MercyMe is coming to Portland next Sunday, and I am hoping to go, so I’ve been listening to their most recent CD in the car this past week. It’s called The Generous Mr. Lovewell. I’ve written several posts about some of the songs on this CD, including Move, Crazy Enough, and Beautiful. But this week, a thought occurred to me about another song on that CD called All of Creation. The first verse is:
Until the veil was torn
The moment that hope was born
And guilt was pardoned once and for all
This verse reminded me of a women’s retreat I went to about eight years ago. I learned something at that retreat that makes this verse, particularly the second line, especially meaningful. I decided I wanted to share what I learned here on my blog.
When our dear Savior Jesus dies on the cross, something amazing happened. All our sins were atoned for, our debt to God was paid; and that is truly awesome. But something even more profound happened at exactly the moment He died.
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-46 (NIV).
Did you catch that? The curtain in the temple was torn in two. Now you may have read this many times and thought nothing of it. I know I had before I learned what this meant. If you are picturing some sheer curtains like you have in your living room, or even some sturdy drapes, you are picturing this “curtain” or “veil” all wrong. And you will notice that no one tore it, it was torn in two all by itself; or more appropriately, by the death of Jesus.
So what is this curtain that was torn in two? To find out, we have to venture back into the Old Testament and see what was said about the temple, which was preceded by the tabernacle during the time the Israelites were journeying through the wilderness. These are God’s instructions to Moses:
“Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain. Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.” Exodus 26:30-33 (NIV).
The curtain was, I was told at the women’s retreat, at least two inches thick. From the description in this passage of Exodus, I suspect it was absolutely breathtaking. Of course, you would expect nothing less for the curtain through which one would pass to enter the Most Holy Place. This was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept; it was the place where God resided among the Israelites.
So do you think just anyone could go through this curtain, walk into the Most Holy Place, and have a chat with God? No way! We are told in Leviticus 16 about the Day of Atonement, the only day any of the people of Israel could enter the Most Holy Place; and on that day only the High Priest (which was Aaron at the time) could enter. In later years, the other priests would tie a rope around the ankle of the High Priest when he entered the Most Holy Place, just in case he died when he was in the presence of God, so they could pull him out.
But when Jesus died, that curtain was torn. The barrier between the people and the place where God dwelled was destroyed. At that moment, “hope was born” because we can now come boldly before the throne of grace and into the presence of God. To be sure, we ought to come into this place with reverence and awe for the Almighty, but we can come. We needn’t be the High Priest; and we surely don’t need a rope tied around our ankle.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV).
Well, now that you know how wonderful it was that the curtain or veil was torn, so that we are no longer prevented from approaching God’s throne, I hope you will enjoy this great MercyMe song that reminded me of this awesome truth.