The Curtain Has Been Torn

In the Temple of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus, there were three sections. The larger part that worshipers were able to enter was the outer courts. Then there was a private inner section called the Holy Place where only the priests could enter. Then the inner sanctum called the Holy of Holies, and none but the most holy were allowed to enter. Therefore, only God could dwell there, and a high priest was able to enter once a year on the Day of Atonement after special animal sacrifices and offerings for his own sin an the sin of the people.

Between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place here was a large curtain that separated these two places. The curtain prevented access to the Most Holy Place where the glory of the Lord dwelt.

We see in the very beginning of the Bible (Genesis 3) and mankind’s relationship with God when Adam and Eve sinned, and they lost access to the Most Holy God. They were separated from God, and they were kicked out of the garden where God dwelt.

Ever since then, man has been longing to return to dwelling with God, walking in His presence and fullness like Adam and Eve did before they fell. Only in God’s presence can we find peace and rest. The Temple was the place where God and man could meet, but only by sacrifice could worshipers even enter the Holy Place, the outer courts of the presence of God. They were continually bringing animal sacrifices, over and over and over just to try to earn minimal access to God. It was an exhausting and ineffective way to live, because we know that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

However, God had a plan to end that ineffective system. Christ Himself became our sacrifice, once for all, and His sacrifice opened the way for all of us to be restored in relationship with God. When Jesus died, “there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two (Luke 23:44-45). Jesus didn’t just pull back the curtain, He tore it right down the middle! He permanently opened the way for all of us to access the Most Holy Place, to be in relationship with the Most Holy God.

How do we respond to this powerful and wonderful truth? The writer of Hebrews tells us plainly:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:19-23

Think on this whenever you gather with the people of God. It is only because Christ gave you access to the Most Holy Place by His death that you are able to be in relationship with God and His people. When we lift our hearts in worship to the Lord, we are lifting them into the Most Holy Place, where Christ gave us access directly to the living God. Worship with confidence and joy, knowing that Christ permanently opened the way for you.

Attending to the Word of the Lord

The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus was “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” Christ was tempted the way we are, yet our temptations are never as strong as His. That’s because we give in before they reach their full strength. Then temptation is no longer temptation, it’s sin. The extremes of Christ’s temptations are something we would never experience, because we are too weak. Yet He can sympathize fully with our own struggles with temptations. He is our example of ultimate endurance, and He is our source of comfort and mercy in our time of need. In order to find that comfort, we have to seek to draw near to His heart.

To understand better, let’s examine the wilderness temptation of Christ in Matthew 4. The first part of that temptation was to turn rocks into bread. The miracle itself of turning rocks to bread wasn’t the sin that Satan was tempting Christ to. It’s the trust in bread to fill Christ’s hunger that was the temptation. Jesus had to resist the temptation to believe that the bread itself was His greatest need, and we have to resist the same temptation. Humans are amazing at taking the most mundane things and believing they are of the utmost importance. But Jesus reminds us that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The question is, are you present as you are hearing the Word of the Lord? Are you paying attention? It’s easy to live the church life and ignore the reading of Scripture, and we forget that the Creator of all things is lovingly speaking directly to us. Don’t get distracted, don’t zone out, don’t forget where life actually comes from.

It is an awesome responsibility to sit in the pews of the House of the Lord and have the King of kings and Lord of lords speak directly to our hearts and offer us His salvation. What a privilege that we don’t have to go to great lengths to search for the Word of the Lord. He gives it directly to us! What a gift! Don’t lose sight of how precious that is!

God makes His Word accessible and present to us. Pay attention!