant to understand from all this?
The prophet Jeremiah saw a time coming when the Ark would no longer ‘come to mind, nor be remembered, visited, nor made anymore’ (Jer 3:16). As strange as this thought might be to us as Jews who yearn for the rebuilt Temple and the ‘good old days’, it challenges us to reconsider the Ark, especially in the light of the reasons WHY we would no longer seek it out. According to the prophet the Ark’s ‘demise’ is linked to our stubborn hearts being changed and thus we would no longer walk in the vain imaginations of them. Again it falls to Jeremiah who later would add that as such a heart circumcision took place ‘we would all know Him’, no longer needing to be taught. A day would come (and now has come) when we would not instinctively rebel against G-d but obey Him instead. When that scenario occurs the Ark would no longer be needed. The presence of G-d seen so visibly in one place now is transferred to our own hearts (this time Ezekiel fills the blanks) thus the Spirit of the Lord causes us to walk in His ways and not rebel against Him. As living servants, a living Temple holding the presence of G-d, we become an even stronger witness to the living G-d of Israel than the Ark could ever have been.
In Yeshua Mashichaynu the Renewed Covenant is cut and our hearts renewed. So do we, should we need, look for the Ark? Or should we rather spend the energy looking for what the Ark pointed to, a living demonstration of the presence of G-d in our midst through changed lives? I know what Jeremiah would think!