This Lent season, I am pondering curtains—my grey ones from a big box store—and the ones that divided the Israelites from the presence of God.
God used curtains to hide his glory like I use mine to hide the sunlight.
HOW ARE CURTAINS A SYMBOL OF THE GOSPEL?
Photo taken from Unsplash
THE ANCIENT CURTAIN
Once a year the high priest would slide through the curtain that separated the rest of the tabernacle. He would bring smoking incense and prepared blood from the atonement sacrifice and sprinkle the blood before the Lord to atone (cover, forgive) the priest’s sins and the sins of the people.
Once a year, one man encountered the presence of God. Terrified. One wrong move, one lazy misstep in the sacrificial order and he would fall dead like Aaron’s sons (Lev. 10, 16).
CAN YOU IMAGINE?
The honor of entering God’s presence and the anxiety of making sure your sins and the sins of the people were covered (atoned for) the way God prescribed in detail through Moses? Workplace stress is an understatement.
Imagine living as an Israelite, bringing costly sacrifices to the tent of meeting, hoping God would accept your offering and forgive your sins—but you didn’t get to go into the presence of the Lord. You always stood away—separated from the God you worship.
Even with the offering of the blood of animals, sin left a chasm between God’s presence and God’s people.
A curtain marked the divide.
Matthew 27:51 records that at the moment Jesus offered up his spirit on the cross, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Torn in two.
No more barrier. No more need for blood sacrifices. No more need for offerings by the high priest once a year in the Holy of Holies. No more wondering if your sacrifice would be accepted.
The curtain was torn in two. Wide open.
GOD IN US.
This Lent season, I sit in my living room and stare at my blackout curtains that completely guard the afternoon glare.
And I consider maybe the temple curtain was protection, not just separation because of sin. God wanted to be with His people, so He came into the tabernacle—but without the covering of sin, we die in God’s presence. The curtain was the way God could be with His people and His people not perish.
Of course, God's presence also acted outside of the Holy of Holies throughout the Old Testament, but those encounters were for the select few, like prophets or anointed artisans at work building the temple.
Once Jesus died, God's presence become available to anyone who believes.
I think God’s desire was to always be with humanity. In the garden he walked with Adam and Eve. In the desert he dwelled behind the curtain. In Jesus he came in the flesh.
And now—He dwells in our hearts when we believe in the gospel.
SYMBOL OF THE GOSPEL
As I pull back my curtains and the sun escapes from behind, I imagine the glory of God being released from the walls of the Holy of Holies.
These Costco curtains are reminding me to be thankful for the power of the gospel. And their image stirs a question in me: if I were standing in front of the tabernacle, what sins would I be offering a goat for?
As you see curtains this Lent and Easter season, may they serve as a symbol of the Gospel for you too. And may you consider where in your life, you should turn back to Him.
This post first appeared on SeanaScott.org