There are certain truths that have propelled us through this city-reaching journey - the following is one of them.
It is recorded as the Ark of the Covenant - transported via poles on the shoulders of the priests - was placed behind the veil at the dedication of Solomon’s temple: “These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today.” 1 Kings 8:8 NIV That is, their ends could be seen pressing against the veil.
I have just concluded reading an extensive treatise on the Tabernacle of David. It is quite thorough and I have benefitted much from the author’s research, yet as he draws to a close he covers the removal of the Ark of the Presence from the Tabernacle of David to the Temple of Solomon. He then says that the poles were removed from the rings of the Ark and that this is a type of the Church at rest.
This was a very disturbing conclusion for a truth that has gripped our heart for years is that the poles were never removed and that they could actually be seen protruding against the curtain as a testimony to the mobility of the Presence. It was with some perplexity that I attempted to discover his reasoning and I found it in the KJV rendering of the passage above: “And they drew out the staves,...” But this does not mean they were removed, but only lengthened in some way as a testimony of the transient nature of the Presence of God - never to reside in any certain place for a set length of time.
To assert that the poles were removed would fly in the face of God’s instruction to Moses: “The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.” Exodus 25:15. It may be a comforting thought to believe the church is at rest - and in a manner of speaking this is true - but this does nothing to spur us on to love and good deeds. The Prophet Amos declared: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion,...”
The question is then begged: In our heart of hearts have we removed the poles? Have we taken our ease? Has the early morning dew of fervor - that is our first love - lost its life-giving zest?
The Church is at rest, but it is not a static rest. God rested on the seventh day of creation, but He did not quit. Our Sabbath rest is in Him whoever lives to make intercession - it is intercession, not cessation. As long as His Church in any manner is still on this side of the eternal veil we are in desperate need of His divine activity. No remote deity is the Great I Am.
It is not possible for a static church to be a militant church. As much as we value Martin Luther’s great anthem “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” we must not mistake its intent for it is from this confidence that the Church sallies forth as soldiers of Christ:
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
She is a pilgrim people...always on the move, but moved by the pursuit of purpose. That purpose is singular - conformity into the image of His Son, both individually and corporately.
The love of God never leads to complacency. Paul has said it so well: “For the love of Christ constraineth (controls) us;” 2 Corinthians 5:12 KJV John Gill has written: “Nothing more effectually keeps ministers, or other believers, in the work and service of their Lord, or more strongly obliges and constrains them to a cheerful discharge of their duty to him, and one another, than his love displayed in his covenant engagements,...”
The poles continue to swell against the veil in pregnant anticipation of the release of the Presence. There is a travail in Zion: “for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” It is the purpose of God that the divine glory be no longer cordoned off in the back room of a physical temple. It is to be extended, drawn out, made visible - through his end-time image bearers.1
Where is the Ark of the Presence today? Although there is much speculation no one knows for sure. What we can know for sure is that the poles remain in the rings awaiting that Prophetic Royal Priesthood that will carry it forth once again - in jubilation and in militancy.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
1 Appreciation to G.K. Beale in his “The Temple and the Church’s Mission” for the germination of this thought. He adds: “They are priest-kings who carry out the eschatological purpose that we have seen to be inherent in Genesis 1 - 2.”