In the first reading today, we witness the Ark of the Covenant being moved into the Temple built by King Solomon. To know the story of the Ark of the Covenant is to enter into a geography and history lesson regarding Israel.
From its making in the foothills of Mt Sinai (Mt. Horeb), the Ark resided in a tent during the 40 years of wandering in the desert, finally crossing into the promised land with Joshua, and finding a home in Bethel, and eventually Shiloh – but still in a tent.
The Isrealites lost it for a while. It was taken as a war treasure by the Philistines who kept it in a place called Beth-shimite. When it was returned, the Ark stayed in the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim. It has a temporary stay in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite, but eventually King David brought it to Zion, still in a tent. As we know, Solomon built the Temple and finally the Ark had a house.
Years later King Josiah returned the Ark to the Temple. Where was it if not in the Temple? Some forgotten corner? Seems like “setting God aside so as to not be in the way.”
The Ark was last seen by King Hezekiah – we are now just years before the final end of the Kingdom of Judah, the end of the line of Kings, when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.
The Ark of the Covenant tells a spiritual history of Israel: promise, disappointment, triumph, loss, highs and lows, and now only memory and icon. But at the center of the Ark is the Mercy Seat of God.
The Isrealites always had the Mercy of God in their midst – through all their adventures and travels. But they did not always turn toward that Mercy. At some point it was in a forgotten corner.
We always have the Mercy of God in our midst. Do we carry it wherever we go? Yes. But do we pay attention? Do we need to give it a permanent home in our lives? Do we need a King Josiah to pull it out of the dusty closet in which it lays unused or forgotten?
Do we need to be King Josiah for others?