As Jesus said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, The Old Testament scriptures point us to Jesus Christ and we should try to look at the Ark and it's contents in terms of Jesus.My understanding is that the Ark of the Covenant represents Jesus. The wood that it is made of represents Jesus' humanity and the Gold covering it represents his Diety. Gold being a representation of righteousness and holiness.
Inside the Ark were placed three things. The Tablets with the Ten Commandments; the Jar with an Omer of Manna, the bread God gave them in the wilderness; and the Rod of Aaron which budded.Over the Ark was the Mercy Seat on which were two Cherubims which represented God's justice and between the Cherubims was placed the blood of the Atonement sacrifice, once per year.
I believe that the items inside the Ark are representative of decisive points in Israel's journey in the wilderness. The Ten Commandments representing the giving of the Law and the sin and self-righteousness of the Children of Israel when they claimed that "Anything the Lord says we will do!" The Manna or bread representing God's provision for His people and the Rod of Aaron represents God's righteous rule in the lives of those he raises up.
Now, once per year the blood of the Atonement sacrifice was placed on the Mercy Seat between the Cherrubim, so they looking down (representating God's justice), could not see the sins of Israel. The sins were covered.
Lev 16:15 And he shall slaughter the goat of the sin-offering, which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat...
As the writer of Hebrews makes clear...
Heb 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
This was a shaddow of the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and Jesus as the Ark who clothes us in his righteousness.
This was the situation when the Children of Israel had the Ark, up until the Ark was returned to be put in Solomon's temple. When the Temple was dedicated and the Ark put into the Holy of Holies though, only the Ten Commandments was in the Ark. We read of this in the first book of Kings.
1Ki 8:9 There was nothing in the Ark save the two tables of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, when Jehovah made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
The blood of the sacrifices made by the High Priest to atone for
the sins of Israel could not take away their sins, it merely
covered them for another year each time the blood was placed on the
mercy seat. The blood of Jesus Christ DOES take away sins and
unlike the blood of bulls and goats when it was symbolically placed
on the mercy seat, Jesus Christ's blood spilled for us, took away
our sins PERMANENTLY.
No, Jesus Christ's blood takes away our sins PERMANENTLY. Now when God in justice looks down on us we are cloaked in Christ (our Ark) and covered by his blood, and God does not see our sins or the Law which is inside the Ark. He sees the Righteousness of Christ.
Outside of the Ark and fully available for us are two things which
once were inside. The Rod of Aaron which represents the power of God
living in those he raises up; and the Jar of Manna (bread) which
represents God's provision in Jesus Christ.
Jesus has given us "Everlasting Life", and God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Jesus reigns in our lives, living in us through the Holy Spirit, the perfect counsellor; and He (Jesus) is the "True Manna", the total and perfect provision of everything we need forevermore.That is what I understand is the meaning today, in Christ, of the shadow that was the Ark and it's contents.
Best wishes for Grace and the Peace of Jesus.