The Greatness and Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ
Chapter 15 - The Ark of Glory
Reading: 1 Samuel 4:10-11, 17-22.
"And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory
into the adversary's hand" (Psalm 78:61).
We have been occupied with the greatness and glory of Jesus
Christ as represented in the ark of the testimony. Amongst the
various titles of this ark we noted that one is 'the ark of his
glory'. We also noted that the writer of the Letter to the
Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ as the effulgence of God's glory,
and one of the names of the Lord Jesus is 'the Lord of glory'.
Here, in our last consideration of this matter, the ark is called
'the ark of glory', for, when the ark was captured by the
Philistines, it is said: "The glory is departed from
Although there is very much more to be said about the history of
the ark than we have said, we are going to finish this
consideration where we began - with the glory of Jesus Christ,
and once again the ark will be our illustration.
We must notice that there is one word which covers the whole
history of the ark: it is always the ark of life. Wherever you
touch it in its right place, in one way or another you touch
Look at what was in it! There we have life revealed in three
ways, or, I should say, there we have the testimony of life
revealed in three ways. The first thing in the ark was the Word
of God, and God said that His people should live entirely by His
Word, and be governed by it: "Man doth not live by bread
only, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of the
Lord doth man live" (Deuteronomy 8:3). The Word of God was
intended to save people from death, and to be their life, so the
testimony of Jesus is the testimony that He is the living Word of
God, that is, that in Him all the mind of God has been revealed
for His people. "The word of the Lord abideth for ever"
(1 Peter 1:25). It is the word of eternal life, and that is one
aspect of the glory of Jesus Christ. He has brought to us in His
own Person the revelation of God's mind, and in that way we are
to find our life. How often, in a time of trial and difficulty,
we have gone to the Word of the Lord and in the Name of the Lord
Jesus we have made that Word ours, and it has been our salvation
and our life - "For all the promises of God in him are yea,
and in him, Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (1
Corinthians 1:20, A.V.).
Looking again into the ark - and, thank God, we may look into the
ark now! - we see the testimony to the living provision of God
for His people. There was a golden vessel with manna in it,
testifying to how God met the needs of His people in the
wilderness and thereby saved their life. God has made full
provision, in our Lord Jesus, for all our need to be kept alive.
And the third thing in the ark was Aaron's rod which budded and
brought forth fruit. Do you remember how it came about that that
rod was put in the ark? There were certain men in Israel who said
to Moses and Aaron: "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all
the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is
among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the
assembly of the Lord?" (Numbers 16:3). They were disputing
the priesthood of Aaron, so God said: 'We will answer this
dispute. Let a man out of every tribe of Israel bring a rod,
write his name on it, and then let them all be laid up in the
house of the Lord overnight, together with Aaron's rod.' You
know, things don't usually bud, blossom and bear fruit in the
dark. They really do need the sun! However, God made this test in
the most difficult situation. He said: 'The man whose rod is
found in the morning to have budded and blossomed is the one whom
I have chosen.' When morning came Moses went in to look at all
these rods. Eleven of them were dead, and only one was alive. The
strange thing was that all the seasons were represented in that
one rod! Not only was there blossom, but there were also buds and
there were fruits. When God answers a question He answers it
thoroughly! That rod was Aaron's. You notice what happened: the
others died, under the judgment of God, but the house of Aaron
lived, and in this way God signified who was the living high
priest. The high priest is the one whom God raises from the dead
and makes abundantly fruitful. The work of the priest is
salvation, and he is the mediator between God and man.
We are here because Jesus "ever liveth to make intercession
for us". And so, in the Lord Jesus, there is the testimony
of life in relation to the revealed will of God, life in relation
to God's full provision for us here, and life as our High Priest
We move from that to the Jordan again, and you will recall how
the ark, moving into the bed of the Jordan, made the waters
withdraw. The waters at that season were overflowing all the
banks, and all that overflowing testimony of death was destroyed
when the ark moved into the bed of the Jordan. We can say that in
that ark death was swallowed up by life. The ark destroyed the
power of death, and the people were saved from death in all its
fullness. Here we have the glory of life overcoming death, and
that is the testimony of Jesus. That is His glory.
Life comes because Jesus is glorified and the glory of the Lord
Jesus destroys death. That is the great testimony of what our
Lord has done in His Cross. He is risen from the dead and cries:
"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive
for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death"
(Revelation 1:18) - 'The authority of death is in My
hands.' "Through death he might destroy him that had the
power of death" (Hebrews 2:14). He came to bring "life,
and incorruption to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). And that is the
ark in the Jordan.
We move on with the ark to Jericho, where we have seen all the
powers of evil represented. The seven times round the city
represented the seven-fold victory of the Lord Jesus over the
evil powers, the number seven being the number of spiritual
perfection. In His resurrection Jesus has completely overthrown
the authority of Satan. So at Jericho we see the glory of
Christ's power over all the evil forces in this universe, and
"this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our
faith" (1 John 5:4). "By faith the walls of Jericho
fell down" (Hebrews 11:30). The Lord teach us how to stand
firm in faith when the enemy is trying to demonstrate his power,
and to stand firm in faith believing that the enemy is going to
have to give way because Jesus has fully conquered the powers of
evil. This is the glory of the power of Jesus Christ over all the
power of the enemy.
From Jericho we move to Ai, and this looks like a contradiction
of all that we have just been saying. The ark is there at Ai, but
instead of victory there is defeat. Is that a contradiction? Is
it the defeat of the ark or of the Lord's people? Is this the
defeat of the testimony of the ark itself? Does this really speak
of the glory departed? No, this is only another aspect of the
glory. It is the testimony to the glory of holiness. The story of
Ai begins with a little word: 'But'. There is the great story of
victory at Jericho on one side, on the other side is the defeat
at Ai, and in between is this little word 'but': "But the
children of Israel committed a trespass" (Joshua 7:1). The
whole story of Ai centres in that little word 'but'. It is really
a testimony to holiness, and how very holy is this ark! To
violate that holiness is to bring defeat. When the sin was judged
and put away, victory was restored. There is no glory where sin
governs, but there is glory when sin is judged and put away.
Holiness and life are inseparable.
It is a long time before the ark is mentioned again, perhaps
three hundred years, and it is more than that when we come to
this first Book of Samuel. Here we have this terrible story that
we have read: the ark captured by the Philistines and taken into
their country. You see, this is a long story of spiritual
decline. I have often said that the most terrible book in the
Bible is the Book of Judges, and as you go through all that long
period you see how the spiritual life of the people of God was
going lower and lower. That leads up to this story of the ark
being captured by the Philistines, and the old man, Eli, dying
after judging Israel for forty years. As representing the whole
people, he is a pathetic picture of spiritual weakness and
blindness. Eli was physically blind, and when Samuel was born it
says that "there was no open vision" (1 Samuel 3:1).
Eli was a type of the spiritual condition of the whole people,
and because of the spiritual decline this terrible thing
happened: "The glory is departed from Israel."
But we are not going to dwell on the negative side, though we
could say a great deal about how glory goes out when the
spiritual declines. It is always like that. If the spiritual
level goes down, the glory goes out. We shall come back to that,
but we will keep on the positive side.
Now note exactly what it says. It does not say that 'there is no
more glory'. The glory may have departed from Israel, and it may
have gone into the hands and the country of the Philistines. Be
that as it may - but the Philistines are going to discover that
this thing is not dead. They put the ark into the house of their
god, Dagon, and had a great celebration, spending the evening and
the night rejoicing. They had a night of feasting and singing,
and said: 'Dagon is greater than the God of Israel.' They took
the glory from Israel and gave it to Dagon. Well, so much the
worse for Dagon! When they got up the next morning and went to
the house of Dagon, they found that he had fallen on his face
before the ark. If it were not so serious it would be humorous.
Think of having to lift up your great god after he had fallen on
his face and stand him up again! Jehovah has never needed that!
However, they got round poor Dagon, lifted him up and put him on
his feet again. They were having to have some second thoughts
about this matter! They went away, and when they came back the
next day they found that Dagon had fallen down again. But this
time he had not only fallen down - his head, his hands and his
feet were off. Poor Dagon! But the glory has not been destroyed.
The testimony of Jesus still holds good, and if the Lord's people
are not living in the good of that testimony the enemy is being
made to know all about it.
I believe that the Philistines are a type of rationalism. They
were always trying to look into Divine things with their own
minds. They took hold of the ark as uncrucified men, and are
always called 'the uncircumcised Philistines'. If you look into
the second chapter of the Letter to the Colossians you will see
that Paul interprets circumcision as being the effect of the
Cross. We will read verses 11 and 12:
"In whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not
made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in
the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in
baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in
the working of God."
So circumcision is a type of the death, burial and resurrection
of the Lord Jesus, and this word says that baptism is the
testimony to that.
Therefore the uncircumcised Philistines were men who knew nothing
about the Cross, and yet they were always trying to get hold of
the things of God and look into them as uncrucified men.
Now if, as I have said, the Philistines were a type of the
rationalists of our time, it is interesting to see what is
happening. I will give you an illustration.
I usually have a book beside my bed at night so that I can read
before I go to sleep. One night I went to my bookshelves, looked
along the books, and saw a book that I bought fifty years ago. It
gave an appreciation of the lives of some of the great
theologians. I opened the book at the chapter about a great
modernist theologian of fifty years ago, a man who did not
believe in the inspiration of the Bible, nor in the deity of the
Lord Jesus, but believed in a lot of other things of the new
theology, as it was called. That man got a great name in his
time. The writer of this book said: "Now the teaching of
this man is the teaching of the new age. It is going to change
the entire belief of the Christians. It has come to stay, and
everyone will have to accept it." 'Well,' I said, 'that is
enough of that!' and I put the book back into the cupboard. A
little while afterward I went to find another book. This book was
written by one of the great theologians of our own time, and he
started by saying: "No reputable scholar of our time will
believe the theology of fifty years ago. It has gone for
You see the big change? The testimony stands. Let it go into the
hands of the Philistines, and the Dagon of intellectualism will
come down on his face sooner or later. The glory may go away from
the Lord's people, but it does not lose its power. The glory of
Jesus Christ still stands.
Now I must come to an end, and leave several other things.
We come right over to 1 Chronicles 16. David is on the throne at
last. After all the troubles of his past life, he is now
enthroned as king, and his first thought is to bring the ark to
What a chequered history this ark has had! How many enemies have
been against it! What various conditions it has known in the
Lord's people! What difficulties it has come through! But at last
it is in the house of God, and the last thing about it in the Old
Testament is this:
When the ark came to rest in the house of God the glory of God
filled that house. That had been reached of which the Apostle
Paul spoke, as he looked forward to the end of the testimony on
this earth: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power
that worketh in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in
Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever"
That is the testimony to the glory of Jesus Christ. It goes
through all these sufferings, sorrows and adversities. It sees
the spiritual life of God's people rising and falling. It sees
the powers of this world trying to take its glory away, but after
the long, long story, when perhaps sometimes we might tremble for
the ark of God, for the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ, it
will come to rest at last in the House of God, and the glory will
be in the Church by Jesus Christ unto all ages for ever and ever.
May the Lord keep us faithful to His Son! When the testimony is
in adversity, passing through troublous times, and it seems that
the enemy has prevailed, may we abide faithful to the Lord Jesus,
and His glory will be in the Church for all ages for ever and
ever. The testimony of the ark is a true representation of the
history of the Lord Jesus. All the forces of this universe are
against the testimony of Jesus, but the Word of God shows that in
the end that testimony is going to triumph. "If we suffer,
we shall also reign with him" - when our Greater David
brings the ark into the House of God at last.
If we cannot understand all that has been said with our minds,
may the Lord give us a greater impression of the greatness and
glory of the Lord Jesus Christ!