Read His Words Before Ours!
When I was fifteen, I was excited to be invited, along with my school band, to play in a special concert. Until then, all our performances had been in our school auditorium, but now we were getting the chance to play in a proper concert hall!
Upon our arrival at the venue, we were presented with security passes to wear for the day. Just having the passes made us feel important, but what was even more exciting was the phrase printed on them: “Performer: Access All Areas.”
We had permission to access all areas, and we certainly did!
Our breaks were spent exploring every inch of the concert hall, both front-of-house and backstage, making the most of an opportunity that was unlikely to be repeated. There was something wonderful about the sense of freedom that came from knowing we could go anywhere, and the confidence those passes gave us.
When it came to the Tabernacle for the Old Testament Hebrews however, there were no “access all area” passes. Instead there were very strict rules about who was allowed access where and when, and even how.
The Tabernacle was the place where God resided among His people as they travelled to the Promised Land. As they were on a journey it was portable, a bit like a tent, so that it could be carried with them, and it was created according to the instructions God gave to Moses in the book of Exodus.
For most of the Israelites, the outer court was as far as they were allowed to come. There was only one entrance, on the east side, and there they would bring their offerings to God. Sin offerings, guilt offerings, peace offerings, burnt offerings… the book of Leviticus is full of details of the procedures the Israelites had to follow in order to approach God. Their sin prevented direct access into the presence of a holy God.
In the outer court, animals brought for sacrifice were given to the priests to present at the altar. The priests were men set apart for a special role as mediators between the people and God. They were the ones to present the sacrifices, and they were the only ones permitted to go into the next area of the Tabernacle: The Holy Place.
They did so wearing a chestpiece containing twelve precious stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, so that as they entered the Holy Place they were symbolically carrying the people with them into God’s presence. (Exodus 28:29) There they would burn incense and tend the lamps on the lampstand each day. Weekly, they renewed the bread of the Presence.
Beyond the Holy Place, behind a 4-foot thick curtain, was the inmost area: The Holy of Holies. Access here was extremely restricted for this section housed the very presence of Yahweh! Only the High Priest could enter, and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 16 outlines the complicated procedure he had to go through when he did so.
Washing, donning sacred garments, offering sacrifices for himself, his family, and the people, burning incense, sprinkling blood on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant known as the mercy seat: all of this was necessary for the High Priest to approach God to purify himself and the people, atoning for their sins and making them right with God.
As we read this today, it can seem unnecessarily restrictive.
Why did all of this have to be done to approach God?
In reality, it was an act of grace!
God was providing a way for sinful man to be in relationship with the Holy Almighty.
When God provided Moses with instructions for the Tabernacle, he also explained its purpose:
“They are to make a sanctuary for me so that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)
An unscalable chasm yawned between a holy God and sinful people,
yet God was permitting access…however limited.
He was painting a picture in their everyday lives that He wanted a relationship with His people!
Approaching Yahweh was not something to be done casually or thoughtlessly.
Animal sacrifice reminded them that sin was severe and required payment in order to have a relationship with the God of justice.
The good news is that we are no longer tied to all the rituals of animal sacrifices today because at the moment of Jesus’ death, everything changed!
“Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary,
was torn in two from top to bottom,
the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:51-52)
The writer of Hebrews explains the significance of this act:
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.” (Hebrews 10:19-20 NLT)
Jesus is our great High Priest, the one who
“offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time,” (Hebrews 10:12 NLT) so regular sacrifices are no longer required. We are simply called to accept His sacrifice on our behalf, surrendering ourselves to His rule and reign as Lord of our lives.
Through Jesus, all of us are free to approach God,
not just the chosen few.
Jesus’ sacrifice has granted us an “access all areas” pass,
right into God’s presence!
That’s an even greater privilege than a bunch of teenagers having the run of a concert hall, so let’s make the most of that today,
approaching God boldly and confidently
because of what Jesus has done!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!