The Reading: Exodus 26:31-35
“… the most holy place .” (v.34) RSV
When Moses designed the Tabernacle according to God’s instructions it was to be divided into various sections. The idea was that God dwelt in the most holy place, and that people were only allowed to come near by degrees. Indeed, only one person, the high priest, was allowed to enter the most holy place, and even he could only do so once a year. This holy place lay at one end of the tent and was separated off from the other sections by a heavy veil. This veil will be described in this week’s reading.
When the temple was built by Solomon to replace the Tabernacle, the holy place or Holy of Holies was again divided off by a heavy veil. The size of the room was a cube, 20 cubits (a cubit is the length from elbow to finger tip, about 18 inches or 45 cm). This meant it was about 10 yards or 9 metres long, high and wide.
Within this space was to be found one thing only, the Ark. This amazing item will be described next week and something of its importance will be unpacked.
The veil that separated the presence of God from the people of God was a permanent reminder that God could not be approached by sinful human beings. He was shrouded in darkness and mystery. This holiness (i.e. difference or separateness) of God created a barrier that was impenetrable by individuals. Even the annual visit by the high priest was only possible if he carried sacrificial blood with him.
This did not mean that God was not with his people, and indeed involved in all the world, but it would take the one, perfect sacrifice of Jesus, the great high priest, to enable all to enter into his presence. This was represented on the day of Crucifixion by the rending of the veil in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). ‘Top to bottom’ indicates that God did the act, not man. From the death of Jesus onwards the way was open for all believers to go into the holy of holies. What a privilege!
Thank you Father that Jesus has opened for us a new and living way into your presence. Amen.
1 Note the structure of Solomon’s Inner Sanctuary.
2 Note what Jesus, the Great High Priest, achieved.