“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.