Meanwhile the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church announced the unveiling today of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant. The whereabouts of the ancient lost box that was built by God’s instructions to house the ten commandments has been a subject of rumor, fraud, and debate for centuries.
The original ark whose story was popularized in our lifetime by Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was built to house the Ten Commandments and a pot of the manna that supernaturally fed the people of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness. Aaron’s staff that miraculously budded and produced almond’s overnight was to be kept in front of the ark as a reminder, in part, of those who died after complaining against the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
In so many ways the Ark was linked to both life and death. It represented the mysterious presence of the God of Israel and was linked to the death of those who dared to touch or move it without reverence. While the pot of manna was linked to God’s provision for the life of his people, the law of Moses itself came to be associated with the high standards of the life of God and the death of all who broke his laws.
Have also been thinking this week about something that the Apostle Paul wrote about life and death. In his letter to the Philippians he talked about how he had come to the conclusion that his religious studies in the Law of Moses had “killed” him (see also Romans 7:7-11). According to Paul, his studies of the law he loved ended up amounting to so much lifeless rubbish compared to what he found in the resurrected Christ (Philippians 3:1-11)
But what did Paul mean when he said that, as a result of what he learned about the law and Christ, his goal now was to “know Him (Christ) and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10,11)?.
Was Paul saying that he was pursuing Christ in hopes of finding immortality and a salvation he was not yet sure of? (vv 11, 12)
Or was Paul saying that, as a result of his saving encounter with Jesus, his whole purpose in life was to experience the empowering, resurrected life of Christ in areas of his experience that were, in his own efforts, worries, and failures, “good as dead”?
Doesn’t the answer have to be the 2nd? Isn’t it only as we share the concerns of Christ, recognize the “deadness” of our own efforts, and consciously trust him to live his life through us that we discover the difference he can make in us. Isn’t that the death-replacing, real-life experience that Paul is writing about when he says that his goal now is, “To know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (vv 10-11)?
Seems that most of my life has been learning the hard way that only when I come to the end of myself– recognizing that my own efforts are as dead as the certainty of my own mortality-that I’m eventually surprised by the wonder of thoughts and spiritual ability that I recognize as coming from Christ in me– and not myself.
As we are reminded by the tears of our own mortality, and regardless of whether the anticipated announcement of the revealing of the long lost Ark of the Covenant results in another fraud or not, let’s make it our purpose to show the life of God in a world that will continue to grieve losses– that show our desperate need for the resurrected life of our only hope and Savior.