Beyond the Veil
Scripture Reference: Hebrews 9:1 – 14; Matthew 27:51
Let me ask you this morning, what is the object of your affection these days? -Your husband, wife, home, automobile, increased income, yourself. In the management of your time these days who has gotten squeezed out? Who has suffered most from the hurried schedule, the overworked week, the jumbled calendar, or the taxed life?
Let me get to where I really want to be this morning. How close to God did you draw this past week? How intimate did you become with the one who opened the door to intimacy? What have you wrestled with and the thing you wrestled with successful pinned you down from an act of worship to God?
Did you hear his voice bidding you to come spend some time or were you avoiding Him the way Adam did in the garden after the eve of his eyes being open, discovering his nakedness, and thus hid himself?
What stuff have you been trying to hide behind to avoid the penetrating look of God, the sound of Jesus name, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of the Saints? – Guilt, shame, more hours at work, offense, anger, lies, gossip, or I just didn’t feel like it.
Most of the major cities in our country have a freeway that loops around the city, so travelers can skirt the heart of the metropolitan area. It occurs to me that this is precisely what our culture has done with God.
We want a God on the “loop” of our lives --- close enough that we can call on Him when we need Him, but far enough away that He can’t invade the center of our lives.
But to marginalize God in this way is to invite disaster, and this is what we are seeing in our culture today. The priority and the place of God has not remained the center of life, but moved to the backroom of life.
Many folks are performing backroom abortions of their faith and their Christian identity because it seems as though God has left the building.
No longer is God the first to be consulted, but the last to be consulted, if at all. But I believe that the lessons of the past ought to serve as our lessons of the present. God wants to remind us that He should remain the center of our lives because He yet lives.
God is calling us to look to Him, depend on Him, have faith in Him, trust Him, love Him, draw near to Him, follow Him, obey Him, and worship Him. Listen, God is calling.
In the business of life, God is calling.
In the rush to work, rush home from work, rush to fix dinner, God is calling.
In the lack of communication between the spouse, the supervisor, the superintendent, God is calling.
In the midst of pain, frustration, and doubt, God is calling.
In the middle of bills, bottom ups, and burdens, God is calling.
In the heat of the battle, spiritual warfare, fleshly encounters of the real kind, God is calling.
In the jungle of mixed emotions, bruised egos, and empty spirits, God is calling.
What pastor is God calling us to? --- Worship
Michael W. Smith words says it all, “I coming back to the heart of worship, when it’s all about you Jesus.” Those are the words of the message this morning – the heart of worship. But instead of worshipping God in the distance, you can come up close. You can come right up to where He sits.
In the book of Hebrews the mega theme is the “New Covenant”. That is a new pledge that God has made with humanity through Christ. There is also in this book the presentation of at least three sub-themes preceding chapter twelve.
1. The New Covenant is based on better promises
2. The New Covenant pertains to a better sanctuary
3. The New Covenant provides for a better sacrifice
In chapter nine, our attention will be drawn to the matter of the "better sanctuary" provided by the New Covenant. To appreciate the author’s argument, we must be acquainted with the sanctuary of the first covenant.
When God ordained the regulations and practices described in the old law, it was His intention that these things would serve as physical symbols for spiritual realities that would be revealed later in the coming of Christ.
God has provided us with some other physical symbols for spiritual realities in the church and the culture today.
1. Communion is a physical symbol for a spiritual reality.
2. Baptism is a physical symbol for a spiritual reality.
3. Marriage is a physical symbol for a spiritual reality.
4. Parenthood is a physical symbol for a spiritual reality.
5. Giving is a physical symbol for a spiritual reality.
6. Government is a physical symbol for a spiritual reality.
7. Nature is a physical symbol for a spiritual reality.
So the author of Hebrews is introducing to us a physical symbol for a spiritual reality – the tabernacle or tent of meeting. In other words the Israelites and we as well, needed an image to explain the concept. (Israel’s transition from Egypt)
The Limitations of the Old (Hebrews 9:1-10)
In verse 1, the writer introduces two subjects: 1) Regulations for worship. 2) The earthly tabernacle. In verses 2 through 5, he describes the tabernacle. In verses 6 and 7, he describes the regulations for worship.
In verses 8 through 10, he explains the significance of the tabernacle and the regulations. In general terms, the significance is that the tabernacle and the regulations involved in it were limited in what they could provide for those who worshiped.
In speaking of an "earthly" tabernacle in verse 1, the writer is preparing us for a comparison with the heavenly tabernacle in verses 11 through 14.
The earthly tabernacle was divided into two compartments, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. In verses 2 and 3, the writer describes the fixtures of each. His purpose in mentioning the fixtures is not to discuss their meaning.
Certainly they have meaning, but the writer says that "we cannot now speak in detail" about those fixtures. His purpose seems to be that the Holy of Holies is the place to be.
Three items are described as having gold in their construction. The gold is in the Holy of Holies. The stone tablets that contained the 10 commandments, the centerpiece of the covenant, are in there.
The ark, which served as the Lord’s earthly throne, is in there (1 Samuel 4:4, 1 Samuel 6:2). The glory of the Lord is in there. The mercy seat on top of the ark, which was applied with blood once a year for atonement of sins, is in there.
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.
It may be the place to be, but getting there isn’t so easy. That’s the point of verses 6 and 7. It was inaccessible to the people of God.
Only a multitude of priests are "continually entering" the holy place, but "only" the high priest enters the Holy of Holies, and he only enters once a year, and he can’t enter unless he takes with him the blood of sacrifice.
When he did, he had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins as well as for the sins of the people. The priests continually entered into the Holy Place, trimming the lamps, burning incense and placing fresh loaves on the table. No sacrifice was required for them to enter.
The high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the annual Day of Atonement, the regulations for which are described in Leviticus 16. The high priest was to sacrifice a bull for himself and his household, and he was to sacrifice a goat for the people.
The blood was sprinkled on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The annual observance was in acknowledgment of the sins of the people.
The Holy of Holies is the place to be, and getting there isn’t so easy. But even once one gets there, there is only so much that place can do for a person. That’s the writer’s point in verses 8 through 10.
Actually, the writer says, that’s the point the Holy Spirit is making. The Holy Spirit inspired the word, which called for the tabernacle and its regulations. The Holy Spirit is also inspiring the writer of Hebrews.
And the Holy Spirit is saying, both in the history of revelation and in the revelation now being given to the writer, that "the way into the Holy Place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing."
The earthly is a "symbol" - literally, a "parable." It paints a picture of the real thing, but it isn’t the real thing. In this parable, gifts and sacrifices were offered, including the annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement.
But all those gifts and sacrifices - and even the best sacrifice on the most special day by the most special person - "cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience."
There’s the problem with the old way right there. It can’t really affect the conscience. Actually, there’s no problem with the old way, because it was never intended to affect the conscience.
The old way was only a parable, acted out on a daily and annual basis to tell a story about the real thing. It involved regulations concerning certain food and drink to consume, and certain washings, all for the sake of ceremonial cleanliness.
That’s why they are called "regulations for the body." They affect a worshiper externally but not internally. The external isn’t bad, because it tells a story of the internal. But that’s all it does.
God imposed the external regulations until a time of reformation. The time of reformation has come in Christ, so the earthly and external can be discarded.
The Veil – Separation between two places
The veil between the holy place and the holy of holies is described as a "skillful work" (Ex. 26:31). The workers were give special divine wisdom in the making of this beautiful veil, which has never been duplicated.
The awesome figures of the cherubim woven into the veil were images of angelic beings of the highest order. Their character, beauty, and power surpass human description.
Symbols of cherubim were used by other Semitic people, appearing in the likeness of winged lions and bulls, the guard their temples and palaces.
Ezekiel gave the impression that cherubim have both the characteristics of men and animals (Ezek. 10). Cherubim are symbolic of God’s protective presence over the holy of holies. It was as if God had placed a continuous guard before its entrance saying, "This far, no further!" The same creatures were placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were driven out to protect the tree of life (Gen. 3:24).
According to the Talmud, the veils were 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, about the thickness of a man’s palm (four inches), and made of 72 squares that were sown together. The veils were so heavy that is took 300 priests to hang them, according to Jewish tradition.
Although beautiful to the eye, the veiled entrances to the Tabernacle were not to be objects of admiration, rather, they performed two basic functions.
The word veil (Heb. paroketh) means to separate and describes it ministry. The veil acted as a barrier between God and man, shutting God in and man out, and the curtains permitted access to worship only after the priests had met the required conditions set forth in the Mosaic law.
Leviticus 16:2 - And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
The freedom of the new (9:11-14)
(11) But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, he entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; (12) and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, he entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (13) For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, (14) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
In this section, the writer presents the new way. Everything about it is superior to the old way. It is not a picture; it is the reality depicted by the picture. Every word in this section is designed to illustrate the superiority of the new way, which is part of the New Covenant.
The new way is ultimately superior because it does something for the conscience that the old way couldn’t.
Christ appeared not just as a priest but as a high priest, one who was qualified to enter the Holy of Holies. He is the high priest of "the good things to come."
The earthly tabernacle was described in glorious terms. The Holy of Holies glistened with gold and radiated God’s presence. Yet the tabernacle Christ entered, after his death on the cross, was "greater and more perfect."
The earthly tabernacle was perfect for what it was designed for. The heavenly tabernacle is more perfect in that it fulfills a better purpose. That it is heavenly is clear in the statement that it is "not made with hands" and is "not of this creation."
The high priest could only enter the inner sanctum of the earthly tabernacle if he carried with him the blood of sacrifice. Christ, too, entered the heavenly tabernacle with blood - but it was his own blood. Human blood is better than the blood of animals. And this was the blood of one "without blemish."
Christ entered "once for all" into the Holy Place, whereas the other high priests entered "once a year." Once for all is better than once a year, because once for all doesn’t need to be repeated. Christ obtained eternal redemption for sins, whereas the other high priests provided a picture of redemption.
The old way, which included the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of heifers, could "sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh." (The ashes of a heifer dealt with ritual impurity, according to Numbers 19:11-21.)
The word translated "flesh" here is the same word that is translated "body" in verse 10. Regulations regarding food and drink and washings were for the body, just as these regulations concerning sacrifice and the sprinkling of ashes.
It all had an external effect that made one ceremonially, and outwardly, qualified to be in the community and to worship within it.
The blood of Christ, not surprisingly, does something better. It has an internal effect. Christ offered himself through the Holy Spirit, who is called the "eternal Spirit."
Christ, who was anointed by the Spirit as priests were anointed by oil, did everything through the Spirit, including this final offering of himself. The Spirit is called eternal because the topic here is heavenly, eternal things in contrast to earthly, temporary things.
The animals sacrificed under the old system could not have any external blemishes. Christ, of course, had no internal blemish - no sin.
The word "serve" has the same root as the word for "worship" (9:6) and "worshiper" (9:9).
Question, how does the cleansing of a conscience set us free to worship God? If we think we’re guilty before God, we’ll do anything but truly worship him. Oh, it might look like worship, but if we feel guilty, the motivation will be something else entirely.
The blood of Christ absorbs our guilt, which frees us, as we understand the depth and effectiveness of his atonement, to worship God in gratitude, love and awe.
A Final Thought
Did you understand that one of the key words that could be drawn out of this text is the word “redemption?”
Redemption --- How do I explain redemption to a contemporary congregation? I don’t anybody in here who has every been to a slave auction or recently seen a ship coming from Africa down the middle passage. We are a contemporary congregation in need a contemporary image.
When I think redemption what comes to mind is the image of a hostage. You understand the idea of being a hostage – someone is kidnapped. And ransom note is left. “If you want this individual again, so much money has to be given in order to have this individual returned.
And if you really love your son, your daughter, your wife, your husband…money is no object. You will come up with the money in order that they may be redeemed. What happened in the Garden of Eden was Satan had kidnapped Adam and Eve and all of their ancestors.
And a ransom note was left, what was heaven going to do to buy us back? What was heaven going to do to redeem us? What would heaven do?
God couldn’t write the largest check in history that would not pay the ransom note. God could not empty heaven of all of its expensive jewels that would not pay the ransom note. But what God decided to do was to bankrupt itself…God who could not come to us in spirit form had to come to us in the flesh.
And the Bible says Jesus emptied Himself and He came to the cross of Calvary where there was a ransom note. And Jesus died on the cross, High Priest offering Himself as the sacrifice. Matthew 27 stated that the veil was rent in two from the top to the bottom. And what God was doing was tearing up the ransom note.
When the hymnologist understood the note was been torn up he wrote…
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
But He washes white as snow
It was down here on the earth…
It was a shadow of things to come…
It was Inaccessible to the people…
It was temporary
It was ineffective to change hearts…
But when Jesus came…
Draw me close to you…never let me go
Help me find the way, bring me back to you…
You’re all I want…You’re all I ever needed…You’re all I want…Help me know you near…