But that altar, though situated just in front of the mercy seat, was separated from it by a piece of cloth, known in the bible as a "veil": "You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim." (Exodus 26:31 NKJV)
This veil was to serve as a division: "...And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy." (Exodus 26:32-33 NKJV)
Thus, the veil held a very special function. God's presence resided in the Mercy Seat, on the cover to the Ark of the Covenant. No sinful man could look upon the presence of God and live. In fact, the priests were instructed to only go behind the veil once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when all of the sin of the people had been atoned for by the blood of animals. And it was only the high priest who could make this yearly trip "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." (Hebrews 9:7, See also Lev. 16).
The veil then, shielded the presence of God from sinful man. This same veil, however, was torn from top to bottom at the moment of Jesus' death: "Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split..." (Matthew 27:51 NKJV). At that moment, the Holy of Holies was exposed and God's presence was made visible to all!
What does this mean for us today?
Just this: Thanks to the death of Jesus, the veil is no longer needed! Each of us who has accepted Jesus gift of Salvation has free access to the presence of God (see Heb. 4:16)!
But how can this be, that sinful man can now stand in the presence of God and live to tell about the experience?
Let's remember that Jesus' death has atoned for all of our sins -- ever! The torn veil illustrates Jesus' body, broken for us, that opened the way for us to come to God. At His death, at that moment when the ultimate Sacrifice had been made, the age of animal sacrifices was gone for good! And now, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16 NKJV)
That's the good news, friends! We no longer need the veil! Thank You, Jesus!
But if we no longer need the veil, then why do we need to worry about the instructions for the making of the veil in the wilderness? Does it still hold any relevance for us today? In our heart-temples where God resides?
Friends, the veil in the wilderness is there to remind us of the atrocity of sin and the holiness of God. It is to help us understand how incapable we are of working our way into God's grace. It is to help us remember that the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ has changed it all. It is to help us comprehend that without Jesus, the presence of the Almighty God would still overcome us! Only when we are covered by His blood do we have free access to the presence of God! Thus, the veil in the wilderness tabernacle stands as a firm reminder that being in the presence of the God of the universe is not our due or our right, it is our gift!
And why would God have gone to all the trouble to remove the need for the tabernacle veil?
Because in His presence is where He wants us to be! It’s all about a love relationship, friends! God sent Jesus to open the way, to remove all need for a veil, so that we can commune with Him, face to face!
And isn't that what our heart-temples are all about? Being able to commune freely with the God of the universe, the Lover of our souls?
And that concludes the section of this study that looks at what can be found inside the wilderness tabernacle. But there is more. That tabernacle has walls, it has a courtyard. Please join us next week for Wilderness Instructions, Part 11: You Shall Make a Tabernacle with Ten Curtains...
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
** Archaeological Study Bible, Copyright 2005 by the Zondervan Corporation, p. 153, The Tabernacle and the Ark and p. 133, Commentary on Vs. 25:37.
(To access the entire "Wilderness Instructions" mini-series, please click here.)