Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses nineteen through twenty-seventh verse of the tenth chapter. When you come to this passage of scripture you find the author of the epistle transitioning once more to the practical application of what was previously written in this chapter. Within the eighth, ninth and the opening part of the tenth chapter the author has written extensively concerning the ministry and service of the tabernacle and the shadows and type it portrays concerning Christ and the work He accomplished. The author wrote concerning the first covenant, which contained ordinances, sacrifices, and offerings, and wrote how this first covenant—though it was ministered in glory and the manifestation of the presence of Fod—was imperfect and a portent and signpost of that which was to come. The first covenant witnessed the continual presentation and offering of sacrifices and offerings which were offered unto the Lord by fire as a sweet smelling fragrance and aroma before and unto the Lord. The author continually wrote concerning this first covenant that although it was ordained and prescribed by God, it was imperfect concerning and regarding the consciences of man. The Old covenant with all its sacrifices and offerings could not make clean or even sanctify the conscience of man as it pertained to sun, transgression and iniquity. It is true that man had unlimited opportunities to appear before God by bribing their sacrifices and offerings, and that there was no limit to how often they could appear before the Lord at the tabernacle. I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t numerous times and opportunities when men’/‘s conscience plagued and haunted them because of their transgression and iniquity. Oh, it was true they brought their sacrifices unto the Lord before the altar, but those sacrifices could not nothing as it pertained to guilt, condemnation and shame.
The more I consider the Okd Testament ministry and service of the tabernacle with all its gifts, all its offerings and all its sacrifices, the more I am absolutely gripped by the fact that it was possible for atonement to be made for the sins of men, and yet access into the Holiest of all was restricted, prohibited and set apart. Only the high priest could enter into the Holiest of all, and even that only once a year. For three hundred and sixty four days within and throughout the year the priests continued to minister in the outer court, and even in the inner court where the table of shewbread was, where the golden candlestick was, and where the altar of incense was, and they could never go beyond the veil. They were keenly and acutely aware of the reality of what existed beyond and behind the veil, for there was only one article of furniture within the Tabernacle that was placed beyond the veil—the Ark of the Covenant. I can’t help but wonder how many priests wonder what it was like beyond the veil, and what it was like to enter into the Holiest of all where the very shekinah glory and presence of God dwelt and resided. When the cloud was upon the tabernacle by day and the pillar of fire by night, the glory of the eternal God was manifested behind and beyond the veil. I can’t help but wonder how many countless times within and throughout each of the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness the shakiness glory of Almighty God was manifested behind and beyond the veil. I can’t help but wonder how many times the priests ministered before and around the altar knowing the glory and presence of the living God was present behind and beyond the veil. I can’t help but think of and consider the tremendous reality of unlimited worship of the living God, and yet limited access to His presence and His glory. I can’t help but think about the tremendous reality that the children of Israel could worship the Lord as frequently and as often as they desired and wanted, yet their worship could only bring them as far as the door of the tabernacle. The children of Israel could only come as far as the door of the tabernacle, and the priests could only come as far as the veil which separated the holy place from the Holy of Hokies.
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER! THIS FAR AND NO MORE! That which I read in this particular passage of scripture can best be summarized with the words which the author wrote concerning the words of the Holy Spirit spoke signifying that the way into the Holiest of all had not yet been made possible. Under the Old covenant and in the Old Testament the way unto the Holiest of all was restricted, and access was limited to just one individual and that once a year. Pause for a moment consider the reality that although the children of Israel had unlimited opportunity to worship the Lord, their access into His presence was limited and restricted by a veil which separated the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat, and the very glory and presence of God from the outside world. UNLIMITED OPPORTUNITY, LIMITED ACCESS. There were no restrictions on how often and how frequently the children of Israel could come unto the tabernacle with their sacrifices, their gifts and their offerings, yet they could not enter into the holy place, nor could they ever think of or dare to try and move beyond the veil. Not even the priests who ministered before and around the altar dared to ever move beyond the veil into that which was ultimately sacred, consecrated and holy before the Lord. The priests themselves had their duties and their responsibilities within the ministry and service of the tabernacle, and they were never to make any attempt to move beyond their station or what was ordained and appointed for them. The priests were to engage themselves in the ministry ordained and appointed unto them by the Lord and nothing more, and certainly nothing less. When we talk about and discuss the ministry of the tabernacle with all its sacrifices, gifts and offerings, it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that although there was unlimited access to the tabernacle itself by the children of Israel, and although there was unlimited ministry before, around and upon the altar, there was still that one reality that was constantly present within the Tabernacle—that of access into the Holiest of all, and access into the presence of the true and living God. The children of Israel could worship God as often as they wanted in their tents in prayer and private worship, and the children of Israel could bring their offerings, sacrifices and gifts to the tabernacle as frequently and as often as they wanted to, yet when it came to access into the Holiest of all, they could not ever move past that pre-ordained place within the tabernacle. We must recognize and understand that it wasn’t just the children of Israel who were limited, but also the priests as well, for the priests could only go as far as the holy place and no further. WORSHIP WITH RESTRICTIONS! WORSHIP WITH LIMITATIONS! WORSHIP WITH BOUNDARIES!
This reality of worship with boundaries was not something that was first implemented when the tabernacle was implemented and instituted among the children of Israel, but was something that began when the children of Israel first came to the mountain of God there in the wilderness. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the first part of the nineteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus in verses one through nine:
“IN the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded Him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord” (Exodus 19:1-9).
What we find in these opening verses is but preparation for what we will continue to read in the remaining portion of the same chapter, as well as what we will find in the twentieth chapter. When reading and considering the language that is found and contained within chapters nineteen and twenty of the Old Testament book of Exodus, it is imperative that we read it through the lens of worship with limitations, and worship with boundaries. Although the Lord would descend upon the mountain in the presence and company of the host of the children of Israel, they were restricted and prohibited from moving beyond that which was ordained and appointed by the Lord. The pattern of the tabernacle had not yet been given, and yet the Lord was already conditioning the people for that which was to be present within the tabernacle —namely, that there were limitations and restrictions surrounding the ministry and service of the tabernacle. Consider if you will the words which are recorded for us in the nineteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus beginning with the tenth verse:
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: there shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stone, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet Sounders long, they shall come up to the mount. And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered Him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest thy break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them. And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to m punt Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. And the LORd said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people b real through to come up unto the Lord, lest He break forth upon them. So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them” (Exodus 19:10-25).
It is quite clear and quite obvious from these passages of Scripture that even before the pattern of the tabernacle was implemented within and among the camp of the children of Israel, the Lord was already setting boundaries and limitations when it came to worshipping Him. It was true the Lord desired to speak directly unto Moses, and that through Moses the Lord desired to speak unto the children of Israel, but the children of Israel could not come near or come unto the mountain which burned with fire and smoke there in the midst of the wilderness. It was true the Lord descended upon the mountain with thunders and lightnings, and that the Lord descended upon the mountain with fire and smoke, yet the children of Israel had very clear instructions concerning how far they were to come at the foot and base of the mountain. The children of Israel could witness the direct manifestation of the glory and presence of the Lord, yet they could only come so far as it pertained to the presence of the Lord. It’s actually quite interesting when you read the twentieth chapter of this same Old Testament book that although the children of Israel saw the thunders and lightnings, and although they saw the mountain burning with fire and smoke, none of them dared come near the mountain. In fact, instead of drawing near to the mountain they actually shrank back and drew further away from the mountain. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the eighteenth verse of the twentieth chapter:
“And all the people saw the thundering, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel. Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all the places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon” (Exodus 20:18-26).
As you read the words of this passage of Scripture you will find that in direct response to the sound of the trumpet upon the mountain, and in direct response to the sight of the lightnings, the fire, and the smoke, and as a direct result of the sound of the thunders, the children of Israel withdrew, shrank back and stood afar off from the mountain. This is set directly against what we read in the nineteenth chapter when the children of Israel were commanded and instructed by the Lord through Moses not to overstep their bounds and break through to gaze upon the Lord. In fact, in the nineteenth chapter, the Lord declared the following words: “And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: there shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet Sounders long, they shall come up to the mount” (Exodus 19:12-13). Even though the manifest presence and the shekinah glory of the living God was descending upon the mountain in the wilderness, the children of Israel would and could not dare break through beyond the borders and limitations the Lord had set in place for them. The children of Israel could were given very clear and specific instruction concerning the mountain of God in the wilderness, and even before the pattern of the tabernacle was given unto Moses atop the mountain, the children of Israel were given specific limitations, borders and boundaries to which they needed to obey and give heed to. The children of Israel could not dare move beyond those limitations, those borders and those limitations set forth by the living God, for to do so would mean certain and swift death. WORSHIP WITH LIMITATIONS! WORSHIP WITH RESTRICTIONS! Oh how absolutely necessary and important it is for us to recognize and pay close attention to this particular passage in the Old Testament book of Exodus, for this passage brings us face to face with the reality that when it came to the presence of God, when it came to the glory of God, and when it came to drawing near unto Him, there were certain limitations, restrictions and boundaries that were set in place. The Lord would speak from within the thick darkness and clouds, and the children of Israel would encounter and experience the glory and presence of the Lord there in the wilderness, however, there were still limitations and restrictions which were in place. Not only were there limitations and restrictions that were put in place by the Lord, but violation of those limitations and restrictions would mean certain and imminent death—either by being stoned or shot through.
As you advance further in the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find when the pattern of the tabernacle was being given unto Moses, the Lord provided very clear direction and instruction concerning the veil which was to separate the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Think about and consider this for a moment, for although the Tabernacle was to be a place where the priests would minister before the Lord, and although it was a place where the children of Israel could worship the Lord, there were still levels of separation that existed within the pattern and design of the structure itself. LEVELS OF SEPARATION IN THE DESIGN OF THE STRUCTURE! The Lord was very specific when speaking unto Moses concerning the veil and curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, for the Lord provided very specific instruction concerning the exact measurement and placement of the veil. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-first verse of the twenty-sixth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find the following words spoken by the Lord providing instruction concerning the veil:
“And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: and thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shitting wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. And thou shalt hang up the vail under the teachers, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side. And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework.l And tho shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shitting wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them” (Exodus 26:31-37).
It is clear from these words that there was indeed a veil and curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place, and the Ark of the Covenant with the mercy seat from the outside world. As you read the words found and contained within this passage of Scripture we find the Lord providing very specific instruction concerning the Holy of holies that there was to be a degree of separation that existed within the Tabernacle, and between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place, for the Ark of the Covenant stood behind and beyond the veil. This reality of access to the Holiest of all, and the Holy of holies is further revealed and described in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. As you come to and approach this particular chapter you will find the Lord speaking to Moses concerning Aaron his brother who was the high priest, as well as his sons, and the Levites who were appointed, ordained and anointed to minister within the tabernacle in the wilderness. In fact, it’s in this particular verse where we find the Lord speaking unto Moses concerning the day of atonement, which was that one time during the year—that one day. In the year when the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and appear before the Lord on behalf of all the children of Israel. Beginning with the first verse of this chapter we find the following words:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died; and the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall heave the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on. And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an Atonement for himself, and for his house. And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon he two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: and he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: and he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: and he shall make an atonement for the hotly place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remained among them in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goats, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his ginger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:1-22).
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of Hebrews wrote in the opening portion of the ninth chapter of this epistle beginning with the first verse: “Then verily the first covenant had also the ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience: which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:1-10). While the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews wrote of the veil which existed between the Holies of All and the Holy Place, three different New Testament gospel writers wrote concerning the veil in the temple being rent in two as a direct result of the sacrifice which Jesus made. Consider how Matthew recorded it: “Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:51-56). IN the fifteenth chapter of the gospel according to Mark we find the following words: “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the cutneurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when He was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem” (Mark 15:37-41).The beloved physician Luke records the following words: “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:44-46).
What does all this mean? How does all this apply to us? The answer to this is found in verses nineteen through twenty-seven of this particular chapter, for within this particular passage of Scripture we encounter the reality that we now have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. When the children of Israel were restricted, limited and prohibited from every moving beyond the veil and having access into the holiest of all, that access was now granted by and through a new living way which came by the blood of Jesus which was shed on Calvary. In fact, the author of this epistle clearly and distinctly writes that we have—and that we should now have—boldness to enter into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He consecrated for us, through the veil, which was His flesh. The veil of His flesh was torn and shredded in order that the veil which existed in the Temple could be torn asunder. Imagine what it was like for the next thirty plus years in and around the Temple as the priests who spent a considerable amount of time ministering within the Temple could no longer see the veil which separated the Holiest of all from the Holy Place. Consider the tremendous shock and awe that could have gripped the priests who entered into the Holiest of all knowing the veil was torn from to bottom—a work that was done in secret and private, which was not seen by men. THE GLORY GOT OUT AND MEN ENTERED IN! What we find in this particular passage of Scripture is a powerful declaration concerning the access we now have into the presence of the Lord by and through the blood of Jesus which was shed on the cross two thousand years ago. What’s more, is that the author uses this reality to make three distinct appeals to us: (1) let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, (2) let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and (3) let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works. Oh that we would pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and that we would not only understand that which Jesus Christ did, but also the tremendous access that we have been given into the presence of the living God—access which was formerly denied and restricted. The question we must ask ourselves is what are we doing with this newfound access?