Summary: People like to reduce God to a manageable box but he Ark of the Covenant shows the dangers of this. God cannot be manipulated but he can be personally experienced.
Rev. David Holwick
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey
October 25, 2009
Exodus series, #16
We have now come to the part of Exodus that deals with a lot of hardware. It is known as the furniture of the tabernacle. I’m going to be starting in Exodus 25, verse 10, where Moses instructs the people from what God has told him.
“Have them make a chest of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold both inside and out and make a gold molding about it.”
Now, skip down to verse 16:
“Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. Make an atonement top cover of pure gold -- two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the other cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”
Back in 1981, Steven Spielberg made one of the most popular motion pictures of all time, the "Raiders of the Lost Ark” and that became a whole series of popular movies. But with this one the premise was that just before World War II as conflict was rising up all over Europe, the Nazis are searching for an ancient artifact, the Ark of the Covenant, which is hidden in Egypt, because they feel that if they control this ark, they will win the war and control the world. It might be kind of ironic to think of Hitler wanting a Jewish box, but many of the Nazis were into the occult and maybe they figured that “we can take their power and use it to control them and everybody else”. Well of course Indiana Jones, the great American fake archaeologist, beats them to it and now the ark is in a CIA warehouse somewhere in the United States. Well, that’s one version of what happened.
The nation of Ethiopia has its own version and they think it’s a better one. They have one of the oldest churches in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. And we actually have somebody who comes to our early service who grew up in that tradition. They believe that their church started when, in the Book of Acts in chapter 8, it talks about one of the deacons named Philip seeing a guy from Ethiopia riding in a chariot and reading from the book of Isaiah. The guy was not a Jew, he was like a spiritual tourist, and Philip told him, “Hey, I can explain to you what you’re reading.” And he took that passage in Isaiah and talked about Jesus being the Messiah and the Ethiopian man became a Christian. He got down from that chariot, got baptized and then, presumably, he got back on his chariot and went back home and started the Ethiopian church.
What is more, the Ethiopians say their association with the Bible goes back way before that episode because when the Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon (according to the Ethiopian tradition), they got married and had a kid and their kid’s name was Menelik. Menelik went back to Ethiopia and became king. Later on, he visited his dad in Jerusalem and his dad said, “Hey, I’ve got an ark. Why don’t you take it?” And so Menelik took the ark back to Ethiopia and it’s there to this day in the city of Axum. 
As a matter of fact, this summer the Patriarch Abune Paulos, a real smart guy who got his education at Princeton Seminary, just down the road from us, he announced that not only do they have the genuine ark in the ancient city of Axum but they would reveal it to the world in a few days. Now, that would be the greatest archaeological object in history but a couple of days later he changed his mind and said, “No, we’re not going to show it to you.” But according to Saga who is in our Sunday school class, she says that every church there has an ark like this that’s brought out once or twice a year and there’s a cloth that’s put over it and she was always told when she was a little girl, “Don’t look at it because if you look at it, you’ll die.” So all the kids are trembling and they’re kind of like peeking as this ark is carried along, all covered up.