Holy of Holies: A Poem

Oh the desperation of this imperfect skin

Oh the inadequacy of holiness

that runs rampant through my life

Who am I to address the Throne of God?

To bear witness before His presence?

 

Do I not descend from the line of Adam?

Is not his fallen DNA rushing through my veins?

I feel it, I hear it, its pulse drums in my chest

At times pinging louder than any snare ever could

 

So who am I to bear witness before His presence?

 

While my soul longs to meet with Him face to face

The fear inside me cries out,

“Thank God for the earthly Tabernacle!

That I might keep my distance from His Holiness

That the Levites might be called before Him

And that their clan may make a wall around Him

To protect me from the place where He dwells

I am much safer here, on the outskirts surrounding

That humble tent of sacrifice”

 

My heart quickens as I imagine being in that place

Step by step, inch by inch

Getting closer to the Holy of Holies

The place where God dwells

 

Oh how beautiful the veil that separates our eyes

For how could I in my imperfection

Gaze upon such holiness and live?

Surely my life would crumble in a moment

Obliterated into shards, lying on the floor

Waiting to be swept away with the dust

 

Dust. Surely that’s all I am in His eyes

For I come carrying a multitude of sins

Some being simple mistakes

Some I’ve committed in full knowledge of their effects

So brush up the ashes of what’s left of me

And let it go to the wind, disappearing into the sunset

 

For the innocence of a thousand animals

And the gallons of their blood

Could certainly not make right the life of this sinner

Let alone the iniquities of my brothers

The conviction upon me is so great and so again I cry out,

“Thank God for the Tabernacle!

Thank God for the Levites!

Thank God for the veil!”

For without these, I’d be naked before Him

Every last hint of me visible

With a soul piercing gaze in His eyes

 

Oh the conviction

How it burns deeply in my heart

I would fall prostrate before him

Weeping until a river had formed

And my tear ducts had run dry

 

There with my face in the dirt I’d lie lifeless

Incapable of exerting any strength

“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY,” cries what’s left of my mind

The words I cannot speak, but the thought repeats itself

Over and over again, as steady as the ocean waves

“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY”

For what other words can be found in this moment?

 

But the thing that confuses me most

As I imagine being before Him

Is that despite my sinfulness

Despite my inadequacy

Despite my unholiness

I can’t help but want to take a glimpse of Him

Like a bug chasing after a flame

Perhaps He will consume me

But the urge is irresistible

 

Though my strength is shot and I can’t move a muscle

My desire to look upon Him is so great

That I force it to happen with what feels like supernatural power

My world goes into slow motion as I stare into beauty

And that split second of life becomes all that I remember

 

So yes, I fear God—I dread His holiness

For who am I to address the Throne?

But I can’t help but desire with all that is in me

To come before His presence

 

 

 

 

My heart yearns for Him to walk among us

In the cool of the day as He did in Eden

To hear His footsteps in the lush grass behind me

before I had even turned around to see him

 

Oh if only such a possibility still existed

 

But here in the Tabernacle, God is only approached once a year

Oh what a dreaded day the Day of Atonement must have been

for the priest called beyond the veil

with only the smoke of his incense to protect him

 

What if he wasn’t holy enough?

Were the legends true?

Did they really tie a rope to his ankle to pull out his corpse?

Would there be anything left of him to pull out?

Such beauty the Day of Atonement represents

And such fear for the price in which it might be paid

 

One can only imagine how much the priest’s hands might have shook

How quickly his eyes moved to and fro

Or perhaps he stared at the ground

out of fear that his life, as holy as it was, wasn’t enough

 

I think of the innocent bull sacrificed on that day

And how it became a sin offering for the priest and his house

 

I think of its blood being sprinkled

On the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant

And obsessively sprinkled

Seven times on the ground in front of it

 

I think of the innocent goat sacrificed on that day

And how it became a sin offering for everyone else

I think of it’s blood also being sprinkled on the mercy seat

To make atonement for our transgressions

For our deliberate sins and our willful rebellion

Sin so serious that this blood was taken into the holy of holies

 

I think of the other goat whom the priest laid hands on

And how all of our evil was confessed over it

I think of how it was sent into the desert

To a place where it could not return

 

Run quickly young scapegoat

Take our sins far away and die with them

For to see them return would be more than we could handle

Release us from this burden we’ve brought on ourselves

 

Year after year came this bittersweet day

This Day of Atonement

Sins were recalled and then wiped away

Would this cycle ever be broken?

Or was this the circle of humanity

A never-ending pattern

The rhythm of life

 

Centuries later something new took place

An odd supernatural manifestation of color

Over time a new tradition was added to the day of Atonement

And a scarlet rope was hung from the tabernacle

It’s color reminding the people of the bloodshed on their behalf

But after one goat given judgment and sacrificed

And the other given mercy and released

This scarlet rope would miraculously turn white

 

No science could explain this

It had to be a sign from God

A reply from Heaven to say that

The Most Holy One forgives us

Our sins are wiped away

We are as white as snow

 

This sign happened for years

And then one day it just stopped

What was it that happened?

Had God forgotten about His people?

Had He stopped forgiving them?

Had they not been good enough?

 

Or was it that this was around the time that Jesus had died?

Was it that there was a new way of atonement?

Had an ultimate sacrifice been made?

A new covenant that overruled the old?

 

Yes! Perhaps that was it!

Perhaps He was it!

But then how?

How did the Tabernacle relate to this man at all?

 

Was His blood the atonement?

His life the sacrifice by which we enter the tabernacle?

If so, then shouldn’t I as a Christian be fearful?

After all, if He is the ticket to enter the Holy of Holies

Then am I to access God’s presence?

The place where His Spirit dwells?

The place I fear and dread and yet find oddly irresistible?

Surely that place is not open to me

 

But then the Bible says the veil was supernaturally torn after Jesus died

The very last thing that kept me safe from His Spirit

If His Spirit has been unleashed on the world, why am I still standing?

Is it that God has left the earth?

Or is it that He’s doing a new thing?

 

If Paul is right, and my body is a temple

And it’s there that the Spirit dwells

Have I become the very place I fear and dread?

 

After all, Jeremiah spoke on behalf of God, saying:

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 

Is this truly what Jesus has done?

Has He torn down the veil and placed God’s Spirit within us

And we have somehow survived?

Have we all come to know the Lord

And been forgiven—our sins remembered no more?

The scarlet rope inside us turned white?

The scapegoat sent away for the last time?

 

Who are we as humans to approach the throne together?

Who are we as humans to have the Spirit of the Most Holy God

Living inside of these broken, sinful bodies?

 

While His original Tabernacle may have been a humble tent

It was still filled with golden furniture

And when the permanent Tabernacle was made—the Temple

The Holy of Holies was far more magnificent than this lowly body

 

The walls were covered with about 46 pounds of pure gold

The nails themselves were made of gold

The statues of creatures were covered in gold

And they even had wings that were 30 feet across!

Even the veil was made of expensive linen

 

How could God possibly take residence in me over such a place?

For human hands cannot make much better a place than that Temple

 

God, how have we suppressed you so greatly

That after 2,000 years this is what the world looks like?

For Your Spirit is powerful and operates now in our bodies

Surely we have done something wrong

 

We ask you now to take up residence as King and invade our lives fully

For its Your presence we’ve been seeking since Eden

It’s the sound of your footsteps, but resonating from our own feet

It’s the fear of your presence that we find irresistible

 

We ask—no, we beg

That we may be raptured in Your presence

And confounded by Your love

Because for so long our flesh has expected You to be angry

But you have said that it is not so through Isaiah

 

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

and to revive the heart of the contrite.

For I will not contend forever,

nor will I always be angry;

for the spirit would grow faint before me,

and the breath of life that I made.

Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,

I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,

but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,

creating the fruit of the lips.

Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, and I will heal him.”

 

God, may we no longer backslide

May we be of lowly and contrite heart

May you bring us peace and heal us

For Your Spirit inside of us

Is the strongest force in the universe

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