Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Breaching The Wall

In the Old Testament, the proximity of man to God was one of distance and separation. But it was never intended by God that this be so. When He created the first man, His purpose was for divine and eternal fellowship. This is evident in that all of creation was made for man to have dominion over. With the exception of one tree (Genesis 2:15-17), the Garden and all that was in it was made for man’s pleasure. There the Lord was physically present with Adam and Eve as He delighted in what He had made and communed with them. It was not until man fell from grace by submitting to the cunning of the serpent and the temptation of sin that the separation came (Genesis 3:1-7). Man was “banished” from the paradise God had created for him and His servants stood guard with “flaming sword” to prevent re-entry (Genesis 3:23-24). Not only did their disobedience bring a curse of hardship, toil, grief and pain, affecting all of God’s creation in like manner, it brought death to man and broke the intimate relationship they had with their Creator. A dividing wall was erected between God and man, one that man dare not breach because of his sinful state.

From this point forward, God used different methods to communicate with man. He spoke to Abram and Sarai through His heavenly servants (Genesis 17:15-19; 18;9-15). God made His covenant with Abram when “the word of the Lord came to him” (Genesis 12:1-2), indicating not by physical but by spiritual means. In other words, God made His voice heard. He worked the same way with Isaac and Jacob as He guided them towards His greater purpose. Moses saw and heard God in a burning bush. But it came with a stern warning to remove his sandals for he was on “holy ground” by being in the presence of God and Moses hid his face in fear (Exodus 3:5-6). As Moses led his people through the desert, God accompanied them in a “pillar of cloud” in the day and a “pillar of fire” by night (Exodus 13:21-22). And as the Law was given to Moses, God set “limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy” for He had “descended to the top of Mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:20-25). The people’s sin set them apart from God. Anyone who attempted to violate this warning would have met their sure and sudden destruction.

In the Temple of the Tabernacle, only one man was allowed entry once a year into the innermost place, or the Holy of Holies. Before the Temple’s destruction, God’s Holy Spirit dwelt there. The High Priest first consecrated himself and atoned for his own sins before he was able to atone for the people’s sins. It is said that a rope would be tied to the High Priest’s waist as a precaution before entering the sanctuary and approaching God. It would enable others to drag the body out if the Priest entered unclean. Sin was so “utterly loathsome” to God that He made the people “feel the width of the separation between a Holy God and an impure sinner.” (Spurgeon, Evening By Evening, September 15). The prophet Isaiah understood this perhaps better than anyone. When God commissioned him to bear the bad news of Judah’s destruction and bring the good news of a future Messiah to the people, he understood the seriousness of being “unclean” in the King’s presence (Isaiah 6:1-7; 7:13-14; Matthew 1:23).

There are many examples of the impenetrable dividing wall that separated man from the intimate fellowship Adam first had with God. But there came a moment in history where the “curtain”, or veil (Exodus 36:8-38) that hid the Lord’s countenance from the people’s eyes was rent and torn (Matthew 27:51), forever removing the barrier of separation between them and their God. From the human perspective, this was no small feat. The curtain in the Holy of Holies has been described as being so large and thick that even a team of horses pulling in opposite directions could not have come close to tearing it in two. Yet it is symbolic of the destruction, the removal of the vast chasm that separated man from God and the divine might and power it took to accomplish it.

Although the first man and woman brought this separation from God by their disobedience and passed it on to us, it was always in God’s plan to restore the intimate communion He once had with man. He would end the hostility between mankind and Himself by doing away with the endless sacrifices for atonement. He would step down from His throne, reveal Himself as a man, and offer Himself as the final sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, breaching the wall that divided His people from His presence and holy communion. Unbeknownst to the Apostles and the people that followed them, God Almighty walked and talked with them. He ate with them. He slept beside them. He prayed with and for them. And He bore a gift that would eventually restore the division and reunite us with our God.

We may have not yet been given physical access back into paradise, but we are now able to approach God without fear. The word “go” has been replaced with a word of encouragement and hope. He calls to every man, woman and child to “come” to Him and promises rest for the soul (Matthew 11:28-30) for He now dwells in the hearts of all believers. Through Jesus Christ we now have full and unlimited access to the Throne of God
. No more hiding my sin. No more fiery separation or division and warning of approach. Just eternal oneness with my Creator and my God. And one day we will reside with Him in glory for He will live among us for all eternity (Revelation 21:3-4).

As the old hymn, “In The Garden,” implies, I look forward to that day when I am able to walk with Him and talk with Him as Adam first did “in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8).
What a blessed day that will be.


Karie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karie said...

Beautifully said Karen. Our Savior's love and suffering for us are truly amazing. And his offer for us to come to him shows his love and compassion, in spite of our falling short so often. I am so happy that we have a love for and devotion to Him in common.