13. The Ark of the Covenant
The Covenant is not a package of things we get from God. The Covenant is God HIMSELF in Person, filling us full. God sends us nothing; He comes in Person to be Himself our insides and our outsides. And that is why faith IS the central quality of the Ark of Acacia Wood, the central quality of the human. Because, you see, God is invisible.
13.The Ark of the Covenant
And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around . . . And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you. Exodus 25:10-16
And they shall make a “box” of acacia wood. The Ark of the Covenant IS a wooden box.
We must begin here. Wood is a symbol of human flesh.
At all times and in all ways, this box pictures for us the Lord Jesus Christ. But as we see Him as He is, we are made just like Him. Therefore, in all ways and at all times, this box pictures us in our present state of perfection moving out from God.
The wooden box is Christ as us. In recent writing I have suggested the idea of “God as us.” I am now backpedaling from that thought. Christ is as us; our flesh is His flesh and His flesh is our flesh. We are one flesh with Him. God is not the box; Christ is. God fills the box.
Writing the article “Filled with All Fullness” has changed everything for me. Since writing that, I no longer wake up in the middle of the night feeling “awful.” That is gone. I wake up in the night, now, knowing that God Himself fills me full. More and more, I know nothing else. How do I know this? I know it by faith. I choose to believe absolutely that what God says is true and personal in me. I speak of myself ONLY to set before you that you as well ought to be seeing God Himself in Person filling you in all fullness all the time as well. See Him just as I see Him – by choosing to do so first, and by practicing that seeing second, because He says.
More than that, everything looks different, especially everything God says in the Bible.
I am writing two articles at the same time. In fact, all through this series, I have been following two large metaphors, going back and forth between them. One of those metaphors is the path from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies; the other is the path of the Atonement from Gethsemane to the right hand of the Father.
I arrive at the cross at the same time as I arrive at the Ark of the Covenant. The connection is astonishing!
Everything looks entirely different from what I have ever seen before. Here is the difference. Always before, I had placed myself on the outside looking on. Now I see myself on the inside looking out.
Let's bring in the Word: In that day you shall know that I am in the Father and you in Me and I in You.
I did not include this statement of Jesus in my list of “the most important verses in the Bible.” But I see now that it must be placed alongside of Galatians 2:20 as its necessary counterpart. Galatians 2:20 is incomplete, only half of the seeing of our salvation; John 14:20 is the vital second half of our seeing.
Let's make a statement of reality based on John 14:20. I will expand on this statement in my letter on “The Cross.” Put your own name in the blank instead of mine.
I am inside of God, and God is inside of me. There is no God without Daniel Yordy inside of Him; there is no Daniel Yordy without God inside of him.
Look at the Ark of the Covenant – remembering that Hebrews 10:19-22 says that we enter boldly into the Holiest of All. That means that we are that Ark. It is a box of Acacia Wood, at this point open to the heavens. We are not yet considering the Mercy Seat. But as a symbol or metaphor, the Ark has a major flaw, a flaw intended by God as part of “The Veil.”
You see, gold is visible; God is not.
And so, I always heard the Ark of the Covenant fulfilled in our lives explained in this way: man, covered on the inside with the nature of God and covered on the outside with the nature of God. That way of seeing was good for that time, since it drew us on into God. But as time went on, it became the very thing that kept and still keeps so many out of the Holy of Holies, laboring forever in the Altar of Incense, blocked entirely by the Veil.
It became the block of the Veil because we focused our eyes, then, on the need to make ourselves the “nature” of God, inside and out, visible gold, a desperate and impossible task.
Now, God does send out from Himself the Holy Spirit whose task is to reveal Christ as us inside of us. But that is the ONLY thing God gives us OF Himself. He will never ever give us His “NATURE.” That's not the deal.
The Covenant is not a package of things we get from God. The Covenant is God HIMSELF in Person, filling us full. God sends us nothing; He comes in Person to be Himself our insides and our outsides.
And that is why faith IS the central quality of the Ark of Acacia Wood, the central quality of the human.
Because, you see, God is invisible.
When you looked at the outside of the Ark, all you saw was gold. When you looked on the inside of the Ark, all you saw was gold. Wood was simply not visible. You would not know there was any wood involved, let alone that it was actually a box OF wood, unless you had been told. And that is the “problem” with the metaphor.
God is invisible. When you look on the outside of man, you see man. When you look on the inside of man, you see man. God is invisible. Yet God fills us full with all of Himself, and He flows out from us in Person as mighty rivers of living water. We look like God because we can't look like anything else.
We are the face of God. I am inside of God and God is inside of me AND flowing out from me, touching all; I am the face of God. This reality is absolute and Today.
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
So what if I am still “being sanctified,” I am first perfected forever – just as my Father is perfect.
So, looking at this equation between God and the face of God, me, we see that God has no problem being Himself. God is very good at being God; it's what He does best. God knows exactly how to be God in me and how to be God flowing out from me. God's side of the equation is set and certain. All we have to know is that the largest part of who and what we are on the inside and on the outside IS God in Person.
We know that by faith.
The real question before us, then, is this box: an ark of acacia wood.
You may have noticed that Alexander Pope is my favorite poet. Let me bring in a third line from him that rings with truth. “Know then thyself. Presume not God to scan; the proper study of mankind is man.” We thought once that this was a statement of “humanism.” I no longer think that. Pope was aiming directly at what has been termed England's second greatest literary work, Paradise Lost, by John Milton, written a generation before him.
Let me bring in a rabbit trail. I always teach from rabbit trails for two reasons: I like rabbit trails, and I am convinced that rabbit trails connect us with truth in surprising ways. I am always amazed years later when I visit with a former student and discover that it was the rabbit trail they remember as the thing that cemented whatever I was teaching into their minds and hearts.
Someone mentioned my comment that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is among the greatest works of literature; I would place it in the top five, defining literature here as any great creative fictional story in any form that causes us to think deeply on this object God calls His image. That comment immediately set me off once again creating my list of the top ten greatest literary writers in history. The top five are fairly easy, though some would debate the order in which I will list them. Here they are.
Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace
Miguel Cervantes – Don Quixote
William Shakespeare (Edward de Vere) – Hamlet/Othello
Homer – The Iliad/The Odyssey
Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
Everyone of these individuals explores deeply, with much thought, an understanding of who and what the image of God, this box of acacia wood is, how he/she works and operates maneuvering through a dark and fallen world.
The second five are a bit harder to choose, since so many crowd up into the top twenty to thirty. (I have a purpose for my rabbit trail.) Let me have a go at it, though the “order” is not important.
Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Brothers Karamazov
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings
Sophocles – Oedipus Rex/Antigone
Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights
?? – ??
The problem with the last entry is that many vie for that spot. So in trying to fill it, I pulled Milton's Paradise Lost off my shelf and in a few minutes understood why I would never include it or Dante's Divine Comedy in any list of great creative literature, why I would agree fully with Alexander Pope.
The difference between the nine authors I have listed and Milton/Dante is huge. The nine (and at this point I would likely stick Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot in that tenth spot as a study of the image of God) all knowingly wrote fiction with the intent of unveiling the truth. Milton and Dante imagined they were creating a work describing the truth – scanning God – and instead became the two powerful minds behind the realms of Christian fantasy that hold most of our brethren in bondage to nonsense.
The images of Paradise Lost rule the Christian picture of “heaven” and “hell,” and they are darkness.
By studying man, the image of God, the great authors unveiled truth while “pretending” to write fiction. By scanning God, the other two created lies and fiction while “pretending” to write the truth.
Now, it is really easy to read any literature of any kind and see nothing but the folly of man upon the earth, filled with darkness, though the same is true of reading the Bible. At the same time, the pure in heart see God. We can read these same works and see a groping for, a desire to understand the image of God, and thus understand God Himself.
The Bible itself is, primarily, the telling of many human stories. In fact, Jesus said that everything said in the Bible “about” God is only figurative, that the only way we can see God is to look at a Man laying down His life for His friends. The only way we can know God is by story, His story and ours.
We do not create a god in the image and likeness of man, as so many do. We know God by knowing His image and likeness in the earth, first the Man, Christ Jesus, and then by knowing the God who fills us full, though He forever remains unseen.
I have read/watched all in my top ten.
I find the same deep longing call inside of me reaching for knowing this One who fills me full when I contemplate these literary works as I do when I read the Annie visions or Hind's Feet on High Places or even the Bible. It is the heart of man God is engaged with, not some outer form. That is not speaking against the Bible; everything I see, I see out from what God says in the Bible concerning Christ our life.
And that brings us to the Ark, to the acacia wood. I want to approach that Ark from the mindset of Alexander Pope's counsel, “Presume not God to scan; the proper study of mankind is man.” God can be who He is inside of us and flowing out from us without any help from us other than our firm confidence that He IS. What we desire to know is who and what is this man that God calls His image.
“I have found Me a man after My own heart.”
One of the most important verses in the Old Testament is 1 Samuel 13:14, an incredible verse, almost beyond our limited ability to accept.
The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart . . .
Paul said it this way in Acts 13:22: He (God) gave testimony and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”
First, God spoke this word through Samuel in 1063 BC. David was neither born nor known. David was born eight years later in 1055 BC.
To understand the powerful and unbelievable implications of this verse, we must see the Ark of the Covenant.
What is Acacia wood?
If you want to see a picture of an Acacia bowl, go here. Read the short description below the image as well.
The variety of Acacia used for the Ark of the Covenant, also known as “Shittim-wood,” is, in fact, a thorn tree. It is called the “tree of life” in Egyptian lore, and Christian lore states that Jesus' crown of thorns was made from that same Acacia. Note that it is also used for medicine and for incense. Interesting, but this is the first I knew this fact. When I talked about the tree of life as a thorn tree, I was simply surmising.
I have not worked with Acacia wood, though I have worked with desert cedar and have some knowledge of Texas Mesquite, both of which are very similar in appearance and quality to the Acacia wood. Had I the extra money, I would have my woodshed filled with all three woods. I suspect now that Acacia wood would be my favorite.
I don't know that there is any other wood more beautiful and more a pleasure to work with than these; I have worked with walnut, which itself is wonderful. However, all three grow only in desert conditions, they are twisted and gnarled in trunk and in branch, and to obtain a large plank from them is rare and expensive.
Here are some more pictures of Acacia wood products: http://www.surlatable.com
Remember that the gold, God Himself, is never actually seen. All that is visible is the beauty of the Acacia wood.
What is Acacia wood? What is a man after God's own heart?
We will know who and what God is only when we know who and what we are.
“He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.” The Man, Christ Jesus, the first One of our kind.
“I have found Me a man after My own heart.” God, who is seen only through His image.
God placed David at the center of the Bible. David and his Psalms fill more pages of Scripture than any other person. A study of David is a study in brokenness, in the shaping of a man's heart. I have a course on my college transcript titled, “The Life of David,” 45 hours of teaching by one of the best Bible teachers I have been privileged to sit under, Ernest Watkins. I have another course on my transcript titled “The Tabernacle of David,” another 45 hours taught by Ethelwyn Davison, another wonderful teacher, a woman of praise and of God.
If I could draw back into myself every word that they said, I would do so with tears. How many times over the years did I cry out to God, “God, please, my mind is finite; I forget so easily. Please, somehow, write these things upon my heart. Make them become me, that I might never lose the reality of You that is in these words.”
Yet here it is not my purpose to give a “study” of the life of David. I could, however, point you to Gene Edward's book, A Tale of Three Kings, a book I have studied deeply, having turned it into a play for my college Creative Writing course. (Gene Edwards uses the human story to unveil, just a bit, this One who fills us full.)
Rather, I am very interested in this thing we and God call “heart.” And I am very interested in the nature and characteristics of those human beings who are in the present moment the elect of God, through whom God is preparing to reveal Himself in the manifestation of the sons of God, and through whom God is preparing to cover and nourish His woman.
To start, I bring in a line from John's vision on Patmos.
These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God. Revelation 14:4-5
I prefer, here, the King James for the important line: And in their mouth was found no guile . . .
The sin of that other guy, the one long dead and buried, is forever gone. The firstfruits of God simply do not pretend. They are utterly real and thankful for themselves exactly as God made them.
Acacia grows slowly, twisted and gnarled in the windy and dry desert climate. It is a tree of thorns.
If you would like to purchase the fruit of the Acacia tree, you can do so here: Wattle Seed, 5 Oz Unit In the natural, one could call this “the fruit of the tree of life.” (This seed is the Australian version, not the same species of Acacia that grows in the Sinai, a description of that can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_seyal) It has no power in the natural, of course, except that it is highly nutritious.
We are speaking here of symbols and metaphors.
In Augustinian Christianity, there is a great desire to call Jesus, “God the Son,” something God never ever says, primarily to sever the Lord Jesus far, far away from us. By this means, the serpent relegates the core promise of the Covenant, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” into a meaningless oblivion.
Jesus said two things – among many – that do not allow us to join in that darkness.
I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Whatever you do unto the least of these My brethren, you ARE doing it to Me.
What is heart?
It is harder to define “heart” from the Bible than it is to define “heaven,” which is nearly impossible.
I suspect that heart is found only at the junction of God and dirt. God is not a man, but Jesus IS. Jesus, the Image of God, the pattern by which we were formed in the beginning, and are being made just like, now, in the end, is a Man. Jesus is the first One of our kind.
Man is God revealed. And God revealed is, primarily, heart.
“I have found Me a man after My own heart.”
These are incredible words, impossible to grasp or to admit. We will never know God until we are comfortable with “blasphemy.” (That is, with what religious man calls “blasphemy,” fleeing in horror from a God who always reveals Himself through weakness.)
There is only one way by which I can talk about what is this “man after God's own heart,” and that is to draw from story, whether the story of Jesus, David, and Abraham, or the stories of great literature, or my own story. Heart is known only by story; it can be known no other way.
Let me get at this reality more closely. In the Great Books series, four authors only are granted two books each. The largest by far is Thomas Aquinas. His Summa Theologica numbers over 1900 pages in the Great Books, which would likely be more than 5000 pages if it were printed the same as my books. (If I keep writing at my present rate, I might surpass him in twenty more years!)
Now, let me say this about Thomas Aquinas. First, though he quotes Augustine a lot, I find him to be more honest, less offensive and more “likeable” in his search for understanding God than Augustine. Second, Thomas Aquinas clearly had a heart to know God because we discover that in his later years he had an experience with God that we would call the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, after which he had this to say about his Summa Theoligica, “All that I have written is like straw in my mouth.”
Thomas Aquinas based his great “study of God” on this definition of “image.” – “Hence it is according to his intelligence and reason that man is said to be according to the image of God.” Thus it's not hard to see, looking at all that he says about God, about Christ, about salvation, and about us, most of which is considered good “Christian truth,” that Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica, is looking AT God from the outside.
You could spend a lifetime studying Summa Theologica – AND the Bible, and never know God.
God is known only in the dealings of the Holy with the heart of a man. Intelligence and reason, though useful and important servants, can never know God. Only heart can know God.
So what are the characteristics of such a man with such a heart, a man or woman who is the Acacia Wood of the Ark of God. (Though I use the male term, I am always speaking of women equally with men.)
There is no guile in the mouths of God's elect, no pretending, no grand-standing, no need to prove one's self “superior” to others.
From their hearts flow a sheer delight and love of all others – as they are real and honest in the light of God.
But also in their hearts is found an abhorrence of pretending and masquerade, of bullying and manipulating others for self-pleasure.
We all stumble and fall flat on our face in the mud, including Jesus – but that's just it, the elect of God know that about themselves. They do not hide. They are simply real and open before one another.
But we're talking about the end; let's go back to the beginning. How is a heart prepared to contain the Living God? Two things: Desire and Battering. The call of the deep and the Hound of heaven.
For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.Hebrews 12:6
The lives of God's elect are always filled with both, never one without, fully, the other.
They honor His word; they speak only what He speaks concerning Christ revealed in them; they tremble when God speaks. They are concerned about His heart alone; they speak only for Him.
Like David, they sing His praises in the nighttime when they feel lonely and cut-off. Like David, they turn to Him when everyone else abandons them. Like David, they grasp for God when they are attacked by bullies. Like David, they run straight into the Holy of Holies when they are caught in their sin. Like David, they turn and walk away when someone challenges their place and their honor. They do not defend themselves. And they have done these things for years. In “The Grace that Is to Come,” I included these thoughts:
I live in a grace I already know. I have seen His grace in my life innumerable times in all the years I have walked with Him. I have seen His grace in the power of the Holy Ghost upon me and upon His people. I have watched Him heal physical bodies and deliver myself and precious friends from the agony of demonic assault. I have known His hand guiding my steps, preparing the way before me, bringing goodness and mercy into my life.
I have known His love in the midst of my bitterness, His strength in the midst of my weakness, His faith welling up in the night watches when all I could feel was loss and emptiness and missed opportunity. I have watched Him deliver me from physical death more times than once.
I know His grace that has never let me get away with anything that was not His purpose for my life, constraining me, blocking my way, keeping me from evil. I have known affliction and sorrow and great grief, and in the midst of all of it – Jesus, in tenderness and in grace. All my life is seized in the grip of His determination; I know His grace.
The elect of God live with their faces upon the ground before the Presence of the Holy. At the same time they look God in the eye, face to face, heart to heart, shoulder to shoulder. They worship and command, both at the same time, both 100%.
They love one another.
They love one another.
They would find it easier to hurt themselves than to inflict pain on one of these little ones. Yet they speak the judgment of God as the only thing that will set people free. They are clothed in sackcloth. They walk in unending grief; they walk in overflowing joy.
They prove with their bodies the will of God in the earth.
But here I am at the end of the path again. What about the beginning? Where do we find the first evidence of Acacia Wood in the heart of a man or woman?
We find it in the hearts of two 16-year-old boys, John and Andrew, who run away from home because they heard that God is speaking to Israel once again and they CANNOT be anywhere else.
We find it in the heart of a hero, bold and ambitious (Odysseus), who contends with “the gods” until they win and the deepest of thankfulness and humility now rests in the core of his being. Though he still exhibits strength, he no longer trusts in it.
The elect of God simply do not fit into this world. They try, occasionally, and there may be periods in their lives where they “appear” to be making a go of it in the world, but it never works. They never fit. They always look around themselves and see others filling their minds and hearts with emptiness and they just don't understand how they can do that.
The elect of God awake in the middle of the night, all through their lives, seized by a great horror, that God is doing something in the earth, and they have not yet found it.
They know the limiting hand of God all through their journey.
They must know Him; they must. No other option is available to them. Yet He batters their way with difficulty.
We find the Acacia Wood in the heart of a little girl, Much-Afraid, who cannot rest until she knows her Beloved, though she walks long with Suffering and with Sorrow.
We find the Acacia Wood in an old man, John, who thrusts out his hands to us and says, “Do you see these hands, here, these rough and hoary hands. These hands have touched God.” We find it in another old man, Andrew, preaching for three days from the cross while many, many who hear him rush into the kingdom.
Why? Why is the Ark that contains the fullness of Almighty God made of Acacia Wood?
God has many, many who know great power, anointing, and authority from God. They move in mighty ministry with certainty. I'm sure you've known such people. They always begin their introduction by presenting to all the great calling God has placed upon their lives. They describe moments of visitation, divine revelation, powerful heavenly visions. They speak with strength and authority. They say, “Follow me,” in one form or another.
Why does God not give these capable people the revelation of Jesus Christ? These ones whom you never witness crying. You never seem them weak and tired and afraid.
Let me quote, here, a chapter from Gene Edward's A Tale of Three Kings – concerning David as he fled from Saul.
Caves are not the ideal place for morale building. There is a certain sameness to them all, no matter how many you have lived in. Dark. Wet. Cold. Stale. A cave becomes even worse when you are its sole inhabitant. . . and in the distance you can hear the dogs baying.
But sometimes, when the dogs and hunters were not near, the prey sang. He started low, then lifted up his voice and sang the song the little lamb had taught him. The cavern walls echoed each note just as the mountains once had done. The music rolled down into deep cavern darkness that soon became an echoing choir singing back to him.
He had less now than he had when he was a shepherd, for now he had no lyre, no sun, not even the company of sheep. The memories of the court had faded. David's greatest ambition now reached no higher than a shepherd's staff. Everything was being crushed out of him.
He sang a great deal.
And matched each note with a tear.
How strange, is it not, what suffering begets?
There in those caves, drowned in the sorrow of his song, and in the song of his sorrow, David very simply became the greatest hymn writer, and the greatest comforter of broken hearts this world shall ever know.
David cried, a lot.
In my letter on the cross, I will explain more fully why we NEVER see the chastisement of God as something “bringing us to the end of ourselves,” as if we are “bad,” and “bad” me must die. That thought is the core and center of darkest rebellion.
God fills our hearts with Desire and then Batters those same hearts all the days of our lives for one purpose.
That we might KNOW Him.
You see, He is the One who weeps; He is the One who is silent when He is mocked; He is the One who walks away when everything He ever did is challenged and ruined and lost. He is the One who never fights back. He is the One who lays down His life for His enemies. He is the One who carries inside Himself even those who are spitting on Him – all the way into life. He is the One who stumbles and falls under the weight of a cross He cannot carry, a cross He must ask another to carry for Him.
Very simply. How can God reveal Himself through us unless we are just like Him?
I am convinced that we will never call the Battering of the Holy we have known all our lives, “Chastisement.” We will call it “Glory.”
There are two elements that go perfectly together in all ways – gold and acacia wood.
God will never be seen, never be known, except through the hearts of those who KNOW Him.
I have found Me a man after My own heart.
If you WANT TO BE this man or woman, then your Desire is sufficient. Let God make you just like Himself – The Ark of the Covenant. Let Him teach you to cry.