Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Week 8 | The Veil and the Most Holy Place; Holy of Holies

Exodus 26:31-34
This week we are passing through the inner veil and into the Most Holy Place.  The veil was the object that gave a physical separation between sinful man and a holy God in the Tabernacle and then later in the Temple.  It was woven from blue, purple, and scarlet yarn with cherubim embroidered into it and it was hung from clasps between four golden posts (also made of acacia wood and covered in gold - does that surprise you?!)
The first instance we see of cherubim in the bible is in Genesis 3:24:  “After he drove the man out (of the garden), he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”  Over and over again we see cherubim acting as guards for God.  In the Tabernacle and also the Temple, we find cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, as “decorations” in the fabric and carved into the structure of the Temple itself.  In Ezekiel, cherubim play a huge role as they accompany God’s glory as He departs the Temple. 
Digging Deeper:  Read through 1 Kings 6:23-37; Ezekiel 10-11.  What more can you learn about these guardian creatures? 

The Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies, bears a name that essentially means that it is the most holy or sacred place of all things that are holy or sacred.  This space was set aside to house the Ark of the Covenant and was where God’s manifest presence was made known. The room itself stood 15ft x 15 ft x 15ft (4.5m x 4.5m x 4.5m).  Notice that this space was a perfect cube. 
It is interesting that the New Jerusalem of Revelation is described the same way!  Rev 21:15-16 says, “The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.”  It was 1,400 cubed miles!  Just as we see symbolism from the garden to the Tabernacle, we also see symbolism between the New Jerusalem and the Tabernacle.  The Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle was where God's manifest presence was and in Revelation it is no accident that the New Jerusalem is described in the same manner - as the dwelling place of God Himself.  In this one space, the Most Holy Place, we see how God has traced patterns or similarities from Genesis to Revelation! 
In Christ…
The significance of Christ and the veil is perhaps the one we most identify with.  The most common story of the veil (or curtain) of the temple was when it was torn from top to bottom at the moment of Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).  I have often reflected on the significance of this event and its symbolism – that Christ is the veil that was torn at the moment of death opening the way for all mankind to the Most Holy Place. The veil was the separation between sinful man and a holy God.  With the death of Christ, the sin of man was atoned for and there is no separation between man and God anymore!
While the above may be familiar to you, have you ever wondered what happened in the temple that day?  God’s manifest presence was found in the person of Jesus Christ and even if God’s manifest presence had been found in the Most Holy Place in the temple up until the birth of Christ (which is unlikely), how is it that the high priests could continue to perform all their duties and see (at least once each year) that God’s presence was no longer in the Most Holy Place once Christ was born?
On that day of Christ’s death, I would imagine the priests were probably tending to their daily duties in the temple when out of the blue, this massive curtain is split from the top down.  The curtain in the temple was 30 feet tall – as tall as a three story building – torn not from the bottom up by man, but from the top down by God.  Now picture the horror of these Jewish priests seeing this happen and having the Most Holy Place laid open to all.  Remember that only the high priest had the privilege to see inside this sacred space and only once each year – and here it was for all the priests to see! 
The Bible does not record what happened after this, but the temple remained standing and functioning from Christ’s death (between AD30 and AD33) until AD70 when it was destroyed.  I would imagine that curtain was either stitched back together or more likely a new curtain was made and hung in its place.  Think of the symbolic significance of that…
And yet are we any different?  There are times in my life where I have tried to put that separation back between me and God.  My husband and I suffered greatly from infertility and miscarriages and I was downright angry with God.  That was definitely a season of my life where I kept God at arms length.  I did not completely walk away from my faith, but I was quite content to have a veil/curtain in place.  When we turn away from God and try to "do" life on our own, it’s as if we stitch that veil back together and hang it right back up.  What areas of your life are you trying to handle on your own?  What areas of your life are you trying to fix on your own?  In what areas of life have you tried to stitch that veil back up?  Remember, beloved, that your God tore that veil down!  You can live in freedom and not in confinement.  We have the amazing privilege to live as part of God's royal priesthood and can be bold before the throne of God no matter our circumstances!  (Hebrews 10:19)

Digging Deeper:   Other scriptures to consider:  Lev 16:2; Matt 27:50-51; 2 Cor 3:18

God’s grace and peace to you until next time!

By: Chris Tomlin

Welcomed in to the courts of the King
I've been ushered into your presence
Lord I stand on your merciful ground
Yet with every step tread with reverence

And I'll fall facedown
As your glory shines around
Yes I'll fall facedown
As your glory shines around
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/m/matt_redman/facedown.html ]
Verse 2:
Who is there in the heavens like you
And upon the earth who's your equal
You are far above you're the highest of heights
We are bowing down to exalt you

So let your glory shine around!
Let your glory shine around!
King of glory here be found!
King of glory!
 He became sin; who knew no sin
That we might become His righteousness
He humbled Himself and carried the cross
Love so amazing; Love so amazing

Jesus Messiah, name above all names
Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel
The rescue for sinners; the ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah, Lord of all

His body, the bread; His blood, the wine
Broken and poured out all for love
The whole earth tremble and the veil was torn
Love so amazing; Love so amazing, yeah

All our hope is in You; All our hope is in You
All the glory to You, God; the light of the world

Jesus Messiah, Lord of all
The Lord of all; the Lord of all

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week 7 | Altar of Incense

Exodus 30:1-10,22-38; 37:25-29
The final object in the Holy Place is the altar of incense.  The altar of incense was also made of acacia wood like some of the previous items and overlaid in gold.  It was 18” x 18” by 36” tall (roughly 1/2m x 1/2m by 1m tall) and as you enter the Holy Place, this altar would be directly ahead and resting just before the veil.  It is extremely special before the Lord and the priests continually offered incense to the Lord day and night. Similar to the brazen altar, it also had four horns; one at each corner.  This altar, however, was used primarily to burn incense. Blood was applied to the four horns only once per year on Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur (literally meaning “day” and “atonement”) the high priest would sacrifice an animal on the brazen altar to pay for his sins as well as the sins of all the people.  The high priest brought blood from the bronze altar into the Holy Place with the purpose of being spread on the four horns of the altar of incense.  Then this blood sacrifice was taken behind the curtain and into the Most Holy Place by the high priecst.  It was an offering for God’s forgiveness and atonement for all the people of Israel.  

"Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come. Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.”  Exodus 30:7-10
This is a bit of a side note, but something I want to include anyway.  I have often mentioned different points of the compass as reference points describing where different things are placed within the tabernacle and they do have symbolic significance.  Notice that this pattern of worship that we have been tracing is continually moving from east to west.  If you remember, the tabernacle is the structure that was mobile but eventually the temple in Jerusalem was built by this same pattern; with it's entrance facing east.  As with the tabernacle, the direction that the temple was laid out is quite significant.  The entrance to both the complex and the tabernacle itself always faced to the east. 
Ezekiel has a lot to say about the entrance to the temple through the eastern gate (also called the Golden Gate, the Beautiful Gate, or Gate of Mercy).  It is commonly thought that the temple described in chapters 40-48 is either prophetic or of a heavenly nature.  When the glory of the Lord departed the temple in Ezekiel 10 and 11, we find God's glory moving from the Most Holy Place, into the Holy Place and then the courtyard.  Finally in chapter 11:22-23 we see that glory of the Lord has moved out of the temple complex all together and moved towards the east.  It is also thought that chapter 43 and 44 speak of the future, however, and we see the glory of the Lord coming from the east and back into the temple. It is fascinating to me that to this day, the Muslims keep the eastern gate into the Temple Mount sealed “just in case” Jesus were to return as we see in chapter 43; that Jesus the Messiah would be prevented from entering the temple area as scripture says He will!
Jesus and the Altar of Incense
The Altar of Incense is perhaps one of the most intriguing pieces of furniture we have looked at so far.  Christ is clearly seen in both the function of this piece and in the role and function of the High Priest as the mediator on behalf of the people.  As we looked at earlier in this study, Jesus is the unblemished sacrifice that was offered once and for all for our sin.  Figuratively, it was His blood that was brought from the outer courtyard into the Holy Place and then into the Most Holy Place where it was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. 

Jesus literally took the place of all the animal sacrifices that were made on behalf of the people when He gave Himself on the cross.  He is both the sacrifice and the high priest mediator working on our behalf and it was His own blood sacrifice that made it possible for us to be the presence of God 24/7.  Think about that last statement.  Where the high priest was only allowed to enter into the presence of God once a year, through Jesus our High Priest, we have the opportunity to be in God’s presence whenever we want to!  We don’t have to wait for that one special day each year!
Digging Deeper:  This would be a great opportunity to reread Hebrews 9 and 10 and
look more closely at Christ as the High Priest and the sacrifice He gave once and for all.
Revelation 8:3-4 give us a picture of how this altar now functions in Christ.  It is the prayers of the saints that are offered up as incense.  1 Thess 5:17 encourages us to pray continually.  Just as the incense on the altar was to be kept burning in the tabernacle, so our prayers are to be offered continually.  1 Tim 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.”  Jesus is our High Priest who mediates between God and man so that we might enter boldly into the throne room – the Most Holy Place.  It is His work at this altar and at this altar that allows us to have atonement once and for all.  There is nothing that we could do ourselves to enter into the Most Holy Place, it was only by the work of Jesus Christ.  Wow… what an honor and privilege we have been given!
Digging Deeper:  Other scriptures to consider: 
Exodus 30:9-10; Psalm 141:2; 2 Cor 2:15; 1 Pet 1:17-21; Rev 5:8; 8:4
Ephesians 1:7-8 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Praise God for the riches of His grace!  Praise Him with unceasing praise!

God’s grace and peace to you until next time!


Like Incense / Sometimes By Step
Lyrics: Brooke Ligertwood and Rich Mullins.

May my prayer like incense rise before You
The lifting of my hands as sacrifice
Oh Lord Jesus turn Your eyes upon me
For I know there is mercy in Your sight

Your statutes are my heritage forever
My heart is set on keeping Your decrees
Please still my anxious urge toward rebellion
Let Love keep my will upon its knees

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You

To all creation I can see a limit
But Your commands are boundless and have none
So Your Word is my joy and meditation
From the rising to the setting of the sun

All Your ways are loving and are faithful
The road is narrow but Your burden light
Because You gladly lean to lead the humble
I shall gladly kneel to leave my pride


To all creation I can see a limit
But Your commands are boundless and have none
So Your Word is my joy and meditation
From the rising to the setting of the sun


I will seek You in the morning
I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Endless Song

Here's my life it is not my own
Such a debt I owe for I have been ransomed
What a price You have paid for me
Bought my liberty, freedom is my anthem

Let me not forget your sacrifice
Everyday recount the ways you've changed my life!

Let my heart sing an endless song
And let it rise from a child forgiven
Let my life tell the story of Your redeeming blood
Jesus, Lamb of God Such amazing love

Here's my heart it belongs to you
Let my gratitude overflow in praising
What a joy Savior and a friend
Mercies never end; love that is unfailing

Let me not forget your sacrifice
Everyday recount the ways you've changed my life!