Saturday, November 03, 2007

Where HIS Name is Qara

1 Chronicles 13:6 –
And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, to Kirjath Jearim,
which belonged to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the LORD,
who dwells between the cherubim, where His name is proclaimed.”

The verse reentered my mind while I was praying tonight. I read 1 Chronicles 13 without particular insight for my devotions this evening, but was applying the language of verse 14 to pray for someone: “The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house three months. And the LORD blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that he had.”

Why would God bless a house just because the ark was there? That sounds like the theology of Raiders of the Lost Ark, not the “no graven image” God of the Bible. Note that this final verse of chapter 13 tells us that the Lord blessed the house, not “the ark blessed the house.” Like many things, God did it for His glory. He showered grace on the house of Obed-Edom for His name’s sake. Anyone who knew the God of Israel would understand that without His presence dwelling among the cherubim of the mercy seat, the gold-overlaid box would mean nothing.

As I was reflecting that God must have graced Obed-Edom for the glory of His name, I remembered that there was something about God’s name earlier in the chapter, in the description of the ark: “…where His name is proclaimed.” God’s name is proclaimed through the ark’s presence. Or is that what it means? Did I have the wording right? First I grabbed a book-light to check my Bible again. Frustrated at the lack of footnote (like any commentary, my study Bible never has notes on hard questions) explaining the phrase in verse 6, I turned on my lamp, pulled out my laptop, and at a weary 12:45 AM, logged on to Blue Letter Bible to check the Hebrew.

It turns out the word for “Proclaimed” is qara. Different translators have given this verse different, particular meanings through the English word they chose. I wish I could just keep the Hebrew, because I am not sure the author meant us to choose definitions. This is why I love studying the original language. Has it ever occurred to the translators that the original author may have intended all the facets of meaning in one word?

Let’s take them one at a time. First, my New King James translated qara “proclaimed.” In this sense the ark could be the banner of God’s presence. Through God’s power and blessing surrounding the ark, God’s name is proclaimed among the nations. The ark was central to Israel’s worship, and the Name was central to what was being worshiped.

Another definition is “give name to.” The ark is where God’s name is given, or imparted unto His people. Remember Moses’ worry that the people would ask the name of the God who sent him? When you have the ark, the answer is right there. The ark also represents the people of Israel bearing God’s name as they bear His presence and the ark (2 Chronicles 7:14). In the Lord of the Rings, Treebeard the Ent says his name would be long because it is descriptive of his character and experience. Such is true of the God of the Bible, His name ever expanding as His people come to know Him through His revelation and their experience. God’s works and nature could be recited, called out (think of the caller for a square dance or bingo game).

What did the people experience? Let’s look at more definitions of qara. The onomatopoetic (a word that describes its sound) word is a cry for help. In this sense, the ark was a place where the name of the Lord was cried unto. Atop the ark was the mercy seat, the recognizable portion with the cherubim. To this the high priest was supposed to yearly bring blood, interceding that the mercy of God would cover their failure to keep the law (which was, as I must credit Francis Schaeffer for pointing out to me) housed in the ark perfectly fitted beneath the mercy seat, the seat of propitiation. The fact that the rebellious Israelites remained in existence was proof that God had heard their call for mercy.

And finally, perhaps in refutation of the “Raiders” theology, maybe we could read it to mean that where the people proclaim and call upon God’s name, there He dwells between the cherubim.

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
- Psalm 145:18

To God be all glory.

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