Wherever He Is, We Are Welcome

Heaven’s Great High Priest

If you are in Christ, let no sin, guilt, or shame keep you waiting in the temple courts, ninety feet from the presence of your God. Hear your God whisper from within, “Draw near” (Hebrews 10:22). Walk past the bronze altar and the washbasins, the bread of the Presence and the lampstand, and open the door to the Holy of Holies. The throne of majesty has become a throne of mercy, where Christ our high priest sits in victory (Hebrews 4:14–16). And wherever he is, we are welcome.

 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16)

Because Jesus sits at the right hand of his Father in heaven, repentant sinners can approach the throne of God with boldness, no matter how filthy we feel. We can come when we have nothing to show for ourselves. We can come when we have just awakened from the stupidity of sin. We can come when so much inside of us feels cold and dead. And we can do so because we do not come on our own merits, but rather on the merits of Jesus, heaven’s Great High Priest.

It was not always so. For centuries, God’s people could only wait outside the temple where God’s presence lay veiled, wondering how he would one day make a way.

Ninety Feet Away

If you were an Israelite living under the old covenant, and you did not belong to the tribe of Levi, ninety feet is as close as you would ever get to the presence of God in the Holy of Holies.

God had fulfilled his promise to dwell among his people (Leviticus 26:11–12), but his holiness demanded separation. He was near, yet guarded; present, yet veiled; inviting, yet intimidating. The mere presence of the temple revealed God’s desire to be near his people. But everything about the temple said, “You dare not approach me on your own.”

The cherubim that once flashed a flaming sword at the entrance to Eden now blocked the way to the Holy of Holies (Genesis 3:24; 1 Kings 6:31–32). Any who broke through the barrier would fall before the consuming fire of Sinai (Leviticus 16:2). Safer for a man to walk on the sun than a sinner to stand unshielded before God.

Every day, the temple preached a silent sermon to any who had ears to hear: You need a mediator to make atonement. You need an advocate to intercede. You need a priest to make a way.

Tribe of Levi

Ever since the wilderness of Sinai, Levi had served as Israel’s priestly tribe. Only the Levites showed zeal for God’s holiness as the rest of their brothers bowed down to a golden calf (Exodus 32:25–29). From then on, they would stand in the gap between God and the people (Numbers 3:5–10).

The days soon came, however, when Levi’s sons lost the zeal of their fathers. They stole food from the people, and preyed upon female assistants (1 Samuel 2:12–17, 22). They defiled the holy with the common, and the clean with the unclean (Ezekiel 22:26). They taught God’s word for a price, and cared nothing for his presence (Micah 3:11; Jeremiah 2:8).

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