A short while ago a student took me off guard with a question I’ve never been asked before. This student asked, “Was the Ark of the Covenant ever cleaned?” This question came after a discussion of the Day of Atonement from Leviticus 16. With all of the blood that was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat year after year, this student reasoned without being cleaned at some point, the Ark must not have looked so good.
This was a question I had never considered before. At first I thought perhaps there was some prescribed way of cleaning the Ark. After all, all that blood would have marred what I’ve always considered to be a bright and majestic looking piece of Tabernacle furniture. And yet, this was not just some piece of Tabernacle furniture, this is where the very presence of God dwelt. Surely God would not dwell in such filth.
God would not dwell in such filth? Now it began it hit me. God does dwell in filth. The essence of Christ’s incarnation (Jesus coming to earth as a human being) is humility. The perfect Son of God became man. He became one of us. Jesus dwelt among a sinful people. Not only did Jesus dwell among sinful people, He Himself became sinful.
II Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Upon the Cross, Jesus took our sin. We often picture Jesus as a saintly fellow who walked around in bright white robes accented by the bright halo around His head. Yet, upon the Cross, we see Jesus naked, beaten, bloody bruised and just plain disgusting. This sight forever tarnishes our pristine images of the Son of God. Yet, it gets worse.
The physical sight of Jesus was repulsive enough, but now imagine the spiritual sight. The man hanging on the cross is not merely a man falsely accused, but a man bearing the guilt of every sin imaginable no matter how repulsive it may be. We look on criminals like this with contempt and disgust. You see, the cross was not a beautiful picture, but a gross and horrible sight.
So, then why do we sing about the cross? Why do we imagine it differently sometimes? It is because by the cross we are saved. The results of the cross are beautiful and lovely and give us reason to shout praise all the day long. Because of this disgusting display, we are saved.
So, getting back to the Ark of the Covenant, perhaps it was not as pristine as we once imagined it once was. That’s ok. The purpose of the Day of Atonement and the sprinkling of all that blood was to look forward to a perfect sacrifice that would be seen on Calvary. It too must have been disgusting.
The reality is, we all live in filth. We live in reality of our sin. Let’s embrace this fact. Until we recognize ourselves as lost in our sin, there is no deliverance. Let’s also look on each other that way. Expect people to be filthy. We are all sinners. Let’s not expect perfection from each other. No, instead let’s point each other to the cross. One of the greatest hopes of the Christian faith is that God is working in the lives of His children. We are all works in progress. Until the work is done, expect a mess.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. – Ephesians 5:25-27