Exodus 26:31-33. 31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.
The tabernacle itself consisted of two rooms (the Holiest Place and the Holy Place) separated by a really thick veil. According to the Talmud this 15′ x 15′ veil was 4″ thick, and weighed hundreds of pounds. And it was gorgeous. It was skillfully hand crafted with blue, purple, scarlet yarns all woven together. Even it’s framing was spectacular. Gold and silver pillars and bases.
Into the veil were woven images of cherubim. The angelic creatures that surround and guard the throne of God. Also the creatures that blocked Adam and Eve from returning to the Garden when they sinned. The Scriptures repeatedly declare that God sits enthroned among the cherubim.
And of course behind the veil was the ark and the mercy seat, the atonement cover. The throne of God’s glory. A space so holy only one person, on one day a year, could enter, and never without the blood of the atonement sacrifice.
But why? Why this veil hanging between these two rooms of the tabernacle? Why this beautiful yet obstructing wall of fabric to separate God from man? The veil teaches us the most basic of Christian truths. Here it is: God is holy and we are not.
The holiness of God is a curious and conflicting thing.
The holiness of God is what makes him unique. Different. Separate from all of his creation. It is all of his perfections. His righteousness. His transcendence. God’s holiness is a consuming fire that swallows up all that is not holy (um, like us).
And yet it is that same holiness that brought God to us. It is his imminence. His closeness. His holiness drives his plan of salvation. Because of God’s holiness he cannot leave sin alone. He must deal with it. He must act. He cannot ignore it or remain aloof to it. His holiness demands a response.
The same holiness that demanded a separation between God and man is the same holiness that brought God into the tabernacle to dwell with man. The same holiness that says “stay away” also says “come near.” The same holiness that will demand a sacrifice for sins will be that very sacrifice for sins. The same holiness that hung the veil will tear the veil in two.
Matthew 27:50-51. 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
The tearing of the veil at the death of Christ is one of the most awesome visual display of God’s holiness. The holiness that kept us separated from God has now finally dealt with our sin once for all time. God’s holiness has made a way for us through Christ.
The priest would never go through the veil into the Holiest Place without blood from a pure and “holy” sacrifice as a substitute for the people. Without holiness they could not enter the presence of God’s glory.
And that is exactly what we need today. Holiness. Yes we need acceptance through forgiveness. Yes we need love. Yes, it was God’s love and mercy that sent Jesus to the cross. But it was ultimately his holiness. None of these other things matter without holiness. Only holiness allows us to live forever in the presence of God.
If Christ’s death demonstrates love and even forgives us but doesn’t make us holy… we’re all still damned.
Holy handgrenade – dangerous yet rescuing??
Your union with Christ is ultimately about holiness. It’s not about being good, or figuring it out, or getting things right, or becoming a nicer person, or overcoming a sin or addiction. Those are all fine and good, but they aren’t union with Christ. They aren’t holiness. True Christianity is: God is holy, we are not, so we need a Savior to impute holiness to us.
Hebrews 10: 19-23. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
In his incarnation Jesus united himself to humanity. His body of flesh allowed him to become the curtain. He took on humanity, the very thing that separates us from God. Then in his dying and in his rising Christ removed that separation, taking on a glorified body that allows man to live in the presence of God. Now in his holiness, God offers that same glorified body to us through the Spirit of Christ in us. By joining his Spirit to our spirit right now, he guarantees our holiness which guarantees our own resurrection. Now one day we too will have a glorified body that can live in the presence of God in true holiness.
Christ’s flesh was the veil of holiness torn in two for us so that we can draw near in full assurance in holiness. With a clean conscience and a pure body.
God’s holiness has rescued us from God’s holiness.
“To live is Christ” is to share in the holiness of God. It is to be made holy in Christ so that we never have to experience separation from God ever again. Now we can actually live holy lives too. And that’s good news.