Old Covenant / New Covenant: Access to the Holy Place

The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat”

Leviticus 16:2

There are huge differences between the old covenant of the Law and the new covenant of grace through Christ. This verse is one of them.

When I read this verse, I was confused. I mean, it says that Aaron shouldn’t “enter at any time.” So how was he going to enter in to make atonement? The next verse clarified, as it gave the offerings required and so on. But that’s a great example of why a single verse shouldn’t be taken out of its context.

So, Aaron was told he could not come into God’s presence at any old time, but only at certain times and in certain ways. Access was very restricted. Contrast that with the access granted to believers under the covenant of grace. The writer of Hebrews says we should come boldly before the throne. Aaron could only come fearfully and with a careful consideration of whether or not he had done everything just right. The believer under grace can metaphorically barge into the holy place through prayer.

The Law required sacrifices and observances and careful attention to detail. Grace is about me having a relationship with my Father God through the completed work of Jesus Christ. The Law was about reminding us of how distant we were. Grace is about showing us how intimate our relationship with God can be.

To my shame, I admit I have not been availing myself of this privilege as much as I ought. I mean, as a believer under grace I have unfettered, unrestricted access to the holy place. I can waltz into the throne room of the God of the universe (He enjoys His children dancing) and talk with Him. I can talk about anything or nothing in particular. I can pour out the contents of my heart or simply gush about how awesome things are (and He makes things awesome a lot more than I gush over).

I am learning that I am reserved. I share who I am and what I am and what I think and feel to a certain point and then, as if on reflex, I stop. This is not inherently bad when dealing with people—though there are some who deserve better from me—but it is catastrophic with God. My reservation is trying to hold back things that I think will be mocked or shunned or, worse yet, be what drives those who love me away. I’ve seen glimpses of my darkness and I don’t think anyone else needs to see it. But God already has. God knew my darkness before I did. He knows the depths to which my feeble eyes can’t fathom. He has never once been surprised by anything I’ve done or said or been — disappointed, yes, but never surprised.

I need to stop relating to my heavenly Father as though the veil remained between us. The Law has done its work and shown me how distant I was from my God. Now I need to allow grace to do its work and remove all of that distance.


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