~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
About a year ago I finally made it to the National Archives building and was able to see the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Though faded by time, it was still a moving experience to set eyes on these documents that so altered the future of this country. Incredible in a different way, was the technology and hardware used to preserve these pieces of history from any further damage. Special, state-of-the-art titanium cases were developed several years ago to carefully control temperature, humidity, and light. Because of the fragile nature of the documents, even a small amount of time outside of this protective barrier could cause great damage. They are not able to withstand certain elements.
The Bible tells the story of another, even greater protective barrier. In the Old Testament, as God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt he also chose to set up a dwelling place among them. This way the people would be reassured of God’s presence. The only problem was, that even looking at the presence of God would cause great harm to the people. Their sinful nature, and ours, is not able to withstand the perfect, glorious nature of God. So, God instructed the people to create a curtain, a single piece of material measuring 20 meters high, 10 meters wide and 10 centimeters thick, it was created with the finest six-chord thread, dyed in scarlet, purple and blue.
This curtain was hung in the tabernacle to hide the innermost court – the Holy of Holies – which was the dwelling place of God’s glory. No one was allowed to go in, except one man, the High Priest, and even then only once a year. And so the people lived, separated from the presence of God, needing an intercessor, a priest, to go to God on their behalf.
But not now. On the day of Jesus crucifixion, after crying out in a loud voice “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” he breathed his last, and the ground shook and the earth quaked and in the temple the curtain was torn in two from the top all the way to the bottom. No natural force this, but a clear sign of the God’s glory breaking through, from the heavens to the earth, God’s presence burst forth for all.
The barrier between the Creator and his created has been torn away. Jesus’ blood covering the sins of the people, making them righteous in the presence of God. No more priests, but now a priesthood of all believers. No more sacrifices, the lamb of God is given for many. No more temple, but now God’s dwelling is in his people. The face of God no longer hidden, but now revealed for all to see. On the cross, his love, his gift, his grace. And in the resurrection, his glory.
Jesus has come to tear down the old and establish the new. Let us give thanks for his great work.