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