Understanding the holiness of God can be quite a challenge for us humans due to our sinful nature. We tend to spend more time trying understand what it means for us as God’s children to be holy, as found in Ephesians, 2 Timothy, and 1 Thessalonians. But our own holiness is only defined by God. So how do we describe HIS holiness?
One way I personally try to grasp it is by reflecting on the Tabernacle of Moses. This sacred structure was designed with numerous rules and regulations. Its purpose was two-fold: to provide the Lord with a dwelling place among His people and to ensure their safety in His divine presence.
So, what exactly was the Tabernacle of Moses? Well, it was a temporary place of worship that the Israelites constructed while wandering in the desert. They built it according to God's exact specifications and used it until King Solomon later built a more permanent temple. The tabernacle was taken down, moved, and reassembled each time they traveled and set up camp in a new place.
Let's discuss the layout of the Tabernacle. Picture a long outer court surrounded by linen curtains, with the actual tabernacle structure located at the rear. The gate, or the only point of entrance, always faced eastward. Inside the outer court, you would find some noteworthy features like the bronze basin, which the priests used for purification, and the altar for burnt offerings.
Now, let's step into the main tabernacle structure itself. The back and sides were constructed with boards, while the eastern side was covered by a curtain. This sacred space was divided into two rooms: the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. These two chambers were separated by a special veil. In the Holy Place, you would find significant items such as the bread of presence, the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense.
But the most awe-inspiring part was the Holy of Holies. This innermost sanctuary housed the revered Ark of the Covenant, representing the dwelling place of God's presence. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, a chosen priest had the privilege to enter this sacred space and offer prayers and sacrifices on behalf of the entire nation of Israel.
Now, I said all that to say - look at all of the levels of separation that existed between the presence of God and the sinful world.
1. First, we have the Holy of Holies, the most sacred and exclusive area within the Tabernacle, because this is where the Spirit of the Lord dwelled. Only the high priest had the privilege to serve in this space. However, even the high priest had to undergo a rigorous cleansing ritual before entering. It was crucial for the high priest to be as free from sin as possible. To ensure his safety, a string was tied to his ankle. If he entered without proper purification, the instant presence of God would result in his immediate death. In such a case, his fellow priests could pull him out using the string, as going inside themselves would lead to their own demise.
2. Moving on to the Holy Place, this chamber was accessible only to the priests who were purified and free from physical defects. However, their entry was subject to their assigned time of service. Various regulations were in place to govern their conduct within this sacred space. Inside the Holy Place, significant items such as the bread of presence, the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense could be found.
3. Next, we come to the outer court. It served as the entry point for the Israelites. They would enter through a designated gate to visit the priests and offer their sacrifices. However, not everything and everyone could enter the outer court. Certain individuals and objects were considered defiled or unclean and were not allowed inside. The outer court needed to be kept pure, free from anything unclean.
4. Lastly, we have Israel, God's chosen people. Despite being human and prone to sin, they were chosen to be set apart for God, as mentioned in Leviticus 20:26. They were given a specific set of rules to demonstrate their devotion to God.
The entire Tabernacle and its various levels of separation can serve as a visual reminder of the distinction between the ordinary, sinful world, and the profound, pure holiness of God.
Does this help you gain appreciation for the reverence and awe required when approaching the presence of a holy God?
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