Last week, I spent some time musing about the Ark of the Covenant, spinning through some theories about where the sacred box may have wound up. My money is still on it being destroyed by the Babylonians. It just makes theological sense to me that it was destroyed. It’s a shame, sure, but there you go.
But that just leads me to a slightly different question: suppose that the Ark still exists somehow. It’s sitting out there in the desert, buried under the strata of centuries, waiting for an intrepid archaeologist in a fedora with a bullwhip to find it again. The question is, do we really need the Ark of the Covenant anymore?
And my answer is an unequivocal “No!”
Yes, the Ark would be a historical curiosity. It would be fantastic to see this relic of the past since it is a connection to God’s Old Testament people. I can’t help but wonder what kind of a splash the discovery of the Ark would make in the mainstream press.
But at the same time, we, God’s New Testament people, don’t need it.
Remember what the Ark’s function was: it was to sit inside the Holy of Holies, first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple itself. Most of the time, it would sit in deep darkness, unseen by human eyes save for one day, the Day of Atonement. On that one day, the High Priest was to sprinkle and pour blood over the Ark’s cover (the mercy seat or atonement cover). This was done to cleanse the Israelites of their sins.
If this function of the Ark was still necessary, then I’d say we’d better hurry up and find it. Except we don’t need the Ark for anyone’s sins to be forgiven. The Ark was just a shadow of a greater reality to come. Christ’s death on the cross removes our sins in a way that the Ark never could. For that reason, we don’t need it anymore.
But what about the Ark’s other function, that of holding the tablets that had the covenant carved on them? Well, we don’t need it for that either. The prophet Jeremiah makes it pretty clear that the new covenant has an entirely different ark:
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Every Christian is a living Ark of the New Covenant.
So let the old Ark remain lost. We don’t need it. Not unless we have some Nazis to melt.