Let’s pull aside the elegant tapestry that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and walk into the most intimate room of the Tabernacle of Moses. One simple, yet elegant piece of furniture fills the gold-paneled room: a box-shaped structure called the Ark of the Covenant. Above the ark’s golden cover and between the angelic creatures resting upon it, God’s very presence hovers.
Gold is biblical symbolism for God and His holiness. Gold not only covered the outside of the wooden frame of the ark, but lined it on the inside as well (Exodus 25:10–11). At first, the only message we read in the ark’s lavish design is God’s incomparable perfection. Hidden between the ark’s layers of gold, however, is another message—one about us.
The inner core of the ark’s frame was wood—and wood symbolizes humanity. Combine wood with gold and you get the classic portrayal of Christ in His fully-human-yet-fully-divine state. He is Emmanuel, God with us.
We, however, are called to be like Jesus (1 John 4:17), so where does that put us in this picture?
An Unimpressive Tree
Consider the type of wood God used for His ark. It wouldn’t come from tall, stately, cedar trees—though that would have been fitting for the Holy of Holies. God sought out the thorny acacia tree.
Acacia would have been one of the few, if not the only, type of tree the people would have encountered in the wilderness. It was short in height and narrow in girth compared to cedars, yet wherever it was found, the acacia’s umbrella-like shape provided welcome relief from the sun.
It’s a good picture of us, I think. We aren’t much to look at when we first approach God and we can be pretty prickly to deal with. We don’t seem any more worthy to be in His holy presence than acacia wood in a golden room.
Something wonderful happens when we accept the Lord, however. He not only refines us as the Israelites would have refined the raw wood, our lackluster nature takes on a glory that is not our own the way gold enhanced the quality and value of the wooden box. God’s nature overlays and ennobles our own and we “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
Inside and Out
Here’s the fun part: The gold didn’t just cover the box on the outside. It lined it on the inside as well. The wood was not only in the gold, the gold was in the wood. Does this sound vaguely familiar? It should. Jesus said His disciples would, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4, NKJV).
We are not only in Him, He is in us. Covered and lined, we hide ourselves in Him. Safe. Secure. Endowed with value and significance by His design.
Like the laminated acacia wood, our true loveliness and value isn’t based on the great stock from which we’ve sprung—it’s in the glory bestowed on us by God. We have become the form around which He wraps His splendor. Inside this wonderful covering, the real “us” remains while Jesus’s nature comes to the fore, consuming our ordinariness with His loveliness.
The gold hid the wood’s imperfections, protected it from destruction, and graced a simple wooden box with incredible value and purpose. Imagine what God wants to do with us.
We may feel unfit to be in the presence of a holy God, but He has somehow made us worthy.
If a sense of unworthiness has been sabotaging your confidence to approach God, picture Jesus wrapping you inside and out with His righteousness. Let Emmanuel enfold you and accompany you into the tabernacle of God’s heart so you can come more boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).
You are not just welcome in His presence, you are home there—in Him.