Friday, August 28, 2009

Hide the Good Stuff

From the perspective of Christianity, much of the Old Testament is said to contain shadows or symbols of what would become manifest through Jesus. So how God chooses His interaction with the Israelites should be of particular interest; which is why our study today reveals something rather bizarre.

Since receiving the Biblical Ten Commandments on the stone tablets, the Israelites have been busy constructing the Tabernacle, a portable temple, and all of its furnishings according to God's exacting details. Everything is complete, and now they are setting it up for the first time.

Hide the Good Stuff
As a kid, you probably loved getting a new toy. There was a certain excitement involved in ripping open a package and letting your imagination run wild on your new play thing. Fool! Do you know how much those toys would be worth today if you had left them in the package and hidden them away in the dark, protected from light and damage!?!? That's what God would have done, as we can see by His treatment of the Israelites' most sacred relics.

Presumably, God wanted to keep the Ark of the Covenant and Ten Commandments in pristine condition, because He made them inaccessible to almost everyone. In Exodus 40:20-21, you see that Moses placed the Testimony (another term for the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments) into the Ark, put the Atonement cover on, and then put the Ark behind a curtain within the Tabernacle.

(On a side note, Hebrews 9:4 says that the Ark also contained a jar of manna and Aaron's rod, but 1 Kings 8:9 and 2 Chronicles 5:10 say that only the stone tablets were in the Ark.)

The Tabernacle (described in Exodus 26, a.k.a. the Tent of Meeting and Sanctuary) was essentially a long tent within a fenced courtyard (described in Exodus 27). The tent was oriented east-to-west lengthwise, with its entrance to the east. At the west end of the tent was a section separated by a curtain. The eastern section was known as the Holy Place, while the western section is known as the Most Holy Place (a.k.a. the Holy of Holies). The Ark was to be put in the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:31-35).

Under normal circumstances, only the priests were allowed into the Holy Place. Under normal circumstances, only the High Priest was allowed into the Most Holy Place, and only once a year to make atonement on Yom Kippur (Exodus 30:10, Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-10).

(Their is much more to say about the process of the atonement, but we will cover that in a later study.)

The only exception to this would be when the Tabernacle was to be moved. Then the Kohathites (Numbers 4) were permitted to enter. However, as we see in Numbers 4:4-6 this was to be permitted only after the priests take down the shielding curtain and cover the Ark. Then the Kohathites could cover up the remainder of the Holy items and transporting all of the Holy items as necessary. Now, they were not permitted to look at the Holy items, or else God would kill them (Numbers 4:20)! So I guess they had to cover everything up with their eyes closed, and hope that they were completely covered to prevent accidentally seeing the items!

Hebrews 9 does its best to reconcile this liturgical design with God's Plan for Jesus. Unfortunately, it fails to address some of the major components of the design. For example, why would the High Priest only be allowed to meet with God (Leviticus 1:2) once a year when Jesus could do so at any time? And why would a loving God make Himself so unapproachable? And again, why would God want to hide away the proof of His covenant?

Speaking of hiding the evidence away, it is utterly bizarre that God would go through the trouble of providing these stone tablets only to keep them from being seen by anyone, concealed up in a special box which has the ability to kill any average person who sees it. What is the point of having something that nobody (common) can see? These objects were kept so private that they could have been utterly fictitious and nobody but the High Priest would have been the wiser.

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