It had been almost 500 years since the Exodus and Solomon had finished constructing the desire of his father David’s heart, the Temple of the Lord. Its moving day and all the components of the Temple were brought in and put in position and the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies. Question—‘What’s inside the Ark of the Covenant?’ Follow-up question—‘Are you absolutely sure?’
Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 1 Kings 8:9
While God in His Word does not explain what happened to the staff and manna, we can rest assured that there are reasons why they were missing. Before we delve into the explanation, we would recall why these items were placed in the Ark in the first place. Aaron’s ‘budding’ rod was a miraculous confirmation; a sign to Israel that Moses and Aaron were His intended leaders. The manna on the other hand was a wondrous sign of God’s provision. The Law was a sign of a different category; a tangible road-sign informing every reader of where he is (in sin) and where he needs to go (to the cross of Jesus Christ).
So the question of most importance is not, “Who removed these two items,” or, “where are they,” or “what happened to them,” but rather, “why does only one remain?” The answer is evident; this singular article (two tablets) effectively demonstrates two facts…
…The word of the Lord endures forever. 1 Peter 1:25a
The second fact might not be as obvious. It will serve us well to remember that there is no other people group in world history that witnessed more miraculous signs and wonders than post-Egypt Israel. What impact did all those signs and wonders have upon them? Not much. Out of entire generation of people (a couple million or more), only two, Joshua and Caleb, came to believe. There is an enormous lesson in that.
Are We Done With Miracles?
Heaven forbid! Jesus told His church that there is an order in which these things will occur…
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18
And He told us why there needs to be an order…
A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Matthew 16:4
And there’s the second reason. Generally speaking, we are sign-seekers; we want evidence, we want confirmation, we want corroboration before we commit and handover the reigns to Someone we cannot readily see or touch. There’s a drawback that comes with that kind of attitude and Jesus told us pointedly what it is:
For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:24
The rod and the manna were removed for our protection! So like me, you might ask why were those signs and wonders placed into the Ark to begin with. I submit to reveal to us that a) they exist, and b) we don’t need them to come to faith, and c) they will follow us as we follow Jesus. We should consider what was said regarding John the Baptist [who] Jesus called the greatest prophet whoever lived…
Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.” And many believed in Him there. John 10:41-42