Lesson Number 13
A NEW APPROACH TO GOD
Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. And behind the second veil, there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant. And above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail. Now when these things have been thus prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle, performing the divine worship, but into the second only the high priest enters, once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:1-10, NASB).
There is a remarkable tendency in mankind to be satisfied with introductory religion--a type of service to God that never really enters into His Presence. To stay on the surface is satisfying to the shallow soul, but not to the one desiring to dwell in the courts of the Lord. The phenomenal success of religion that does not require the heart, soul, mind, and strength of the people is staggering. Froth and foam are appropriate descriptions of the preponderance of popular religion. As with the waves of the sea, of course, froth and foam are present on the surface. They are unstable, changing, and shifting. It is as though the "old serpent" had foisted upon lethargic spirits a form of religion that accomplishes very little, yet salves the conscience. The Spirit calls this a "form of godliness that denies the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5).
You will not find this type of approach to God in the book of Hebrews. Our hearts and minds are summoned into the arena of holy contemplation as the Holy Spirit seeks to establish us in the faith. You will not find extensive dialog about the affairs of this life, or problems related to domestic, political, and sociological life. Of course, this is also true of the rest of "the Apostles' doctrine." The Person of Christ is the heart of this book, and the nature of the New Covenant its thrust. Here God shows us not only the way to spiritual stability, but the Divine commitment to underwrite the good fight of faith.
There are at least three glorious dimensions to God's "great salvation." First, it extricates us from sin, delivering us from confinement to the realm of the curse. Second, it also removes the personal contamination and defilement caused by sin, washing us from our transgressions. Third, it provides the means of remaining pure and clean in order to continually and confidently come before God. The latter provision is the emphasis of the book of Hebrews. This volume assumes people are "in Christ," that they have been baptized into Christ (their bodies "washed with pure water," 10:22). The assumption is that the faith has already been embraced. The maintenance of that faith is now the issue. This is seen in the following phrases of exhortation. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation . . . But Christ as a Son over His own house; Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end . . . For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end . . . For if we sin wilfully AFTER that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins . . . See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven" (2:3; 3:6,14; 10:26; 12:25).
Here is a very neglected area in contemporary religion. People are too often left in the outer court, remaining at a practical distance from God. In this position, they are not as sensitive to God as salvation allows. They are not as wise concerning the devil's devices as salvation provides. They are not as active in the Lord's vineyard as salvation requires. For all practical purposes, they are like a priest of the tabernacle remaining in the outer court never going into the holy place to actually serve the Lord, not going into the most holy place for communion with the Lord of hosts. Such a priest would have been ineffectual and pointless. The outer court was a place of preparation. It was never meant to be the place of perpetual service or of communion.
I would once again remind you that the outer court was left out of the measurement accomplished in John's vision of the ages. John was directed by a holy angel to "measure" certain things. He was to put them to the test, seeing if they were acceptable to God. The words of this angel are arresting. "Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles" (11:1-2). Corruption had entered the church. The time had come to test its substance by the Divine standard. Three items were to be measured: (1) the temple of God, (2) the altar, and (3) those who worship there. The "temple of God" is the people of God (1 Cor 3:16-17). The "altar" is the means of reconciliation and approach to God--a means which also sustains the soul (Heb 13:10). Those "who worship there" are the individuals claiming identity with God (John 4:23; Heb 10:2). John is here commissioned to test the validity of the professed church, the means by which they seek to approach God, and the individuals that wear His name. All are subject to Divine examination.
The instruction to John, however, did not end here. There was one aspect of religion which he was not to measure or test. It had to do with religion--professed allegiance to Christ--but God would have nothing to do with it. "But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles" (Rev 11:2). The approach to God had become an area dominated by those who were ignorant of God--"Gentiles which know not God" (1 Thess 4:5). If you are even casually familiar with the sectarian "Christian" world, you know of the remarkable diversity of approaches to God. They range from filling out a card and shaking a religious leaders hand, to praying the "sinners prayer," agonizing at an altar, or repeating a pray constructed by some man. People are encouraged to come to God through a sort of human mediator, upon the basis of their own works, or by subscribing to a humanly-devised ritual or liturgy. The "outer court," or approach to God, has been defiled!
Of the outer court, God says "LEAVE IT OUT, and MEASURE IT NOT!" This is NOT the area of emphasis for the man of God! Men may disagree with the assessment, but it is still there! To be sure, this area will eventually be measured by God, for He will be justified in "all of His sayings" (Rom 3:4). When dealing with alien sinners, the way of initial approach to God must be declared. But when it comes to speaking to the people of God, the outer court is not the message! Dwelling there is disastrous, for it is a place occupied by many who know not God and have no part in the inheritance. In the case of John the revelator, he gave Christ's message to the churches. Thus, he was told to refrain from measuring the outer court.
Your familiarity with the book of Hebrews will confirm the absence of any reference to the outer court. It is "left out." The "altar" is mentioned (Heb 7:13; 13:10), but not the outer court. The "laver" is not mentioned, although an illusion is made to the washing that occurred there (Heb 10:22). This is not a book outlining our initial approach to God! It is written to those that have been reconciled to God, and have passed the outer court. It delineates the provisions of the New Covenant, which are designed to bring us "within the veil," into communion with the living God, through Jesus Christ His Son, and by the Holy Spirit. THE NEW COVENANT IS DESIGNED TO ACHIEVE THIS OBJECTIVE. The book of Hebrews, in particular, addresses this matter with great power. It declares that God has made provision for His people to come near. It also affirms the unquestionable danger and jeopardy associated with remaining at a distance from God.
To bring this point home to Jewish believers, the Spirit appeals to the tabernacle of old. The primary purpose of this portable structure was not to provide a routine for Israel, although that was accomplished. In its design, God mirrored the realities that would be accomplished within the New Covenant. It was a sort of projection of the approach to God that would be realized under the New Covenant. The picture is precise, and remarkably detailed. We do well to consider it. The Israelites were custodians of this shadow, but it extended beyond them.
REGULATIONS OF DIVINE SERVICE
The heart of the Old Covenant was found in the Tabernacle. There is where the covenantal provisions took place. There is where effective the offerings were made, the washings were accomplished, and the service was accomplished. If the priest was to serve God effectively, he could not do so outside of the confines of the tabernacle provisions. Here is where the effective work was accomplished. Here is where the atonement was made. Here is where Divine judgment and direction were revealed. Here is where atonement was made.
"Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship . " Remember, the purpose for the regulations was the depiction of heavenly realities. They were not an end of themselves. Neither, indeed, were they an affirmation of the need for "regulations [ordinances, KJV] of divine worship" under Jesus Christ. These regulations, or ceremonial ordinances, were for the body, not the soul. They were peculiarly adapted for individuals that were NOT reconciled to God, and had not been born again. They were enactments of principles designed to prepare the way for the coming Savior of the world.
Note, men approached to God by procedure--lifeless procedure. However, that procedure, being duly ordained of God, was a precise depiction of the approach to God. It was similar to a stained glass window. Viewed from without, it was flat and dull. However, viewed from within, it obtains inexplicable beauty and meaning as the light shines through it. Thus the Spirit takes us within the redemptive purpose of God, and from that vantage point, He will view the ordinances of the Old Covenant. Just as a stained glass window is not an end of itself, but the image therein portrayed, so it was with the Old Covenant. The imagery seen therein is the point--imagery that points to Christ Jesus.
Notice, DIVINE service or worship is the point! The service of God, not man, is the issue. Approaching the Lord God takes the precedence in this text, particularly regarding service rendered to Him. The word translated service is latreiaj (latreias), which means "religious service based in worship . . . service of God." This is an important concept. There is an aspect of religion that involves service to man. It is covered by the second table of the Law, and is summarized in the second summary, and subordinate, commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." This is NOT the subject under consideration here. We are dealing exclusively with coming to and serving the Lord God. Throughout the Law, and in Christ Jesus, this emphasis is maintained. God first, man second. Service to God first, service to man second. The Spirit here elevates the aspect of the Law dealing with approaching to and serving God above everything else.
We are going to behold things in the Old Covenant procedures that were not seen by men of former generations. The ceremonial law will be seen as a precise prelude to the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. We will see that if men do not come to God, nothing else really matters. The whole point of both covenants was to bring men to God. Under the First Covenant, the coming was typical. Under New Covenant it is in reality. Under the Old Covenant is was external. Under the New Covenant it is internalized.
There is a valid approach to God. It is both precise and effective. It is not haphazard, nor is it left to the whims of men. Human opinion is not only invalid in this matter, it is unlawful. The approach MUST be instituted by God Himself, down to the most meticulous required detail. The approach must address the matter of atonement, as foreshadowed in the brazen altar. It must also provide for cleansing, as typified by the laver of washing. There must be a place for service, isolated from the world, and a place for communion. The approach must provide for continual illumination, and regular sustenance for the individual.
AN EARTHLY SANCTUARY
Because the First Covenant was basically a fleshly one, the sanctuary, or place of service, was an earthly one. It was seen, and it was tangible. It was also constructed by men, precisely constructed according to a revealed pattern."Now even the first covenant had . . . the earthly sanctuary." A "sanctuary" is a holy place; an area where God alone is served. Such a place is not multi-purpose. Activities not performed unto God are not allowed in this place--it is a sanctuary. Here is where God is approached. It is where the consciousness of God dominates. The "sanctuary" is a place dedicated to God, and consecrated to His service. God is the ONLY reason for the "sanctuary." Without Him, there is no purpose for such a dwelling.
Let no one suppose that the New Covenant has an "earthly" or "worldly sanctuary." Men may use the term "sanctuary" loosely, but the Holy Spirit does not. Remember, the "sanctuary" of the Old Covenant was part of the "pattern" which served as "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (Heb 8:5). It answered to several expressions found in the Psalms. Here was a place of protection, where the oppressed could hide. "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall he hide me" (Psa 27:5). An acute awareness of God was associated with the hiding place. "Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues" (Psa 31:20). Here is where the heart of David resided, and where he longed to be--in the presence of the Lord. " . . . I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Psa 23:6). "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple" (Psa 27:4). "Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God" (Psa 92;13). "For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psa 84:10).
There is a place where God dominates the consciousness, where His favor is known, and His grace is experienced. It is a place from which Satan has been expelled, and to which he has no access at all (Rev 12:7-9). Righteousness, peace, and joy are known in this place (Rom 15:13). Here life is lived "unto the Lord," self is "denied," and "victory" is experienced (Rom 6:11,13; 14:8; Matt 16:24; Gal 5:24; 1 John 5:4- 5). This was foreshadowed by the tabernacle of old--a "worldly" or "earthly sanctuary." A brief review of this "worldly sanctuary" will confirm the precision of the type.
First, it had a crude outward appearance. It was covered with "badgers' skins" (Ex 26:14). No gold adorned the exterior or the tabernacle, no silver, no costly stones. The beautiful tapestry was all within, hidden from the eyes of those outside of the tabernacle. So it is with the true habitation of God. From without, men count it unworthy of their effort. It does not appear to be worth the forfeiture of all competing influences. That is why men do not sell all, as it were, to obtain it.
Second, it was beautiful within. Although crude on the outside, it was marked by unparalleled beauty within. The curtains that formed the walls of the tabernacle were comprised of ten curtains "of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of cunning work" (Ex 26:1). These curtains were coupled together with 50 taches of gold (Ex 26:6). 50 bronze clasps were used to put the tabernacle together (26:11). The sides of the tabernacle were constructed of boards of acacia wood. These boards were overlaid with gold, and joined with silver sockets (Ex 36). The veil separating the holiest place from the holy place was made "blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen: with cherubim made he it of cunning work" 36:24). Pillars of acacia wood were constructed over which to hang the curtains. These pillars were also overlaid with pure gold (36:36-38). Infinitely more detail is provided in the "pattern" than this. This will suffice to confirm the absolute beauty and worthy of the interior of the tabernacle.
Third, angelic figures were prominent within the tabernacle. Upon the curtains around the interior of the tabernacle were "cherubim of cunning work" (26:1,31; 36:8,35). Our first exposure to cherubim is in the Garden of Eden. There, representatives from this holy number guarded the way to the tree of life, prohibiting any mortal from gaining access to it. The next mentioning of cherubim is in the book of exodus, where representations of them adorned the interior of the tabernacle. This was a marvelous depiction of the angelic hosts that minister in the behalf of the heirs of salvation (Heb 1:13-14). It also foreshadowed the fellowship with them that is enjoyed in Christ Jesus. We have, after all, come into the presence of myriads of angels in joyful assembly (Heb 12:22).
Fourth, there was a division between the place of service, or worship, and actual communion. There were two compartments within the tabernacle. One was for service, and was called "the holy place," and the other "the most holy" (Ex 26:33-34). Work was done in one section, while communication and representation were accomplished in the other. A veil separated these compartments. The "most holy place" was precisely that--"MOST holy." It was superior to the "holy place." The activity that took place in the "most holy" validated the remaining activity. Here was a marvelously precise picture of the superiority of Divine fellowship--a fellowship into which we have been called by the grace of God (1 Cor 1:9).
In summary, the "earthly sanctuary" acquainted men with the approachableness of God! That approach was limited in every way under the First Covenant. It was limited in regard to WHO could approach. It was limited respecting WHEN they could approach. The condition of the people did not allow the approach to be opened to all. But the thought was presented, and that with remarkable precision. God was showing men that once He was satisfied, He would be fully approachable by those in His covenant! Glory to God! We are living in the day of approach, when the Lord cries out "Come unto Me!" Matt 11:28; John 7:37; Heb 7:19; James 4:8). There is no justifiable reason for standing aloof from God--for failing to come confidently to Him. The way has been provided and sanctified! Let the people of God arise and go to their Father!
THE HOLY PLACE
The Spirit now elaborates upon the particulars of the tabernacle. Remember, it is the revealed pattern of heavenly realities. "For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place." The term "outer one" refers to the "holy place." When you entered the tabernacle, this was the immediate room. It was, in a sense, the vestibule to the "most holy," or "holiest of all." The Lord isolates the things upon which He wants us to think.
In this "holy place," a remarkable light existed. It was not a single candle, but a multifaceted light--a "lampstand." Scripture apprizes us it was constructed of a single piece of pure gold, and was as unusual piece of craftsmanship. It has a branch of support called a "shaft." Three independent branches were found on each side of this branch, allowing for seven lights in all. Bowls for containing pure oil from beaten olives was on each of the six branches. Each bowl was to be "shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms" (NIV). Four additional cups were to be shaped "on the lampstand," also "shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms." Three of the "cups" were to be positioned under three pairs of the six branches. The instructions are precise. "The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold." Seven lamps were to be mounted on the lampstand to shed light before it. Wick trimmers and trays of pure gold were also to be made for the golden lampstand. The amount of gold used to construct the lampstand and associated articles was one talent, or 75 pounds (Ex 25:31-39). Further, God enjoined Moses, "See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
Here are several things to be seen in this shadow. First, it depicted the value of illumination, or spiritual understanding. How precious the knowledge and wisdom that comes from God! Second, it was found in the "holy place," apart from the world. The golden lampstand was not used for light outside the tabernacle. It was to stay in the dedicated place, and was not available to anyone outside those confines. So it is that Christ is made unto us "wisdom"--it cannot be found outside of Him (1 Cor 1:30). Too, the comprehension of God is found alone "in the face of Christ Jesus," Who Himself is the antitype of the lampstand (2 Cor 4:6).
Third, illumination from God, called "spiritual understanding" (Col 1:9), has a common source and objective. It is not divided, but is marked by the most precise oneness. That is why "truth" is always found in the singular, as well as "doctrine," when applied to the teaching of God (John 1:17; 8:32; 14:6; Gal 3:1; Eph 4:15,21; 2 Thess 2:10; 2 Tim 2:18; Acts 2:42; 13:12; Rom 6:17; 1 Tim 1:10; 4:16; Tit 2:1,7; 2 John 9). It is true that the NIV uses the word "truths" four times (1 Cor 2:13; 1 Tim 3:9; 4:6; Heb 5:12). The only time "doctrines" is used by the Spirit, it has reference to invalid teachings. We read of the "doctrines and commandments of men" (Matt 15:9; Mark 7:7), the "doctrines of men" (Col 2:22), "doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1), and "strange doctrines" (Heb 13:9).
The word consistently used for "truth" (alhqeij) is not used in any of those texts. The first text (1 Cor 2:13), uses the word logoij (logos), which is properly translated "words." The second text (1 Tim 3:9), uses the word musthrion (musterion), which is properly translated "mystery" or "secret." The third text (1 Tim 4:6), again uses the word logoij (logos). The fourth text (Heb 5:12), uses the word logiwn (logion), which means "oracles, sayings, or message." Truth is a single body of interrelated realities. It has a single focus, and comes from a single source. It is only effective in one arena, and brings true understanding. How perfectly the truth of God is seen in the golden lampstand!
The Table and the Sacred Bread
Within the "holy place," there was a table made of acacia wood, and overlaid with pure gold. It also had a number of utensils made of pure gold (Ex 37:10-16). Twelve loaves of unleavened bread were placed upon this table, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.. They were to be fresh every Sabbath, and were presented "before the Lord." The older bread was eaten by the priests. Whatever was left was burned with incense as an offering to the Lord (Lev 24:5-9). Bread, placed before God as a reminder of His people-- bread that was consumed by the priests, and was ALWAYS before the Lord.
Here is a most lovely picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is "the Bread of God" (John 6:33). He also is continually before the Lord as a Reminder of the people of God. As Representative, He always lives "to make intercession for us" (Heb 7:25). But Jesus is also for our consumption. The heavenly Bread must be eaten during the "rest" of faith! After all, we which believe "do enter into rest" (Heb 4:3). There is no question about the Bread God has provided it is to be eaten if eternal life is to be possessed. "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:50-51). Mark it well, the Bread of God is eaten in the holy place, and during the rest of faith. How precisely the pattern speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ! You cannot partake of Christ in the outer court! You must come into the Holy Place to derive nourishment and benefit from Him!
BEYOND THE VEIL
One of the unique marks of the New Covenant is that is goes further than anything before it. At every part of the Old Covenant there was limitation. The non-priestly people could not enter the tabernacle. Those who were priests could have no blemishes or physical handicaps. The High Priest could only enter the Holiest Place once a year, and he could not enter without blood. The limitation is summarized by this phrase, "And behind the second veil, there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies." Not even the High Priest could go "beyond the veil," except at the appointed time--once a year.
Not only could this sacred cubicle not be entered, it could not be seen. The veil was thick--so thick it hung as a impenetrable barrier to both vision and entrance. The things "beyond the veil" could not be touched. They could not be handled. They could not be seen. They were out of reach and unlawful, except at the appointed time. Even then, no entry privileges were extended to the people, regardless of the disciplined manner in which they had conducted their lives. No curious glimpses were permitted. No parting of the veil! The veil stood as a barrier to the unqualified and the untimely.
This was the veil that was violently torn from the top to the bottom when Jesus poured out His soul unto death. The language that depicts this event is unmistakably awe-inspiring. As it is written, "Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised" (Matt 27:51-52, NKJV). Mark wrote, "And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mark 15:37-38). Luke wrote, "Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.' Having said this, He breathed His last" (Luke 23:44-46, NKJV). Each of the Gospel writers provides a key insight. Matthew accentuates the triumph of the hour, with graves being opened and many bodies of the saints being raised. Mark emphasizes the culmination of Divine purpose by mentioning Jesus crying out and breathing His last. Luke underscores the precision of the moment by mentioning the reign of darkness during the cursing of Jesus, and Christ's committal of Himself to God. The Revised Version has the technically most accurate rendering, i.e., "the sun's light failed." The NIV says, "the sun stopped shining." This was not an eclipse, but a convulsion of nature as the curse of the Almighty fell upon His "only begotten Son."
But in all three accounts, the most significant event appears to be the tearing of the thick temple veil. What occurred at this time is so marvelous human speech fails to adequately describe it. Prior to the death of Christ, not only were men forbidden to eat from the tree of life, they could not enter into the immediate presence of the Lord. The imagery of the tabernacle precisely depicted the condition. There was an impenetrable barrier between the Almighty and His offspring that would not allow the intimacy between them God desired. Human initiative was to no avail to go beyond this veil. Should one venture to do so, he would pay with his life.
This stood for the human condition--the impact sin had upon our race. Even the chosen people were forbidden to enter into the presence of the Lord. The Levitical priests, with all of their privileges, could not do so. The High Priest, chosen by God, could only do so once every 8,736 hours--or once a year! Even in the hour of crisis, the High priest could not make an emergency entrance into the Most Holy Place. There was an appointed veil that kept him from entering, and the irrevocable law of God to keep him from presuming to do so. Sin had blocked the way to heaven, locked the gate, and threw a shroud of hopelessness over the human race! Men were separated from the Living God!!
But when Jesus died, the arm of the Lord was revealed, Satan frustrated, and the gates of death torn off their hinges! The veil was not torn from the bottom up, as though it were accomplished by humanity. It was not torn in two AFTER Jesus rose from the dead, so it could be accomplished by Him personally. It was violently ripped in two from the top. It is as though God took hold of the veil and tore it asunder in an expression of Divine joy. Matthew and Mark state the veil was torn from "top to bottom," while Luke simply states it was "torn in two." However, the point in all three is that it was an act of God Himself. Because of the vicarious atonement of Jesus, God refused to leave a barrier between Himself and the needy ones! He removed it so "whosoever will" may come, and "take of the water of life freely" (Rev 22:17).
Later in this book, this "veil" is identified with Christ's "flesh." "Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh . . . let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of . . . " (Heb 10:19-22, NASB). For some, this is a difficult text, but it need not be so. Simply put, when Christ's "flesh" was taken from us, we gained access to God. When He left here, we were enabled to go there! His bodily presence, in a way, confirmed the inaccessibility of God. As long as He was here, those closest to Him were unable to decipher the mysteries of the Kingdom. They did not see Him as He really was. But when He died, and was exalted to the right hand of God, the redeemed gained something vision could not give them! They gained access to God, and it erupted in powerful and insightful proclamations, boldness, and a willingness to lay down their lives for their Savior!
Now, there is no more barrier, no more cyclical approaches, no more lengthy periods when God cannot be accessed. The veil has been ripped in two, from God to us! No more coercive fear in His presence, no more fearful ritual, no more exclusion from His presence! The veil has been torn in two, from God's throne to our humble surroundings! God took the initiative, confirming He is satisfied.
THE MERCY SEAT
Within the Most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant. It stood as a token of God's commitment to Israel because of the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But the ark itself was not the primary unit. It is what covered it that was the basis of acceptance. "And above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail." The "pattern" revealed to Moses in the Mount specified that the cherubim were to face each other, looking down at the mercy seat. Their wings were to spread upward, covering the mercy seat (Ex 25:19-20). Peter refers to this imagery when speaking of the great salvation we enjoy in Christ Jesus. "It was revealed to them [ the prophets of old] that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look" (1 Pet 1:12). It is shameful that the salvation prepared for all peoples has not engaged the attention of those for whom it is designed, as much as the holy angels, for whom it was NOT prepared. Perhaps one reason for this lamentable situation is that men do not look more intently upon the seat of mercy. There is far too little talk about the grace of God these days. Consequently, grace has not impacted the lives of men as it could.
One of the hallmarks of the New Covenant is its accentuation of mercy. As it is written, "FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE" (Heb 8:12). Over the Law, there is mercy. It stands as a mighty sentinel above demands of the Law. It is the reason for Divine guidance, as well as Divine sustenance. It is a deep repository of goodness that has been opened for sin and uncleanness. Oh, that men were more enamored of grace and mercy than of procedure. They would sooner do the works of God if they could only see His mercy! Let them emulate the holy cherubim, who are depicted as peering into the covenantal ark! The imagery is so rich, the Spirit cannot open the vastness of its goodness to us now. Suffice it to say, the mercy and grace of God are the dominating consideration in the Holiest Place. That represents closeness to the Lord, and access to His abundant goodness.
PERFORMING DIVINE WORSHIP
The "outer tabernacle," or "holy place," was the place of service. Thus it is written, "Now when these things have been thus prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle, performing the Divine worship." Oh, what a word it this: "PERFORMING the Divine worship." The KJV says "accomplishing the service of God." The RSV captures the sense of the text: "performing their ritual duties." This was not an activity of the heart, or of discernment. It was a routine--a revealed routine. It was accomplished at a prescribed time, in a prescribed manner, and by a prescribed person. The activity prefigured an effective ministry that was to be accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The "Divine worship," or "service of God," did not take away sin, cleanse the conscience, or bring people into intimacy with God. It was a procedure--a lifeless procedure. If we look at it closely, we will see a prefigurement of the New Covenant. From evening until morning Aaron and his sons tended the Holy Place, keeping it in order(Ex 27:21). They took care of it much like Adam and Eve were to take care of the Garden. They burned incense every morning, when they trimmed the lamps. Likewise, every evening, when Aaron again trimmed the lamps, he burned incense. It was the role of the priests to keep a "perpetual incense before the Lord throughout all their generations" (Ex 30:7-8). A constant sweet fragrance was to emit from the Holy Place. Constant illumination, and perpetual fragrance were accomplished through a ritual--a "carnal ordinance."
Here is a most wonderful picture of things associated with the New Covenant. First, because of the atonement of Christ, there is a continual sweet fragrance before the Throne of God. Anything and anyone associated with the Son of God appropriates this sweet fragrance, becoming well pleasing to God. The condition is reminiscent of Noah's sacrifice following the flood. "Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, 'I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done'" (Gen 8:20-21). This was a faint reflection of the effect of Christ's substitutionary death. Too, the burnt offerings made under the Law were said to send forth "a soothing aroma before the LORD" (Ex 29:18,25,41; Lev 1:9,13,17, etc.). All of this was a shadow of the sacrifice of Christ. The factor that made them pleasant to the Lord was not the offering itself, but that it pointed to the ultimate sacrifice for sin. This "soothing aroma," or "sweet savor" (KJV) is mentioned 36 times in Leviticus and Numbers.
The difference between the soothing aroma of the sin offerings and that of the incense in the Holy Place is significant. The fragrance in the Holy Place was perpetual, the fragrance of the burnt offerings were according to times and seasons. This more perfectly depicted the nature of the New Covenant. Christ's presence at the right hand of God guarantees a continual sweet savor. God is never displeased with His Son-- never dissatisfied with His atonement--always delighting in what He accomplished in behalf of lost humanity. He will never dishonor the Son by rejecting those who cleave to Him with purpose of heart. He will always forgive those in the Son who confess their sins to Him. Because of the continual fragrance of Christ's atoning sacrifice, God is both "just and Justifier" of him that believes in Jesus (Rom 3:24-26).
Satan seeks to rob the saint of this awareness. If he cannot lure them into the indulgence of the lusts of the flesh, he will tempt them with the notion they can earn His favor. If he can provoke a believer to depart from the faith, that individual has also departed from the fragrance. Out of Christ men occupy an area in which God CANNOT BE PLEASED. In Christ Jesus, we are where God CANNOT BE DISPLASED. Our responsibility is to "abide" in Him! No effort must be spared in this endeavor. Every competing influence must be subdued.
ONLY THE HIGH PRIEST
Those who imagine themselves capable of pleasing God on their own must look more closely at the shadow found in the Levitical law. However notably the priests performed in the Holy Place, it was ONLY the High Priest that could enter into the Holiest of all. "But into the second ONLY the high priest enters, once a year, not without taking blood . . . " Here was a function no person could take upon himself. ONLY the High Priest, and only once a year. No amount of noble activity could qualify one to enter the Holiest of all. Entrance was by appointment--an appointed individual at an appointed time, and for an appointed purpose.
This signified the entrance of Jesus into heaven itself to begin His ministry in behalf of His people. He was God's appointed Representative. He entered the world at God's appointed time (Gal 4:4). He died at an appointed time, and in an appointed way (Matt 26:18; Acts 2:23). He was raised from the dead at an appointed time (Matt 16:21; Acts 10:40; 1 Cor 15:4). He is now our appointed High Priest at the right hand of God (Heb 3:2; 5:5-6).
Just as the blood of the sin offering had to be brought inside the veil, so Christ's blood had to be taken into heaven itself. As it is written, "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb 9:12). He suffered "outside the gate" in order that He might "sanctify the people with His own blood" (Heb 13:12). Jesus suffered "outside the gate," or outside the confines of the city, Jerusalem. This circumstance fulfilled the type introduced by the Law. The body of the sin offering for the congregation was burned "outside the camp" (Lev 4:21). In Christ's case, He died apart from fellowship with man or God. He was alone, in every sense of the word.
However, that is not where the atonement was made. Jesus had to enter heaven for us to receive the merits of His sacrifice. The effectiveness of His death takes place in heaven, where the offended One resides. John saw the effectiveness of Christ's present ministry when he was on the Isle of Patmos. He beheld the exalted Savior as "a Lamb as it had been slain" (Rev 5:6). The Lamb was alive, but bore the marks of a newly, or freshly, killed Lamb. The intention of this imagery is to show the effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice. It is not treated as an historical occurrence in heaven! The merit of Christ's death is as fresh today as the day He entered heaven "with His own blood." God recognizes and delights in that death because it has allowed Him to justly confer righteousness upon all who come to Him through that Lamb. The closer you get to heaven in your thinking, the more convinced you become of the effectiveness of the death and intercession of Jesus Christ!
The earthly priesthood reflected the heavenly one, but not precisely. The purpose of the earthly High priest's activity was to ensure the people were not destroyed. The purpose for Christ's activity is to ensure we are brought to glory. A reconciliation of the enemies has now occurred, effectualizing His ministry. How marvelous that we have been made accepted in the Beloved ! Draw near and enjoy communion with Him!
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS SIGNIFYING
The Spirit of truth IS making a point in this matter. Note, it does not say He HAS signified something, but that He IS SIGNIFYING! After all, the Word of God is living and powerful. It is historical, to be sure, but it is infinitely more than that! The writings of Moses are also historical, but they do not have the power of the Gospel! It is ever true, and we do well not to forget it, "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (2 Cor 3:6). And what is the Holy Spirit signifying to us? "The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing."
Oh, what a truth is found here! From the viewpoint of Israel of old, as long as the tabernacle stood, the veil at the entrance of it kept the people from entering the holy place. The veil between the Holy Place and the Holiest kept the priests from entering the Most Holy Place. This was a withholding covenant--a prohibitive one. It was noted more for what the people could NOT do than for what they could so.
But there is more to the text than this. As long as the outer, or temporal, tabernacle stood, the way into the real holy place remained obscure. Commitment to the type withheld the glory of the substance! The real way to God was not known! It was not until Christ that the "Way" became clear. It is He that inaugurated a "new and living way," sanctifying it for us (Heb 10:20). It is the Gospel of Christ that brings "life and immortality to light," formerly hidden to the most holy of men (1 Tim 1:10). Blessed are those who see!
It is not that the saints of old had no access to God, and that is not the intent of the passage. The way was not FULLY revealed to them. It lay hidden in obscure prophecies, types, shadows, and sacrifices. Occasionally some one would catch a glimpse of the grandeur of access to God, but it was nothing to compare with what saints now can behold. As it is written, "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph 3:5). But it is not confined to the "holy apostles and prophets." We are apprized that we "may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God" (Eph 3:18-19).
But there is still more to this text. Those who insist on commitment to shadows and types--to form alone, when the substance is accessible--will be unable to see the grandeur of salvation. They will not know the way to God, and will flounder in practical alienation from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them (Eph 4:18). The way to heaven has been revealed, and it is a grievous sin to ignore it in preference for religious routine! When you gaze upon the shadow, the substance is hidden to you!
Your gaze must be fixed on the Substance, which is of Christ, and not upon preparatory types. As it is written, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:18). Just as Moses' face glowed only when he beheld the Lord, so we are transformed only as behold the Lord Jesus Himself. There is no power in the type--the power is in the substance. There is no transforming efficacy in the shadow--that is only in the Substance!
Those who addict themselves to religious externals, to the neglect of the Substance, confine themselves to this world. Although little known by the contemporary church, the message to the Colossians is most appropriate. First, believers are not to allow anyone to bring them under enslavement to religious types. "Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ" (Col 2:16-17). The reason for this condition is obvious. The Object to which the shadows pointed is here--received by God, and available to men. To ignore that Divine provision in preference for what prepared men for it, is inexcusable. God simply will not allow it to go unchallenged.
Secondly, to attempt to appropriate righteousness by a disciplinary procedure, as they did under the shadowy Law, is completely out of order. That is why the Spirit says, "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; 'Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,' which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Col 2:20-23, NKJV). A hearty embrace of this affirmation would dry up a great number of contemporary seminars and work shops!
Although it grieves me to say it, much of the religion around us has more in common with the tabernacle than with the risen Christ and the New Covenant! Such things ought not to be. Let us live in the New, not the Old. There is a staggering amount of time spent in useless activities in the average assembly-- activities that have little, if anything, to do with coming to God and appropriating covenantal benefits. God's people must declare war on such conditions! They are inexcusable. When the way has been cleared to God, it is sinful beyond imagination to dwell in far off places.
A SYMBOL FOR THAT PRESENT TIME
With all its beauty, craftsmanship, and precise ordinances, the tabernacle was only a "symbol for the present time." I cannot help but observe, if such beauty adorned the symbol, what beauty must characterize the substance! Here is the affirmation of the Spirit. " . . . the outer tabernacle . . . is a symbol for the present time." The phrase "the present time" does not mean our time, or the period that now exists. This is an idiom meaning "the time in which it existed." More precisely "THAT present time." It was not for the past or the future, but only the time during which it remained. It was a temporary provision for a temporary period. It did not serve an eternal purpose, but only an introductory one. It conveyed to men an idea that would later be elaborated. It was suited for the age in which it was provided, but it is not suited for this age of greater illumination.
Interestingly enough, the word translated "figure" (KJV), "symbol" (NASB), and "illustration" (NIV) is parabolh. (Parabola), from which we get the word "parable." It is used in Mark 4:30 ("comparison"), Luke 8:9 & 11 ("parable"), and Hebrews 11:9 ("figure"). Here, in the tabernacle, was a unique parable of heavenly things. As with all parables, it was adapted to those with no intimate knowledge of Kingdom realities.
Now that Jesus has come, parables are not the superior form of teaching. When the realities are introduced, parables become secondary, at the best. Of His exaltation Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father" (John 16:25, NASB). That hour has come, bless God! What was once valid is no longer productive, and is therefore to be abandoned in favor of Reality.
AN IMPERFECT CONSCIENCE
The Spirit now comes to grips with the chief weakness of the tabernacle system. Remember, this was the Law at its highest level. This was the PEAK of its effectiveness. There were gifts and sacrifice, presented to God by one appointed by God. They were presented precisely and in a timely manner. They were accomplished in the specified place, and at the specified time. What of these sacrifices? How effective were they? Hear the Word of the Lord! "Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience."
Although these gifts were offered for "the worshiper," they had no real effect upon him. An observance was accomplished, and that in the proper manner. But "the worshiper" was left the same way. He was not "made perfect in conscience." His sins still plagued him. He still stood condemned before a righteous God. A sense of forgiveness did not grip his heart. Instead of promoting a cleansed conscience, the highest point of the Law contaminated the conscience. In those sacrifices, the Spirit affirms, "there is a reminder of sins" (Heb 10:3, NASB). The sacrifice stirred up the recollection of transgression. The High Priest did not say to the people, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you!" No one went down to their house "justified." And who will exchange the joy of sins forgiven for a system, ever so disciplined, that leaves the conscience defiled, driving one from the presence of the Lord?
Suffice it to say, preparatory ordinances can never bring to the heart what the Substance does. Men may devote themselves to that type of religion, thinking that all is well with them. But it is not! This is the day of salvation! The shadows have passed! "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor 5:17, NASB). That newness cannot be adapted to the old and obsolete order. Living by the rules is not enough. The justified ones live "by faith" and "in the Spirit." Rules are not difficult for them. However, they are motivated by higher and more consistent principles. The "Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" has freed them from the law of sin and death. They are under no obligation to sin!
It is not simply that Israel had "regulations," they were "imposed" regulations. Our text informs us that the tabernacle ordinances could never produce a cleansed conscience " since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed . . . "
Imposition The word translated "imposed" (KJV, NASB, RSV), or "applying" (NIV) comes from the word epikeimena (epikeimena), which means "to lay upon, press against, and be in control over." It is an unusually strong word. This is the only place it is used in this precise form. A variation of it is used in Acts 27:20, where it is said a great tempest "lay" on the ship in which Paul resided.
In a sense, these regulations were not something requested by the Israelites. They were "imposed," or "laid upon" them. If they wanted to be preserved, they had no choice but to keep them. Even though they were not effective in removing a consciousness of sin, they still had to keep them. God "imposed" them upon the Israelites, and that for a reason.
This imposition was necessary because of the recalcitrance of the people. They were stiff necked and obstinate. Their hearts were hard, and they were calloused. Such a condition requires Divine imposition! His Law was not written upon their hearts, nor was it placed in their minds. Thus, the laws had to be imposed upon them.
More for God That for Israel
These ordinances would mean more to succeeding generations than they did to Israel. They also meant more to God than they did to the wayward children of Abraham. They served to remind the Lord (I speak as a man) of the coming of His Son, Who would address the human dilemma with effectiveness. They were to Israel what the rainbow was to Noah--a reminder to the Lord of what was to come. You will remember the Lord said of the bow in the sky, "And it shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth" (Gen 9:14-16).
What we have in the "regulations" imposed upon Israel is very similar to Noah's situation. When those bloody sacrifices were offered, God looked and remembered His covenant to bless the world. He recalled the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," Who would be manifested in the "last times" (Rev 13:8; 1 Pet 1:20). That enabled God to endure the hardness of the people. Oh, if you can see it, those sacrifices were more for God than for the people. They yield greater benefits to us than they did to them. They were "imposed" because the people would have soon forgotten their sin, were this not the case.
What is called "regulations" in the NASB, is called "carnal ordinances" in the KJV. Of course, all "regulations" are "carnal ordinances," i.e., pertaining to the body. The NKJV translates the words "fleshly ordinances," while the RSV calls it "regulations for the body." The NIV uses the words "external regulations."
Right here we strike at the root of the matter. The administration of Law--any Law--is not for the heart or spirit. It is for the body. Those who serve God under a system of Law consistently emphasize external matters. Mind you, it is not that there are no external requirements in Christ Jesus. These are not, however, the heart of the matter. They are for people who walk at a distance from God, regardless of their profession.
The reason the sacrifices under Law could not cleanse the conscience is because they did not go that deep. The entire routine was external. Not a single aspect of it was internalized by the ordinances. They stood, or related only to, food, drink, various washings, and regulations for the body.
If such an approach to God was not effective during the time God imposed it upon the people, how could it possibly be effective now that God has rendered it obsolete?? The utter absurdity of the situation is too apparent for any one with understanding to miss! A religious system that is ineffective to accomplish the intention of God, is unlawful for you! If it cannot yield what God has promised in Christ, it is to be abandoned with haste! The time of ineffective religious activities has come to a grinding halt! Such vanities are not recognized by God, and they must not be by us! The time has come to declare war on any and every form of things that are not spiritually productive. Such fall into the category of "imaginations" and "high thoughts" that "exalt themselves against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor 10:5-7). Fruitfulness is the trait of the New Covenant! Nothing about it is sterile or unproduction--nothing!
THE TIME OF REFORMATION
I will not take the time to comment on the remarkable prevalence of this type of religion all about us. If you were to remove us from our present bodies (which God will eventually do), some people's religion would plummet to the ground. There would simply be nothing left for them to do. We are living in the better day, with a better covenant, established upon better promises.
Our text calls this the time of "reformation." " . . . regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation." Hallelujah, this is the time of "reformation"--a time of reconstruction. The day of new things!
The word "reformation" comes from diorqwsewj (diorthoseos), which means a process of setting things straight, or setting things right. It speaks of more than a reshaping, although that is integral to the process. We are not simply living in a time of new rules, a different law, and a fresh way of doing things. "Reformation" speaks of God undoing what was wrong, and bringing in what is right in His eyes. All of this is done righteously, without compromising any of His own qualities or violating the Divine imagery in His offspring. Among other things, this confirms that the Levitical system--which was the Law at its highest level-- was intended to be temporary. That order of things was never intended to be the approach to God, nor were its ordinances designed to remain with us. Introductions are not meant to be forever, nor are they intended to be the emphasis. Motivation by external means is not the way to God--PERIOD! There was a time when God enforced it upon His chosen people, but it was only a temporary arrangement until the "time of reformation."
"The time of reformation" is the time of correction, recovery, and restructure. It is the time when the curse is lifted and the blessing is given. It is the time when the Divine image is recovered, and even enhanced, within fallen man. This is the time of remission, the purged conscience, and of reconciliation to God! It is the first part of the process which will culminate in "all things" being made "new" (Rev 21:5). This is the time of rectification, of setting everything straight. The intentions of the Almighty can now be fulfilled! The requirements have now been met! The enemy has been "destroyed." It is the time when things have been set straight! The law of commandments contained in ordinances, that was against us, has been taken out of the way, enabling us to come to God! Principalities and powers that held the world captive have been spoiled and plundered! It is the time when God has set things straight!
The prophets said this time would come. They spoke of the time when God would "bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them" (Isa 42:16). With glowing words, they spoke of a new age--one in which things would be set straight. "I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest John the Baptist announced the times of reformation also. "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:5-6).
Well, the days are here--the times of "reformation." Men can be made right with God. The soul can be restored, and the heart renewed. No one need dwell in darkness any longer! Stand, then, holy brother, in the strength of the Lord! Lift up your heads, and be of good cheer!
This is the time when God is satisfied with everything Christ has and is doing. For the blessing to accrue to you, you must also be satisfied with His only begotten Son. You have learned from Israel and from personal experience that it is not possible to do enough to obtain a cleansed conscience. Routine, as necessary as it may appear to be, does not go deep enough to effect your heart and soul. You cannot be made new by a procedure. This is the day of "reformation"! It is the time when the alienated are reconciled, the blind see, and the deaf hear. This is the day when the dumb speak, and the lame leap. Waters now break out in the wilderness, and streams in the desert! This is the day of reformation, when things have been set straight. Those who had not obtained mercy, now have obtained it, and those who were not the people are now the people of God (Hosea 2:23; 1 Pet 2:10). Those who were far have now been brought near (Eph 2:13), and those who were deceived have now received a love of the truth (Tit 3:5; 2 Thess 2:10). This is the day when things have been set straight! God is within your reach! The blessing of the Lord is not far from you! There is no reason why you cannot arrive safely, joyfully, and confidently, at the judgment seat of Christ.
This is a new day - a day of new approach to God! You CAN approach Him with a cleansed, or perfected, conscience (Heb 9:14). You CAN come with boldness and full assurance (Heb 10:22). You CAN resist the devil when he seeks to dissuade you, and cast down imaginations and thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (James 4:7; 2 Cor 10:5-6). You CAN find mercy and obtain grace to help in the time of need. This is the time of reformation! You CAN confess your sin and experience a righteous God forgiving you and cleansing you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). You CAN run the race that is set before you, looking expectantly to Jesus (Heb 12:1-2). This is the day of reformation--of a new approach to God. If you feel as though you are in a desert, God has raised up a highway in the desert that will take you straight to Him (Isa 35:8). If you feel as though you are in a dry and thirsty land where no water is, God can cause you to suck honey out of a rock (Deut 32:13)! Now is the accepted time. Now is the time of nourishment and direction! This is the day of reformation--a new day in which can rejoice and be glad! God is now for us, and not against us. He has reserved an inheritance for us, and keeps us by His power!