“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
This painting was one of the best “accidents” that has ever happened to me. I was doing some sketches about the presence of God and it just sort of happened without me planning it.
(All of the following is recorded in Exodus 25-26). In the days before Jesus came, the Jews worshiped God at the temple in Jerusalem. Within the temple was a 4.5m (15 ft) cubical room called “The Most Holy Place.” Separating this room from another room (“The Holy Place”) was a curtain. Within the Most Holy Place lay the Ark of the Covenant, a chest overlaid with gold which held the Ten Commandments (God’s Law to the people of Israel). On top of the ark was “the atonement cover” (or “the mercy seat”). It had two cherubim (angelic beings) at either end and it was made of pure gold. The foreground of this painting is a close up view of the atonement cover.
It was there, above the atonement cover and between the cherubim that God’s presence dwelt (1 Samuel 4:4). It was there God also met and spoke with his mediator (Exodus 25:22, Numbers 7:89). Not just anyone could come into God’s presence and meet with him though. In fact, because of God’s perfect holiness, only the high priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place and that only once a year. Furthermore, he could only enter in if he carried the blood of an animal sacrifices to atone for his sins and for the sins of the people. In addition, the smoke of holy incense had to fill the room in order to shield the eyes of the high priest lest he see it and die (Leviticus 16).
The common people could never come into the presence of God. They could only “experience God” afar off through the priests who mediated for them.
However, when Jesus shed his blood on the cross to atone for our sins something amazing happened, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). God ripped the curtain that shielded the Most Holy Place from top to bottom, symbolizing that now, all people who put their faith in the atoning blood of Christ can be cleansed of their sins and have direct access into the presence of God with Jesus as their eternal mediator (Hebrews 7:25). Believers in Christ have no need for a priest or any other intermediary because “…when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins [his death on the cross], he sat down at the right hand of God…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:12-13)
Because of Jesus, we can all have a close and personal relationship with God. Hallelujah! All we need to do is ask him to forgive us of our sins and put our faith in his atoning blood to cleanse us. (See “Message” and “The Gospel Series”.)
The rest of this painting shows a believer who is walking into the Most Holy Place directly into the presence of God by the blood of Jesus. Compositionally, we find him in the place directly above the atonement cover and between the cherubim, that is, in the very presence of God himself.
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