Last night I attended a worship service and the pastor was urging people to enter the Holy of Holies. As soon as he said that I received this:
There was a time when only one man could enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem.
“But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance…” (Hebrews 9:7)
He would go in there one time on one day every year and deal with God on behalf of an entire nation. I would imagine that high priest would go in there, do what he was there to do and get out of there because of fear.
After all, God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies.
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)
This happened for many years on what is known as the Day of Atonement and, then, something happened that made this unnecessary from that day forward:
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…” (Matthew 27:50-51a)
The thick veil that had for years and years separated man from the presence of God was torn.
While we could think that this only had to do with one room in one magnificent building in one city on one day 1,981 years ago….the reality is that this event continues to have the capacity to impact us deeply today.
You see, the Tabernacle and then later, the Temple, were physical structures that were put in place by God but were always intended by Him to be temporary. Indeed, in A.D. 70 the Roman army laid siege to Jerusalem and when they were done with Jerusalem that Temple, including the Holy of Holies, was utterly in ruins.
Yes, the Temple was intended by God to be replaced the instant Jesus died on the Cross 33 years before Rome destroyed it. The Holy of Holies in those structures always and forever represented something FAR more enduring.
Speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says this:
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever…” (Hebrews 6:19-20a)
The death of Jesus did not just cause a physical veil to be torn in a physical building. His death opened for us the way to the very presence of God. Listen to the writer of Hebrews explain what he knew about this:
“For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24)
Many of us have been urged into the Holy of Holies by pastors and praise leaders in worship services like we were urged to do last night. The same has happened many times in house church gatherings. We’ve sung the song “Come Into The Holy of Holies” urging one another to do that. I believe all these are good things to do because they help us to see things from a more spiritual perspective. However, I think there is a potential danger in doing this.
People have a tendency to live from event to event…from experience to experience and the danger is that we tend to see our access to the eternal in terms of short experiences that start and stop with the experience comes to an end that day.
I can see myself doing this and I find it to be tragic in myself and in my brothers and sisters in Christ. I came to this realization last night when I “saw” in my heart the following image:
I saw many people running into the Holy of Holies at the invitation of men. There were many but not as many as one might think because so few in the body of Christ actively seek the presence of God in their routine worship of God.
The throne was so VAST! So vast, in fact, that I could never see the entire throne. Nor could I see God in His entirety. I believe this is because the vision had a purpose….to reveal what we do in the Holy of Holies and also because God is without limits so we will NEVER truly be able to comprehend His majesty in one glimpse. But….He WAS there.
We were in the presence of God and what I saw us doing was this: we were running into the Holy of Holies and then would run around the throne of God. We were running a lap around the presence of God!
And then we were running right back out of the Holy of Holies and leaving the experience behind….its effect immediately ebbing away.
Am I saying its wrong for pastors and praise leaders to invite people into the Holy of Holies? NO! We need encouragement to seek God and spend time in His presence because we do not instinctively do this.
What’s wrong is what I and many of us have done so habitually with the incredible gift Jesus has given us by tearing the veil that existed between God and man because of man’s sin. Because of the work accomplished by Jesus on the Cross we have daily, around the clock, moment by moment access to the real heavenly Holy of Holies.
Instead of falling on our faces in God’s presence and relishing it and benefiting from this incredible right purchased for us at such a terrible cost…..we tend to have a brief experience with it and then go back to business as usual.
There is no doubt that the world is not being impacted by the Church today like it was in the first century. We can cast a casual glance around and see all sorts of evidence that satan seems to be gaining ground in the hearts and minds of people.
I don’t think this is because we lack programs and systems and pamphlets and bells and whistles. Mankind has never had access to as many man-made Christian resources as we have today.
I think it’s because no one can see the glory of God on us.
Imagine what it was like for people to see Moses’ face when he came down from the mountain after spending a relatively short time in the presence of God.
“So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28)
The Bible tells us that the glory of the Lord was so evident on Moses that his face was shining!
“Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exodus 34:29-30)
Read the rest of Exodus 34 and you’ll see that whenever Moses went into the Tabernacle to be with God this would happen. And that is wonderful but there is a sad aspect to this story for Moses: 2 Corinthians 3:13 tells is that when Moses left the presence of God the shining on his face…the physical evidence of the glory of the Lord….would fade away.
Moses did not have what we have: unimpeded constant…ETERNAL….access to the presence of God.
We have an amazing right purchased for us by Jesus. What I’ve seen in my own life in this regard has touched me deeply. I’ve made a decision. I intend to abandon this event mentality in my own life. I intend to develop a
more constant awareness of God’s presence. I intend to harvest that.
I commit to stop running laps around God’s throne and, instead, spending time….just with Him…in church meetings and at all other times. I commit to give Him more and more of my focus.
I invite you to join me in this.
I also intend to pay attention to His voice….however He chooses to speak to me….so that when He deputizes me to bring His glory somewhere….I will go. I don’t want people to have an encounter with Mike McInerney.
I want people to have an encounter with Jesus Christ through me.
I have a longing that I believe comes from God…a longing to see the zeal and purity and energy and power and sharing of the first century Church explode in our communities right now.
Let’s bring the glory of the real everlasting God to the world as directed by Him!