So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great, perfect sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands and not part of this created world. Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever. — Hebrews 9:11-12
When God delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, He had more in mind than redressing heinous social injustice. God’s intention was that the liberated people should enter the Promised Land and that they would be established there as a unique people. Their lifestyles would demonstrate to the neighboring people that the Israelites were specifically and specially set apart for God.
God wasted no time in teaching the people what this meant in the early days of the wilderness journeys. He handed down to Moses minute details concerning a special portable structure called the Tabernacle, which the people had built and which would occupy a dominant position in the camp—whether they were stationary or marching in rank toward their destiny. God said, “I want the people of Israel to build me a sacred residence where I can live among them. You must make this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the plans I will show you” (Exodus 25:8-9).
The details given to Moses about the architecture, materials, and furnishings seem at first glance to be both extravagant and unnecessary, in light of the fact that the escaping slaves were heading for the Promised Land. But as time would show, the details of the Tabernacle were specifically designed to model spiritual principles. The people could hardly fail to see and appreciate these principles as the Tabernacle was built and as it stood prominently in their midst.
The Tabernacle was divided into two sections that were separated by a thick curtain. The priests went in and out of the first section daily, but no priest was allowed to enter behind the curtain in the daily liturgy. One day per year—the Day of Atonement—only the high priest could go behind the curtain, and only under the strictest circumstances.
The inescapable lesson for the Israelites was that the presence of God could not be entered glibly and casually. The sins of the people were offensive to a holy God and, as a result, man was separated from God and could only approach God as God Himself ordained and allowed.
This dramatic ritual not only portrayed the holiness of God to the children of Israel, it prefigured the wonderful work of Christ on the cross. For when Jesus died and rose again, He entered into the unmediated presence of God as our high priest. In so doing, He went behind the curtain into the holiest place and “secured our salvation forever” (Hebrews 9:12).
Only Jesus could offer “himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (9:14). Therefore, only Jesus could enter the presence of God and make it possible for forgiven men to do so, too.
Jesus drew back the curtain and invited forgiven men to meet God. He is no longer hidden and remote—so now those once estranged by sin can enjoy, through Christ, an intimacy with God that satisfies their deepest longings and meets their profoundest needs.
For further study: Hebrews 9:1-14
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.