And the LORD said to Joshua, “Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before. (ESV)– Joshua 4:15-18
In today’s passage, the Ark is called “the Ark of the Testimony.” Perhaps in an effort to keep modern readers from becoming confused, the NIV reads “Ark of the Covenant.” There is, of course, only one Ark. Yet, we should pause and ask why the Holy Spirit chose to describe the Ark as the “Ark of the Testimony” here. “Testimony” is common in Exodus and Numbers. In Exodus, we repeatedly read about the “Ark of the Testimony” whereas in Numbers we regularly hear about the “Tabernacle of Testimony” (although several passages in Numbers make clear that the Tabernacle is called the Tent of Testimony because this is where the Ark of Testimony is kept). The name “testimony” reveals the Ark to be a sign that is bearing perpetual witness to the children of Israel that the Living God has entered into covenant with them and that He has given them the stipulations of the Ten Commandments to guide their individual and communal life.
Adolph Harstad writes:
By His command to Joshua, the LORD shows that the ark of the covenant – the location of His presence – is at the very center of the events of salvation, as has been evident throughout the crossing account. This time the ark is called “the ark of the testimony.” The two stone tables of the Ten Commandments inside the ark give testimony to the LORD’s covenant with Israel.
The new covenant does not rely on tablets of stone inside a wooden ark. Instead, when Christ instituted the sacred meal, He declared, “This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is poured out for you.” The shed blood of Christ is the basis for the new covenant; it is the “testimony” that Christ has atoned for our sins. … The “testimony” of Christ’ accomplished work of salvation is recorded in the pages of Scripture. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we receive that “testimony” in our hearts through faith. The indwelling of Christ’s Word and the Spirit, who works through Word and Sacrament, makes each Christian a member of the body of Christ and a holy temple.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 18
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.