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Jesus and The Ark of the Covenant

Through the Veil, once a year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies.

Hands shaking slightly, trying not to spill the precious blood he carried with him in a vessel, the High Priest slowly pulled back the Veil. Immediately the brightness of the light from behind the Veil pierced through the opening.  He was standing in the Holy Place, the place that was lit by the seven lamps of the Golden Lampstand: the place where the gold panels on the walls caught the light of the Lampstand and the whole room shimmered around him. Yet the light that emanated from behind the Veil caused even the shimmering gold light around him to seem dark in comparison.

The radiance was almost palpable and it made him shake in fear.  The awesome presence behind the Veil was almost too much to bear.

 

How can we even put into words what the awesome Shekinah presence of God would have been like for the High Priest as he approached the Throne of God?

“Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34

 

The Holy of Holies

The Holy of Holies was the place of the awesome presence of God.  It was the place where He dwelt amongst His people, above the mercy seat, in between the Cherubim.

“O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim…” Isaiah 37:16

It was a place of infinite holiness, the Throne of God’s majesty.   It was the place where none could enter, except the High Priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, and not without blood.

From the sunshine of the Outer Court with its Brazen Altar and Brazen Laver: the place of judgment for sin, to the Holy Place which shimmered in the light of the Candlestick with its gold furniture: the place of fellowship with God.  Now to the Holy of Holies: the place that had no natural light and no lamp but was the brightest by far, and lit only by the glory of God Himself.  This was the place of worship.

“…He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light…” 1 Timothy 6:15, 16

Here we stand finally before the most majestic piece of furniture in the Tabernacle of Moses: the Ark of the Covenant.

 

The Ark of the Covenant, or the Ark of the Testimony

The Ark was the most majestic item of furniture in the Tabernacle.  This item not only speaks of Christ’s work in atonement, but of who He really is, ie His Personhood.

The Ark was a box made of Acacia wood, overlaid with gold. It measured 2.5 cubits in length, by 1.5 cubits in width and 1.5 cubits in height.

“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.  And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around…. And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.” Exodus 25:10-16

The Ark was the same height as the grate on the Brazen Altar.  More on this later in the article.

This was the first piece of furniture, the very first item that God told Moses to make.

“In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1

God begins with Himself, the place of His presence, because without Him all else is meaningless religion and ritual.

Once again Acacia wood of the Ark, overlaid with gold, reflects the dual nature of Christ, the God-Man: the incorruptible acacia wood, His sinless humanity; and the pure gold, His deity.

 

The Mercy Seat

On top of the Ark was the Mercy Seat.  It was sculpted of pure gold, with two Cherubim facing each other, wings outstretched.  The Mercy Seat covered the tablets of the Law which were contained within the Ark and was from where God met with Moses and spoke to him.

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exodus 25:17-22

 

The Mercy Seat & The Holiness of God

The Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies was the same height as the Brazen Altar’s grate in the Outer Court– 1 ½ cubits.

It is of divine importance that the altar where the blood was shed was the same height as where the blood was taken and sprinkled before God.

This is because the Ark of the Covenant was the earthly seat of God’s glory, His majesty and Almightiness. But more than that even, it was also the Throne of His holiness.  God is not only a potentate upon His throne ruling in absolute majesty because of His loftier position to all of creation, but He is the One who also has made a way of redemption from sin.  He is our Creator and He is our Holy Redeemer.

“Something has been done in relation to sin, which establishes that throne in holiness, and gives that throne a right, the right to judge sin.  It is not just the judgement of men as creatures under the hand of an Almighty God.  It is the judgement of a sinful state under a holy state” T Austin Sparks

God is ruling from His Throne in Holiness and Righteousness.  The basis of His judgment is within the contents of the Ark:  The Law.

To come into His presence is to meet the divine judgment of the Ten Commandments written on the two tablets of stone.  Since we have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, this means certain death, for the “wages of sin is death”.  None can stand before the utter holiness of God.

Yet God in His mercy has provided a way.  Over the top of the tablets of Law is the golden Mercy Seat.

 

The Mercy Seat is a Picture of Christ Himself

The two Cherubim facing inward toward the mercy seat is a picture of the Godhead (or Trinity).  All of one piece of gold, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit facing towards the Mercy Seat, which is a picture of God the Son, Christ Jesus.

The word used in Hebrews 3:24 for “propitiation”

(“…Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood through faith…” )

is “hilasterion” and is translated as “mercy seat” in Hebrews 9:5 :  “and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat…”

So the same word is translated both as “propitiation” and as “mercy seat”.

“He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world… In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins” 1 John 2:2; 4:10 NASB)

Jesus Christ is the Mercy Seat, “the place of propitiation, or satisfaction, for our sins.” (Theodore H Epp)

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would take the blood of the slain animal behind the Veil on the Day of Atonement.  He would sprinkle it on the Mercy Seat in the presence of God.

“He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.  Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins…” Leviticus 16:14-16

Because the Cherubim faced inwards towards the Mercy Seat, they were constantly looking upon the blood.  The holiness of God and the demands of the Law meant that to enter the presence of a holy God meant certain death for the wages of sin is death.

But the blood proved that someone had died for the broken law.  The death had to be an innocent substitute, someone who had not broken God’s law.  The death of the animal foreshadowing, of course, Christ’s substitutionary death for sinful humanity. This blood was what expiated the sin of Israel, because they could not meet the requirements of the Holy Law within the Ark and ultimately it was in Christ that justice received full payment. .  It was the blood-stained mercy seat that expiated God’s wrath against sin and meant that the High Priest could enter His presence, with the blood of the one who had died for sin.

 

To Remove the Mercy Seat Meant Certain Death

Therefore to remove the mercy seat meant certain death.  In 1 Samuel 6 the people of Beth Shemesh looked into the Ark after the Philistines returned it.  Removing the blood-stained mercy seat meant literally that mercy was removed and thus they were exposed to the Law and God’s judgment against sin.  The result was that God struck 50,070 men dead, because the “wages of sin is death.”

This foreshadows Christ as our Mercy Seat.  He met the demands of the Law of God and His blood was shed in our place.  To attempt to approach God apart from the work of His Son means certain death as our own righteousness is as filthy rags compared to His holy standard.  There is only one way into the Holy Place, the place of God’s Throne and that is to first come to the Brazen Altar, ie the cross.

 

Next post… The Ark of the Covenant continued: The Throne & the Altar and the Significance of the items contained within the Ark.


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Jesus Christ and the Veil

So far we have made our way through the Outer Court of the Tabernacle and into the golden fellowship of the Holy Place.

Now as we approach The Veil, illuminated by light of the Golden Candlestick, we feel a sense of awe, even fear. The inwrought Cherubim tower

source: blog.ninapaley.com

above us on the four meter high Veil as if to protect the Most Holy Place. On the other side of the Veil is the Ark of the Covenant – where the presence of God, or the Shekinah glory, dwells. The Ark of the Covenant was the throne of God on the earth and it was awesome in its majestic holiness.

But we will see the beauty and divine truths of the Veil too, of how once again it is a picture of God’s precious Son Jesus Christ and His work to remove the separation between God and man.

“Therefore brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the Veil, that is, His flesh.” Hebrews 10:20

The Three Doors of the Tabernacle of Moses

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tabernacle of Moses contained three doors, one for each area of the Tabernacle:

  • The Gate –  the entry point into the Outer Court of the Tabernacle
  • The Door –  the entry point into the Holy Place; and
  • The Veil – the entry point into the Holy of Holies

 

Contrast Between the Door and the Veil

The Door The Veil

Provided access to fellowship with God Provided access to worship of God
No Cherubim embroidered on Door Cherubim embroidered on Veil
Door held up by 5 pillars Veil held up by 4 pillars
Set in brass sockets/foundations Set in silver sockets/foundations
Door for entrance into the Holy Place Veil to keep out from the Most Holy Place

 

Separation from God

In contrast to the Door as the access point into the Holy Place, the Veil was rather a curtain of exclusion. It was designed to keep anyone from entering the holy presence of God in the Holy of Holies and thus keep sinful man from polluting the Holy presence of God.

“…The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.” Exodus 26:33

Only once a year on the Day of Atonement could one man, the High Priest, enter the Holy of Holies and not without blood. Therefore even the priests daily ministering unto the Lord within the Holy Place could not access the Most Holy Place through the Veil.

 

The Cherubim

The Veil had inwrought Cherubim on it. Cherubim are not merely angels, they are seen throughout scripture in relation to types of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Cherubim speak to us of the Holiness of God.

It is Cherubim that are wrought from the gold of the mercy seat and are thus overlooking the Ark of the Covenant.

It was Cherubim that guarded the Tree of Life with a flaming sword after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

And just as the Cherubim prohibited sinful man accessing the Tree of Life, so too they prohibit entry into the Holiness of God.

 

The Material of the Veil

“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, scarlet thread and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim.” Exodus 26:31

The Veil was made of woven blue, purple, scarlet and white fine linen.

Four pillars supported the Veil. These were made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. The sockets for the door were made of silver.

 

Significance of the Materials

God specified the exact materials and proportions to Moses that were to be used in the Tabernacle, in order to convey eternal truths to us:

The Fabric

As Hebrews tells us that the Veil is a picture of Christ’s flesh, we see how the material used details divine truths of Him:

White fine linen- a picture of Christ’s righteousness

Blue – His heavenly nature

Scarlet – His sacrifice

Purple – His Kingly nature

 

The Four Pillars

Acacia wood overlaid with gold is such a beautiful picture of Christ. The incorruptibility and earthliness of acacia wood signified His incorruptible (sinless) human nature and the gold signified His heavenly divine nature. Both God and Man in the one Person.

Whereas the Door into the Holy Place had five pillars, the Veil was upheld by four pillars.

The four pillars represent the earthly ministry of Christ: when God came to earth in the flesh. The four gospels witness to His earthly ministry. Thus the four gospels uphold the earthly ministry of Jesus, as the four pillars uphold the Veil, “that is His flesh”. (Heb 10:20)

Sockets of Silver

The five pillars upholding the Door were founded in sockets of Brass, however, the four pillars upholding the Veil were in sockets of silver. Brass speaks of judgment, whereas silver speaks of redemption. The silver used to create these sockets would have come from the Israelites redemption money (Numbers 18:15, 16) and so the Veil literally stood in redemption metal.

 

The Significance of the Veil

The Veil as Separation

Thus we see the Veil’s effectiveness in keeping sinful man separated from a holy God. Sinful man could only enter through the Veil once a year on the Day of Atonement, with the blood of an animal shed as substitutionary atonement for the sin of the High Priest as well as Israel.

If any tried to enter the Most Holy Place by any other means than God’s proscribed way he would be struck down dead immediately.

 

The Veil as Intercessor (between God and man)

We see it is no trifling matter to approach God in His majestic holiness. We see He is to be approached with awesome reverence, something much of the professing Church is missing nowadays. To approach Him lightly is to make light of the blood of Christ. Just like the substitutionary animal, someone had to die for us to be able to approach the Throne of Grace. And not just anyone, God. God died so that we could approach Him.

And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.” Isaiah 59:16

We see that as the Veil, Christ, as the second person of the Godhead, stands in the gap between Holy God and sinful man. We see that He is the way through to the Most Holy Place, the awesome majesty of God.

It is only through His torn flesh that we can approach God. It is through the blood that He shed on the cross that we can now come before the Throne of Grace.

 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh…” Hebrews 10:19, 20

 

The Veil as a Picture of Jesus Christ

Jesus Himself said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

We must go through the Veil to approach the Father. Remember the Veil stood in redemption metal (silver) and so it is by personal faith in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the cross that we are saved. There is no other way in to the Holy of Holies, no other door, no other Veil.

It was when Jesus died, and that Veil was torn from top to bottom, that the way was made open for sinful man to be able to enter God’s presence.

“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, 51

Hallelujah! The separation between God and man is now removed in Christ and we have the privilege of being able to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

What an immeasurable honour that we can approach God now and boldly! That word “boldly” means “freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; openly, frankly, i.e without concealment; free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance”.

Because of Jesus Christ’s earthly work at the cross we can now approach God as a child approaches his father. We can go with full assurance that in Christ we are acceptable to Him. We will not be rejected because we are no longer sinful in His sight, but we are now the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

Christ Jesus is truly our Great High Priest. He stood in the gap for us, He paid the penalty of sin for us and He made the way open for us. Hallelujah to the Lamb!

 

Belinda 🙂