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rebelled against their leaders, and denounced the superior official rank of Aaron the high priest. To show them that Aaron was his chosen one, in addition to the awful and miraculous judgments which he sent upon them, the Lord directed that each tribe should present a rod with the name of its ancestry written on it--that these rods should be laid up before the Testimony-declaring that the one that blossomed should designate the tribe which he had elected to the priesthood. “And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their father's houses; even twelve rods : and the rod of Aaron was among the rods. And Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in the Tabernacle of witness. And it came to pass that on the morrow Moses went into the Tabernacle of witness; and behold the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.” This rod was afterwards put up in the Ark, “ for a token against the rebels,” and as a perpetual memorial of Jehovah's regard for his institutions. This is the rod to which Paul alludes in the text.
3d. But the principal things contained in the Ark, were “ the tables of the covenant." These were two tables of stone on which were written the ten commandments. They were received by Moses from the hand of the Lord on Mount Sinai. They were the first things put into the Ark, were all that it originally contained, and were constantly kept in it, even after its transfer from the Tabernacle to the Temple.
Over the Ark of the Testimony, and attached to the lid of it, were also “ cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat,” to which Paul alludes as a third object found in the holy of holies. The precise form of these cherubim has not been made known to us. Nor is it certain that all the cherubim spoken of in Scripture were of the same form. (See Ez. viii. 1-3, &c.) All that we know concerning those attached to the Ark may be learned from the command given to Moses, “And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercyseat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end : even of the mercy-seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat with their wings, and
their faces shall look toward the mercy-seat: toward the mercyseat shall the faces of the cherubim be."
In reference to the space between these two cherubs, Jehovah promises, " And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from about the mercy-seat, from between the cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all the things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” After the Tabernacle was completed, and the Ark prepared and put in its place, this was remarkably fulfilled. The God of Israel manisested bimself visibly upon the mercy-seat between the cherubim in the form of a fiery cloud. The record says, “A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.” It is in allusion to this fact, that we so often read of God "dwelling between the cherubim.”
Looking then at the Ark, with its appendages, its contents, and its place of deposit, as thus described, we have symbolically set before us several important facts. 1st. We here see God's high regard for his holy law. It seems to be the principal object—the most awful object-the thing of most intense regard of all the wonderful representations of the holy of holies. Laid up in a golden chest--deposited in the deepest and holiest recess of the most holy Tabernacle and Temple-covered and watched by mighty cherubim-overshadowed with the dazzling presence of the supreme Divinity—and to be approached only by the most sanctified member of the priesthood, and that but once a year with great fear and trembling, we may well learn to regard it with reverence and awe. How could Jehovah have said in more significant terms, “This law is holy and must be maintained. Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot, or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” It was originally delivered amid thunder, and smoke, and trumpet-sounds waxing louder and louder, and other exhibitions of terror and grandeur which drove back the whole camp of Israel in dismay. But who is able to convey an idea of that holy reverence and sublime awe with which it lay in the Ark in the holy of holies. Behold it reposing in the glory of its adorable Divinity ! Surely nothing shall ever be permitted to tarnish so sacred an instrument. Surely no scheme of mercy shall be tolerated which leaves the slightest stain upon its honor.
2nd. But we have here not only God's regard for his law, but also
that there is mercy for those who have transgressed it. Over "the tables of the covenant" there was placed a mercy-seat. The law retains all its honor and all its force-it cries in the same uncompromising tones for blood, blood by way of satisfaction for its violated precepts—it thunders out the same tremendous woes against those who even in thought venture to touch its awful authority; but the bow of mercy spans the dark cloud of its frown. The ancient believer saw in those symbols a foundation for hope. It was here shown him that in some way “mercy and truth had met together, and righteousness and peace embraced each other.” By these dread symbols he heard the voice of gracious invitation above the roar of wrathful denunciation, and saw the dawn of the day of salvation bursting upon the night of despair.
As to the particular symbolic import of “the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat,” and what class of beings they were intended to represent, there has been much speculation and controversy. Some have with great ability attempted to prove that they were intended to represent the spirits of the saints in glory. Others with no less learning and ingenuity have contended that they denoted the holy angels. That they were in some respects consonant with what is revealed of the angels is very clear. The angels usually appeared as winged messengers; and wings were a striking appendage of the cherubim. Angels are represented as an order of beings who dwell continually in the Divine presence; and the cherubim were in close contact with the Shekinah in the holy of holies. Angels are exhibited as being interested in the worship and ordinances of the church, and by some as being present in the assemblies of the saints; and so the cherubim were set upon the Ark, and in the Temple were sculptured on the walls, and wrought in all the curtains and veils, as deeply interested witnesses of all the ceremonies of worship.
But it is not to be supposed that any one will regard this as sufficient proof of their identity.
Besides, the cherubim on the Ark are represented as so much concerned in the work of salvation as to depend upon it for their position in the most holy place, and for their very existence. They were indissolubly connected with the mercy-seat, and permanently fixed on it. This was a point of particular direction by the Lord. Now with all our respect for the interest which angels. take in the
plan of redemption, it is very far from our thoughts to assign to them any dependence upon it for their standing and happiness in the Divine economy. They would have been in glory, holy and happy as now, though the plan of human redemption had never been divised. It is then rather the position of ransomed men than of holy angels, that was prefigured by the cherubim on the mercy-seat.
The language of the cherubim' as given by John in his vision (Rev. v. -- ) is such as cannot be ascribed to the angels. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” Is this the song of angels ?
“ Never did angels taste above, Redeeming grace, and dying love !" This is a theme of delight which employs the tongues and expands the hearts of redeemed men—a source of superlative joy only to the saints.
I am disposed then to conclude with a brilliant writer, “that the cherubic symbol, in its ultimate scope, pointed forward to that condition of regenerate, redeemed, risen, and glorified men, when they shall have assumed an angelic nature.” 2 That they will assume the nature of angels in their post-resurrection state is most unquestionably taught in the Bible. (Mark xii. 25. Luke xx. 36. Rev. xxii. 9.) That the holy of holies was designed to represent the final state of the ransomed, and the great fact of the residence of God among them, is also justly inferable from a number of considerations. The Jews always and universally considered it a type of heaven. It is several times called heaven in the Scriptures. (2 Chron. vii. 1, 2. Rev. iv. 1.) And the whole drift and scope of the Tabernacle and its ordinances, as symbols, afford strong presumptive evidence of the fact. In this view again we are led to regard the cherubim on the Ark as representatives of men.
If it be objected to this view, that cherubim were placed as guards at the east end of the garden of Eden, to keep the way of the tree of life, even before there were any ransomed saints; I reply as the most reasonable interpretation of that matter, that these were also symbolic figures placed by the tree of life to prevent Adam from partaking, but at the same time representing his ran
"That the hymning beasts were cherubim, appears from their answering to the discription of the living creatures of Ezekiel, which he says were cherubim.
"Bush's Notes on Exodus. Vol. 2, p. 99.
somed seed as in the kingdom of glory they stand by it and eat of its blessed fruit through the purchased grant of the Son of God. They here have the same symbolic meaning as in the holy of holies.
We may then learn from “ the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat,” 1st. That our salvation is all of grace. They were supported solely and entirely by the mercy-seat. Grace first conceived the thought of our salvation-grace devised and has thus far carried on the plan—and when the topstone is laid in glory, it shall be with shoutings “Grace, grace unto it.” It is by mercy that we are first called by the Gospel-it is on grounds of mercy that we shall be able to stand in the day of judgment and redeeming mercy shall be the burden of our songs forever and ever.
2d. We may here learn something of the glory of the christian's immortal destiny. The cherubim stood in the immediate presencethe visible presence of God. This is one of the great promises of the Gospel—“ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” It is a matter of great consolation that we are now the sons of God; but we yet have the blessed hope, that when he shall appear we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Yea, in our flesh-our renovated and etherialized flesh we shall see God. As children conscious of a father's love, we shall gaze upon the face of Divinity-bask in his presence without shrinking from the supreme effulgence--and dwell with God, which is the consummation of all happiness.
As to our employment in the bright world to which we hope to come, this is prefigured by the faces of the cherubim being turned inwards as if gazing on the mercy-seat. Redemption is to be the great subject of study, admiration and song forever and ever. The poblest of our ransomed powers shall find ample scope in the investigation of its mysteries, our loftiest notes shall be called into requisition to set forth its praises, and the last harp that remains to be struck in the remotest ages of eternity, shall yet find redeeming love the holiest of themes—the greatest of wonders.
From what has now been said of the Tabernacle of Moses and its furniture, we behold in it a symbolic history of the whole scheme of salvation, from its first unfoldings in the deeds of Jesus Christ to its final consummation in glory. In its three apartments we see the three grand conditions of man--bis natural state-his christian state—and his post-resurrection or glorified state.