Within the Veil

“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen.  It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim.  You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold.  Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver.  And you shall hang the veil from the clasps.  Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil.  The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy,” Exodus 26:31-33 NKJV.

And he made a veil of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen; it was worked with an artistic design of cherubim.  He made for it four pillars of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold, with their hooks of gold; and he cast four sockets of silver for them, Exodus 36:35-36 NKJV.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,
Matthew 27:50- 51 NKJV.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-20 NKJV .

The two references in Exodus describe the instructions for and the construction of the second veil, which separated the two compartments of the tabernacle.  The first veil covered the entrance into the tabernacle itself.  The vast majority of Israelites never saw the inside of the tabernacle, let alone dare to enter it.  Only the priests, under very limited circumstances, had that privilege.  But even they would never have dared push aside the second veil to enter the Most Holy Place.  Among them, only the High Priest, a direct descendant of Aaron, had that privilege, but even he only one time in the year, on the Day of Atonement.  So afraid were the others that it’s said that a rope was tied around his waist just in case he died for some reason while performing his duties, so that the others could pull his body out to where they could get to it for burial.

The third verse occurred at the Crucifixion as our Lord had completed His sacrifice for sinners like us.  After He yielded up His spirit, Matthew reports that the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  Granted, this was the veil in Herod’s temple and not in the original tabernacle, but the significance is still the same.  Keep in mind also, this veil was not some cheap, simple curtain, easily ripped.  It’s reported that it was about a hand-breadth, that is, about five inches, thick, and carefully and intricately woven.  No mere human strength could have made a dent in it, let alone tear it in two.

And it was torn in two from top to bottom, indication of something more than a human action.  Now, it’s true that the priests patched it up and their various rituals continued for another 40 years until the Romans finally put a stop to everything by destroying the Temple and pretty much the nation itself, which disappeared from history until its reappearance in 1948.  Nor have we heard the last of her, political agitating notwithstanding.  Israel will yet blossom and bud, And fill the face of the world with fruit, Isaiah 27:6.

These veils teach us some lessons.

The first veils were in the tabernacle, a building given to Israel by God.  Entrance through them was very limited, though Israel otherwise was given blessings not given to other nations.

In spite of those blessings, she stands as an object lesson that no number of merely external things is enough to bring true understanding of the things of God.  Moses commented on this.

In Deuteronomy 29:2-3, he said to Israel, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land – the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders.  And he relates their further experiences:  how their clothing hadn’t worn out and their food had been miraculously provided for forty years, vs. 5, 6.  But in between those two statements, he makes this solemn declaration:  “But the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day,” v. 4.

All that Israel had, and yet how quickly and how often she turned away from the God who had so richly blessed her and acted just like the nations she had replaced.  Indeed, she was worse than they, because she knew better.  Except for a small minority of individuals, she didn’t care.

The veil was there to symbolize that they had no direct access to God, but had to go through ritual and sacrifice and priesthood.

But the veil has been torn in two.  The humblest believer may now come into the presence of God on his or her own behalf and on behalf of others.  And we may do that boldly.  This means that we have liberty and permission to do so.  His door is never closed.  But I’m afraid that, too often, God is more willing to receive us than we are enter His presence.  We’re too busy, too caught up in the everyday things of life and of making a living.  And we live in a world that increasingly denies and rejects the God of the Bible.  I’m afraid that we haven’t seen anything yet.

In spite of all that, and of our own failings and faults, let us…

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name, Psalm 100:4.

May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.

“…nor were thankful…”

This excerpt occurs in the middle of that depressing section from Romans 1:18-32. Considering all that Paul says in those verses, this seems like a relatively “minor” offense.  Because of that, it’s one, I’m afraid, we give little thought to.

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US, perhaps it would be good if we spent a few minutes thinking about why Paul included it.  The “nor” connects it to what Paul just said, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…, v. 21. These go together.  If one doesn’t want to acknowledge God, one probably won’t be thankful for His blessings.

A question.  Who were these people?  Paul doesn’t really identify them, although since the creation of the world indicates it happened pretty early.  My own view is that it refers to that time before the call of Abraham in Genesis 12.  God gave these people what they wanted.  He let them go.  And called one man to begin the process of reclaiming the whole race.

Another question.  What does it mean when it says they knew God?  There’s a school of thought that believes that between the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and the giving of the Law in Exodus 20 that men (and women) were left pretty much to the guiding of their own consciences.  This is “the Dispensation of Conscience.”  Is that accurate?

Though we have only incidental references to it, it seems to me that there was indeed a revelation of God of which we have no clear record.  For example, just in the life of Abraham, God said of him,  “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, my statutes, and My laws,” Genesis 26:5.  These seem to be references to a lot more than the record we have from Genesis 12 onward.

The Book of Job, thought to have been written before the time of Moses, is filled with references to God, righteousness and judgment.  There are also amazing references to things not clearly revealed otherwise (to us) until the NT.  See Job 14:14; 19:25-27.   Where did these come from? Certainly not from the consciences of fallen men.

It seems to me, therefore, that when Paul wrote that they knew God, it wasn’t just some general, unspecified awareness of a “Higher Power,” but men actually “knew” the God of Heaven.  That is, they were familiar with Him and His teachings and laws.

In spite of all this, they turned their backs on Him.  They weren’t thankful, either. Thankful for what?  Well, if nothing else, that God hadn’t destroyed the race completely, say, at the Flood.  Or that He hadn’t just let Adam and Eve go after they turned away from Him and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Or at the tower of Babel, just left people to the confusion and disarray of their new languages.

But He didn’t.

They didn’t care.

What about Thanksgiving Day, 2013?

Do we care?

Or is it just “Turkey Day”?

This nation seems to be well on its way to being another example of people who have been greatly blessed by God, but have turned their backs on Him, with the results we see both in Romans and in our society.

Well on our way to the trash heap of history.

Do I care?

Am I thankful?  Well, not for where we seem to headed as a nation, but for the blessings of God?  Are you?

I’m thankful for the freedom we still have.  Freedom to write this blog.  Freedom to believe as I understand the Scriptures to teach.  Freedom which still makes us one of the best places on earth to live.  We don’t build fences to keep people in.

I’m thankful for the Scripture.  It tells me that there is more to this life and this world than this life and this world.  It tells me of a Savior Who laid aside His own interests, as it were, and made mine His.  I’m thankful for the grace that brought salvation to mankind, and to me individually.  To others, as well.

Further, I’m thankful for the lady who has shared my life and my our home for the last 43 years.  My wife.  I’m thankful for the children God has given us, children whom we hope, the ones farther away, might surprise us tomorrow and be here.  Although with the snow coming down, they might be better off staying home.  I’m thankful for their children and the privilege of watching some of them grow from infancy.  It won’t be that long, Lord willing, before Sharon and I are great-grandparents, though I tremble at the thought of the world they will enter.

Thankful for friends, for health, for so many blessings, so often overlooked.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  His mercy endures forever, Psalm 107:6.