Indeed, God revealed His character in many and various ways in the Old Testament, not the least of which was through the building of the Tabernacle (Ex 25:8-9). This tabernacle was to symbolize and represent God’s dwelling place in the wilderness and as such had to be built according to divine pattern. Moses, who was told to construct the tabernacle, could not deviate from or change God’s instructions about the building. If Moses changed the blueprints he would give people the wrong impression of the very character of God. Every board had to be accurately cut, every color made exact and every detail done to precision.
This tabernacle, then, was to have three areas, the outer court, the holy place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies is where God’s presence was manifest and it is crucial to note that no one could just glibly walk into that area and approach God any old way he felt like it.
God designated how He could be approached in the Holy of Holies and every other way of approach was an outrage. You didn’t just breeze in and talk flippantly to Him as so many think they can today. He was not then and is not today, “The man above” or ‘The man upstairs’. He is still the Holy God, the Sovereign Lord and Governor of the Universe. While it is true the Holy Spirit will cause the believer to relate to Him as, ‘Abba Father’, we should never forget that we are approaching a King who sits upon a majestic Throne and is awesome in holiness.
Furthermore, God, at the Tabernacle, revealed exactly how He was to be approached. The Israelites were to meet with God’s anointed priest at the entrance to the Tabernacle and bring a sacrifice. There then was a long and involved process which we won’t go into here, but suffice it to say that every detail was ordered by the Lord. Then once a year the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies, to the very presence of God, for the purpose of making atonement for his sins and the sins of the nation. No one else could go in with him. He had to go alone, into the Holy of Holies, taking the blood of an innocent animal sacrifice to appease the holy wrath of a Pure and Righteous God.
THE MERCY SEAT
Inside the Holy of Holies was a remarkable piece of furniture, The Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the tablets of the law, Aaron’s rod and manna. Its lid, made of pure gold, was called the Mercy Seat or the propitiatory covering (that is were we get our word propitiation). Each year the blood of sacrifice was taken into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled, by the High Priest, on the lid, The Mercy Seat. God had been ‘offended’ by His people’s sins and that offense had to be taken away. It was not enough to merely remove the sins or merely cover them —-the very offense of sin had to be done away with. But more on that later!
A BLOOD STAINED RELIGION
It is so important to remember that all approaches to God were made by blood. There was, in those days, no hope of drawing near to God apart from the sprinkling of blood. So today, our only way to God is by the awesome sacrifice of Christ made with His own blood. As in Old Testament times, so today, there is only one approach to God. It is the way God has ordained and every other way is an offense.
Christianity is a blood-stained religion. From Genesis through to John’s Gospel there’s a trail of blood culminating in a blood-stained cross. That is why the heart of New Testament teaching is built around the Savior’s declaration in John 14:6, “I am the way.” Christ is the only way for He and He alone poured out His blood for the sinner and intercepted the wrath of God on the sinner’s behalf. Peter takes this up in Acts 4:12 and proclaims, “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” There is no other name, for Heaven has given no other substitute and no other blood can appease the holy and righteous God.