Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Christ the Ark

This morning's Old Testament reading from the Book of Common Prayer came from Genesis 8, which tells of the latter portion of the time that Noah, his family, and all the animals spent on the ark. What strikes me as interesting is the care that God gave in describing to us the sequence of events that took place leading up to and during the flood. Four chapters of Genesis are devoted to the story of Noah (ch. 6-9), which suggests that we do the story a disservice when we reduce it down to a tale about a big boat full of cuddly animals.

The passage is rife with typological symbolism. The tabernacle typology fills the passage, and seems to be the main imagery here. Just as Yahweh went into great detail in His prescriptions for the tabernacle, and then later the temple, He also here goes into great detail in His instructions to Noah. The measurements are detailed, as are the materials that the ark is to be made out of. Rooms are to be made in the ark (6:14), which are later echoed in the two rooms in the tabernacle, and even moreso in the various chambers of the temple (1 Kings 6:3-5). We might say, in other words, that, from the perspective of the flood, the ark prefigured the tabernacle and the temple. But from the perspective of the tabernacle and the temple, they were designed in part to resemble and hearken back to the ark. They were each, in themselves, arks, means of salvation from the judgment of God for sin.

Yahweh commands Noah to take seven pairs of each clean animal, which pointed forward to the Mosaic law and the animals prescribed in the Levitical offerings. And after the flood, we are told that Noah offered burnt offerings to Yahweh, a specific type of offering in the Levitical system (Lev. 1). As the ark pointed forward to the tabernacle and temple, so Noah functioned here as priest and pointed forward to the Levitical priesthood.

There are the details given regarding the days and months during the flood. The number seven makes several appearances in the story, pointing back to the Creation as well as forward to the foundation of the Levitical calendar, the Sabbath (Lev. 23:3). It also seems to be no coincidence that the ark came to rest on the 17th day of the 7th month, which date would later have been during the Feast of Booths (Lev. 23:33-36).

Leaving the matter of the Old Covenant liturgical system somewhat, we also see a parallel between the flood and the baptism of Jesus. Peter shows us the connection between the flood and the baptism of Christians (1 Peter 3:18-22), but when the details are considered, the connection with Christ's baptism (Mt. 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21-22) becomes apparent. Christ went into water, just as the ark did. We have reference to the opening of the heavens (Gen. 7:11), just as in the stories of Jesus' baptism. And there are the reports of the Holy Spirit being as a dove (even in the bodily form of a dove, as Luke records, vs. 22), which is a link to Noah's sending out of the dove from the ark (Gen. 8:8-12).

And so the ark, the tabernacle, and the temple, were all types of Christ. Or, in other words, Christ was the fullness of all that the ark, the tabernacle, and the temple, were mere shadows.


Post a Comment

<< Home