31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it.
32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver.
33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.
34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.

For the average Jew, it was a place of mystery. They might hear descriptions of the tabernacle’s inner rooms, but they couldn’t see for themselves. Only the priests entered the Holy Place, and only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place. If the high priest wanted to look at and enjoy the beauty that had gone into constructing the room and the elements within it, even he had a limited time to take it all in, because he was only allowed to enter once a year.

It’s not that God was stand-offish back in the Old Testament. Rather, the tabernacle was a reflection of how stand-offish sin is in light of God’s holiness. Sinful people couldn’t get near the holiness of God. The high priests themselves were only deigned allowable in His presence under very strict and certain circumstances involving ritual cleansing and personal sacrifices. But for the rest of the community, a veil stood between them and the mercy seat of God.

Are you getting the picture? The sacrifice of Christ was an absolute necessity for humankind to be restored into right, unhindered fellowship with God. Without Jesus’ once-and-for-all sacrifice on our behalf, God’s presence, and largely His mercy, would remain a great, intangible mystery. The old covenant stood in stark contrast to the new covenant given to us through Jesus Christ for great purpose. It helps us to see why we so desperately need Jesus, and once we have trusted in Him it is a gratitude-inducing reminder of the enormous blessings we possess in Him.

• Why do you think God would command such ornate furnishings be made for a room most Israelites would never enter?

• What religious attitudes or rituals do you find yourself sometimes leaning on to “keep you right with God”? Why do you think we, recipients of the new covenant and able to enter God’s presence freely in Christ, still tend to do this?

• Praise God for doing everything necessary to bring you into fellowship with Him, revealing to you a relationship that, before Jesus, was largely an unknowable mystery. Thank God for the once-and-for-all sacrifice that has cleansed your conscience and allowed you to live fully for Him.