THE EXPERIENCE OF THE ARK
The ark is the sole content of the holiest of all (Exo. 40:20-21). This means that in the holiest place of God’s presence there is nothing but God’s Christ as the all-inclusive embodiment of God. The experience of the holiest of all is nothing but the experience of such a Christ. In the holy place we experience Christ as food, light, and fragrant incense; but deeply within the holiest of all Christ is the ark of testimony, a deeper and richer Christ for us to experience. Within the ark is the testimony of God, the law of God (Exo. 25:16, 21). This testimony contained in the ark represents God in a total way. God could not make an image to represent Himself, for then the Israelites would worship this image as an idol. So God gave the law, which is His very picture, the definition and explanation of Himself. The law within the ark signifies the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Christ bodily (Col. 2:9). The ark typifies Christ, and the law within the ark typifies the embodiment of God. Thus, in the holiest of all we have Christ as the embodiment of God.
We must experience Christ not only as life, light, and incense, but also as God’s embodiment. A one-year-old believer may experience Christ as life, but he does not as yet have much awareness of Christ as the embodiment of God. He may realize that Christ is God, yet he has not experienced Him as the embodiment of God. However, the more we experience Christ as our food, our light, and our fragrance to God, the more we will begin to deeply sense that we are experiencing God Himself in Christ. Christ is not merely life, light and fragrant incense, but God Himself. The more we experience Christ, the more we will sense that this Christ whom we are experiencing is the very embodiment of God. He is the fullness of God and the testimony of God. The law hidden within the ark signifies that we must deeply realize Christ as the reality of God.
Many of us have had numerous experiences of Christ as food, life, light and incense, but not many have experienced Christ as God’s embodiment. It is extremely difficult to explain this deeper experience.
Let us refer to one item of the law, God’s testimony, as an example. Consider the commandment to love others. Apparently this is God’s commandment to us. But if we are in the holiest of all, we will realize that this is not really a commandment, but an element of what God is in Christ. Love for others is the very essence of God’s being. Oh, if we touch this reality and share in this reality, we will spontaneously have a life of loving others! We will no longer try to obey the commandment to love, for it will be a reality in our life. This is but a simple illustration of experiencing Christ as the embodiment of God.
In the holy place we enjoy Christ in many ways, but once we experience the brokenness of the self, the flesh, we enter into the holiest of all. Then we realize the reality of God in Christ. We will then no longer enjoy Christ alone, but have the realization of how real God is in Christ in every way. This is something deeper. From such an experience, everything we do and express will become easy and spontaneous. We will not attempt to keep any commandments. We will have touched the reality of God in Christ.
It is at this very ark in the holiest of all that we meet God. Strictly speaking, God does not meet us at the brass altar and laver, or even at the showbread table, lampstand, or incense altar. God only meets us at one place—the mercy seat (Exo. 25:21, 22). It is there we realize how real God is to us in Christ. It is by this deep realization that we are wholly at rest. At the mercy seat we not only enjoy Christ as this or that to us, but Christ as God’s embodiment, with all the fullness of God.
Before entering the holiest place, a Christian must first be delivered from all negative things—idolatry, sins, and worldliness. Then, even from the good things of righteousness, he must go on to enjoy Christ in the holy place. Eventually, he must leave the self and the flesh that he may enter into the holiest place to experience the fullness of God in Christ. In the holiest of all we do not know nor do we care about anything but God in Christ. We certainly will not be distracted by idols, be ensnared by sins, or fall into worldliness. And we will certainly be delivered from our self. We will simply enjoy God as being so real to us in Christ.
The experience of the cross and the Holy Spirit’s purging work is on the negative side. We must go on to experience the positive side—Christ as food, life, and everything to us. Yet this experience is still shallow compared to the experience of God as the very reality in Christ. This is the deepest experience. When we experience the ark and the holiest of all, we are delivered from all other things. Nothing else matters to us. God in Christ is everything. Madame Guyon says that the realization of spiritual experiences will eventually bring us to the point where we are lost in God. Only God in Christ through the Spirit will be everything to us as our reality.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)