And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. (Numbers 18:5,7)
The priests of Israel were given a solemn charge by the living God: do not let an outsider near the sanctuary. Don’t let them near the holy things, keep them out of the holy places. Do whatever it takes to keep people out of the sacred places. Failure to do so would result in horrendous consequences.
An Israelite couldn’t simply waltz into the tabernacle and present a sacrifice on the altar. That is, unless they wanted to die. Unless they wanted to uncork the fury of a pure and holy God. Unless they wanted to come face-to-face with the One who terrified the angels. The holiness of God kept the sinful Israelites out of the holy places.
The Levites and priests kept guard over the sanctuary and the altar. There could be no playing around on the job. No dozing. No half-hearted days. Life and death were on the line. If an unauthorized person managed to bust into the temple, the results could be disastrous. Wrath.
Of course, this raises a rather pressing question: So how is that you and I draw near to God with such ease?
There are no guards stationed at the doors of my church. No one monitors me to ensure that I don’t offer unauthorized prayer. There’s not a blacklist of “unauthorized” worshipers. What’s the deal?
Hebrews 4:6 reads, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Those are astonishing words. Unlike the Israelites, we’re commanded to draw near to God, not hold back. We are commanded to come close. To enter into the most precious, sacred spaces. To approach this holy God we serve.
In Jesus, we have a high priest who brings us into the presence of God. At all times. In all places. Nothing keeps us out of the presence of God.
Aren’t you grateful for Christ, our high priest?