So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey with the ark of the covenant of the going before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them…(Numbers 10:33)
The covenant with the people was established in the giving of the Torah (the Law) when Moses brought the 10 Commandments down from Mount Sinai with him. While the covenant established a relationship with the people, it would not always be an easy one. The people would want things to be easier and more readily accessible. God would want the people to be more obedient and grateful. At times neither God nor the people would be happy.
When the journey referred to in the verse above was begun, perhaps only God knew how long it would take. This is the beginning of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. No one who left Egypt would be alive when the journey was over. Only the descendants would be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
But the fact that there is such friction, tension and struggle ahead doesn’t change the heart of God’s commitment to the people who would become Israel. The Ark of the Covenant would be sent off first. With God’s guidance the people would take each step of their journey. No matter how disgruntled the people would be or how disappointed God would be, the people would not be on their own. The ark would signify God’s commitment and protection as they wandered.
This week is Reformation Sunday. It is a time when we remember the work of reformers like Martin Luther who wanted people to know a basic truth. The covenant that was written on the tablets in the Old Testament had been renewed in Jesus and the new covenant would be written, not on tablets to be carried in an ark, but in hearts to be present with people of faith every minute of every day.
What the ark represented for the people of Israel, faith in Christ provides to each of us today. Give thanks this week for the gift that freely ours in Christ.