The writer of Hebrews carefully lays out the elements in the earthly tent:
- In the Holy Place - the lampstand, the table, and the bread of Presence
- In the Holy of Holies - the golden alter of incense and the ark of the covenant (in which were the golden urn of manna, Aaron's staff, and the tablets of the covenant) above which were the cherubim of glory
The lampstand, as designated in Leviticus 24 was to be kept burning at all times with oil of pressed olives. The bread, was to be made with exact amounts of ingredients and baked into 12 loaves. The bread was to be arranged in 2 rows of 6 on the table each Sabbath and then eaten by the priests.
The Holy of Holies was to be entered only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and only with careful preparation. The priest was given very specific instructions as to what to where, how to bathe, and what sacrifices to preform before entering. He first had to make atonement for his personal sins and the sins of the community before he could enter because God appeared in a cloud on the mercy seat and could have no sin in his presence.
These regulations were set up after Aaron's sons had entered the Holy of Holies and offered unholy fire before the Lord and died.
But all of these things, the lampstand and alters, the ark of the covenent were all carried away in war because of the sins of Israel. Today, they are lost to us. As the writer of Hebrews says, "Of these things we cannot speak now in detail." So where does God dwell without the mercy seat?
The Jewish people answered this by turning to the Torah, the law. But Hebrews provides a different answer. Jesus came as the High Priest and the sacrifice. He entered the true Holy of Holies in Heaven and offered himself as the perfect sacrifice; covering the sins of the people once and for all (not every year like the priests of Israel were required).
And so, because of this sacrifice, Jesus is our mediator of the new covenant. One that doesn't require sacrifce, but trust in Christ alone. It doesn't require good works - like reading your bible daily and attending church. Those were abolished with the first covenant, which was based upon the perfect adhearance to the regulations of the priests and Israelites. The new covenant requires nothing more than abiding in Christ, following His perfect will. All of our good works are a natural overflow of the love of Christ dwelling in us.
In My Utmost for His Highest today Oswald Chambers wrote that the goal of a Christian is not to be useful or win the lost - but to follow the will of God. When we follow God's will first, we will become useful in the kingdom and win the lost. But our primary focus must be God and his will.
What striving do I need to let go of today? What goals are mine and not God's? In what real, tangible ways can I enter into His presence today?