Exodus 28: 36-43
The role of the priest was intense. These men were chosen by God to represent the people of Israel. They were God’s go-betweens to the people because the people were not holy enough to approach the holiness of God. The priests spent their entire life making sure that they were clean enough to go into the Holy Place. If they were not clean, they would taint the whole place, disrupting the worship of God, and possibly even getting themselves struck dead by God’s wrath. The run-of -the-mill priest had to stay squeaky clean just so he could keep the lamp burning and refresh the show bread. Even with that level of holiness, they were still not clean enough to enter the Most Holy Place. As we learned yesterday, only the High Priest could go into that awesome chamber, and then only once a year.
Why did God make it so difficult to enter His presence? Why did He demand so much from His people? For crying out loud, the people weren’t even allowed to come to God; they had to go through a priest. Why is that? There are a couple of reasons: 1) the people had rejected God’s presence on the mountain and were so spiritually immature that they needed this physical system to be able to conceive of God, 2) God was demonstrating to the people (and to us) how seriously He takes holiness.
God is a holy God. He is absolute perfection and cannot tolerate anything less than perfection. It’s not that He doesn’t want it around, its that imperfection can’t withstand the presence of the absolute; it gets blown away! In a sense, God was, out of compassion, protecting His people because He knew they weren’t ready to handle absolute truth.
So what does this have to do with us? There are two important points for Christians to understand when it comes to the role of the priest.
- We have a perfect High Priest. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the perfect High Priest who entered into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled His own blood in that awesome chamber. Since he is the Son of God, the perfect Lamb, and the perfect priest, His sacrifice was a once for all sacrifice that atoned for the sins of the world, once and for all. He tore down the curtain of separation between God and man, and being the bread of Presence and the giver of the Spirit, He is our mediator between man and God.
- We are all priests. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” No longer are we the common man standing outside in the courtyard, hoping that the priest is clean enough to get our sins forgiven. We are the priests. We can enter into the Holy Place and interact with the Spirit and the Word, and, in the ultimate act of grace, the High Priest throws back the curtain for us, revealing the Presence of the Almighty.
Now that you know that you are a priest, what does that mean? Does that mean that God no longer cares about holiness, or has somehow become sin-tolerant? Not at all. God still expects absolute holiness from His priests (from you).
There are two kinds of holiness at work here:
Positional Holiness: Because of the blood of Jesus, your sins are paid for and you are considered clean and worthy to stand in the presence of God. That is grace, it was a gift, you didn’t do anything to get to that place, nor could you have had you tried.
Relational Holiness: For you to be able to stand in the presence of God and look Him in the face and receive His full glory, you need to be clean on the inside. Imperfection still cannot withstand absolute perfection. It is like a small child who has just lied to his parents or secretly disobeyed. That child cannot look her parent in the eye. Why? Because she knows she has violated the relationship. Not until the sin is confessed and the relationship restored can there be real communication between parent and child. The same is true with our relationship with God. If we are cherishing sin in our heart, we will not be able to stand before our Holy God. Not because He is pointing the finger and condemning, but because we want to hide our sin from His holiness.
What is keeping you from standing fully in the presence of God, naked and unashamed? Remember that God invites you to come to Him. The blood of Jesus is eternally sprinkled all over the Most Holy Place while the Spirit and the Son stand, holding open the curtain inviting you to come. Dump the sin and the shame that is holding you back and come bask in the presence of holiness.