Lord, thank You for full access.
Read HEBREWS 9:1–10
Worship in the Earthly Tabernacle
9 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
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I thank God for access into His presence, where we can sit quietly for a few moments, observing due deference (Hab 2:20).
A common feature of earthly sanctuaries is limited access – either because particular areas are physically cordoned off as no-go areas or because access must be obtained through particular people – shamans, mediums, priests. The tabernacle – and the temple in New Testament times – pictured this limited access. I refresh my mind with some details the author of Hebrews passes over because he has better news in store! In the first room were the lampstand (Exod 25:31–40) and the table for the consecrated bread (Exod 25:23–30); in the second room was the Ark of the Covenant (Exod 25:10–22) and just outside stood the altar of incense (Exod 30:1–10). The defining feature of this most splendid sanctuary was – THE VEIL (Exod 26:31–35).
The readers of this letter would have been familiar with this sanctuary geography: the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of Male Israelites, the Holy Place, the Holiest Place. As long as the first tabernacle ‘was still functioning’ (8; literally, ‘having standing’), this was the arrangement. The worshippers could approach only so far; the priests a little farther; and the high priest, once a year, could enter the inner room, with blood, for sins committed ignorantly. I ponder quietly, humbly, what our writer says that the Holy Spirit is showing (in 8–10) through this elaborate system of washings, food, drink, sacrifices, offerings. It would have produced in the thoughtful, conscientious worshipper at least some sense of God’s remoteness, His holiness and a sense that sin and wrongdoing are not matters to be taken lightly. But Exodus 31 and 32 show that the beautiful tabernacle was barely completed, the high priest barely clothed in his gorgeous vestments, and the Sabbath barely consecrated for worship – when the Israelites were off to worship their golden calf.
Lord, I thank You that the veil between the ‘earthly sanctuary’ (1) and the ‘new order’ (10) has been ‘torn in two from top to bottom’ (Mark 15:38).
Lord, thank You for making each believer a priest with full rights to enter the Holy of Holies of today.