Holiness Bible Study, Lesson 6.
The Holy of Holies
The only time that the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, also called the Holy of Holies, was on the holiest day of the year—Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. He would come into this place to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat and make atonement for himself and the nation.
The Temple Veil
The veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Behind the veil sat the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. The veil concealed the Presence of God. Exodus tells us that, “All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen” (Exodus 35:25-26). Two cherubs were woven into the veil.
Miriam and the Temple Veil
The following is a story about Miriam the mother of Yeshua. Now this story is taken from a non-canonical gospel, so we can only look at the following in the light of history, and even maybe as a fictional event.
In the days before Yeshua’s birth, King Herod the Great was involved in remodeling the Temple. The craftsmen and builders completed the renovation inside and out without disrupting the Temple service. There is a reference in the Book of John where it tells us that it took forty-six years to build the Temple. That would place the beginning of the remodeling project about a decade before the birth of Yeshua. Part of the remodeling project required the creation of new fabrics for the curtains and veils (the front veil and the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies). According to the apocryphal gospel Protoevangelium of James, which was a third century pseudepigraphical gospel, Miriam (the mother of Yeshua) was one of the women chosen to work on the veils; and there was a council of priests, saying, “Let us make a veil for the Temple of the Lord.” And the priest said, “Call to me the undefiled virgins of the family of David.” And the officers went away, and sought, and found seven virgins. And the priest remembered the child Mary, that she was of the family of David and undefiled before God. And the officers went away and brought her. And they brought them all into the Temple of the Lord. And the priest said, “Choose for me by lot who shall spin the gold, and the white, and the scarlet, and the true purple.” And the true purple and the scarlet fell to the lot of Mary (Protoevangelium James 10).
Within this same gospel is the story of the miraculous conception and miraculous birth of Mary, the girlhood of Mary, her betrothal to Joseph, and the miraculous conception and birth of Yeshua. The Orthodox Jewish scholar Samuel Safrai has suggested that Protoevangelium James might contain some historically based, non-canonical traditions about those events. Specifically, he points to the tradition of Miriam weaving the veil for the Temple. He deems it may possibly contain a kernel of historical truth because it has a direct parallel in the Tosefta Shekalim: “Women used to weave the veils of the Temple… and they were paid from monies donated to the Temple” (Tosefta Shekalim). Thanks to Protoevangelium James, church artwork depicts Mary, before the birth of Yeshua, almost always with a bolt of scarlet cloth. Miriam may have been employed to weave together the fabrics for the Temple at the same time God was choosing her to be used so that Yeshua the living Temple could become the veil; to quote the Psalmist, “Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). In Hebrews 10:20 it says, “The veil, that is, His flesh….” Yeshua is the veil, and when He died, the very same veil that His mother may have woven was torn in half so that all who accepted Him may go in.
Yeshua in the Holy of Holies
We are told that in the Garden of Eden, God dwelt with Adam and Eve, and He walked amongst them. How He exactly did that we are not sure. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cast out from the Presence of God, but God would one day again walk among men. The Lord said to Moses in Exodus 25:8, “Let them construct a sanctuary (a Mikdash, a holy place) to My Name, and I will make My Shechinah (Presence) dwell among them.” The word for dwell, shachan, is also at the root of the word mishkan, tabernacle. Yeshua is the Tabernacle; He is the Shachan, the Presence.
The Holy of Holies was the place where God’s Presence resided. Behind the veil in the Holy of Holies—or the Most Holy Place as it was also called—sat the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was symbolic of the Throneroom of God. Yeshua is the Mikdash, the Holy Place, for He is the Holy One. The tabernacle was to be both a holy place and a dwelling place. As we have seen, the tabernacle teaches us about Messiah. God required a holy place to dwell among His people; so too Yeshua needed a holy place to dwell, and that place was a human body. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory (shechinah), as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So, to literally translate this verse, it should read, “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us.” When God spoke to Moses to build the tabernacle, the Targum Yonaton on Exodus 24:22 says of the tabernacle, “I will appoint My Memra (Word) to meet you there.” Messiah fulfills these Scriptures literally. He dwelt among us in His physical body, a Sanctuary for God, a dwelling among man. Remember, Yeshua said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up again” (John 2:19). The imagery of Yeshua being the tabernacle also carries over to the Feast of Tabernacles: one of God’s Appointed Times. As briefly mentioned before, this feast is a time where the people are commanded to dwell in tabernacles, or booths. There is strong evidence which indicates this feast is the time when Yeshua was born, thus giving us a rich connection between this Appointed Time, the service of the tabernacle, and our Messiah Yeshua.
As the priesthood, we too are the Temple of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and we too must be holy. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul reminds us of this. In 2 Corinthians 6:15-16, Paul says,
Or what harmony has Yeshua with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the Temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God. And they shall be My people.”
Holiness (to be set-apart) is mandated to have God dwell within us. James 4:4 writes, “Fellowship with the world is enmity toward God.”
(See handout “Holiness”)
The Ark of the Covenant
“They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it.”
The tabernacle was at the center of Israel, and the Ark of the Covenant was at the center of the Most Holy Place. It was built out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Golden rings and carrying poles were to be made for the ark. However, the poles were not to be removed from their place inside the rings. This has traditionally been understood to represent that the one who studies Torah must be always ready to transport it to one who thirsts for God. When God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle, this was the first thing to be built.
The Ark was used as a container for three holy artifacts. The first was the stone tablets upon which the ten commandments were written. Just as the commandments were here in the heart of the Most Holy Place, so too the commandments are to be written in the hearts of the people. The second item was a jar of manna. This was to remind the people of how God provided for the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness. The final object in the ark was Aaron’s staff. This was to be a reminder of the irrevocable anointing of the priesthood. Outside of its place in the tabernacle, the Ark was carried into battle as a sign that the power of God was going before them.
Atop the Ark was the Mercy Seat: “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide” (Exodus 25:17). This was like a lid or covering for the Ark. It functioned as a throne that the Presence of God would rest upon. It was made of solid gold and had two cherubim at either end of the Mercy Seat, facing each other. It was here where He met with Moses: “There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel” (Exodus 25:22).
The Ark was so holy that only the tribe of Levi could carry it. After Aaron’s sons were struck down because they lit strange fire before the Lord, God told Moses that Aaron and his sons could only enter into the Most Holy Place once a year (Yom Kippur), and then they had to make atonement for themselves and the people (Leviticus 16:1-2, 15-17). Maintaining holiness requires boundaries. If a holy space is treated like normal space, it loses its sanctity. So on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and he would sprinkle the blood of the sin offering upon it.
The cover of the Ark is called Kaporet, which comes from the word Kaphar which means “to cover” or “to atone.” Upon the Ark sat the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat is the place of atonement. Two winged cherubim covered it with outstretched wings—again, a picture of Heaven with the two cherubim before the throne of God. Thank God through our Lord Yeshua that He has entered in behind the veil with His own blood as the sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 9:12), and now He has become our Great High Priest who lives to make intercession on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34)!
Praying Through the Tabernacle
So many times we just start praying and telling God our troubles, but there is a correct way to enter into prayer. I want to say that this is only a model; you can add to it, but I believe that God has a set order of things for everything in life and that includes our prayer life and coming into His presence. As priests, we must follow the order of the tabernacle.
We start on pilgrimage to the House of the Lord. Here is where we sing and praise the Lord. We enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Yeshua is the door; we must come in the name of Yeshua. Then we must stop at the altar, bringing the sacrifice by which we draw near—that is, Yeshua. From there we go to the Laver and wash in the blood of the Lamb, repenting of our sins and asking for forgiveness. We then go and enter into the Holy Place. We stop at the table of the Lord, for Yeshua is our food and drink. We then go to the Menorah, for Yeshua is our Light, and there we ask the Holy Spirit to anoint us. Then we bring our prayers and supplications before God at the Altar of Incense.
So to put this all together, I believe your prayer should sound something like this: After praise we would say, “Father, I come in the name of Yeshua and I draw near by His sacrifice. I thank You, Father, that You loved me so much that You sent Yeshua to die on my behalf so that I may have eternal life, and I thank You, Yeshua, for that sacrifice. I thank You, Yeshua, for Your shed blood, for there is power in that blood to wash me clean. Wash me of all my known and unknown sins and all that I have committed with my thoughts, words, and deeds. Take off my filthy garments and robe me in Your righteousness, for You are my righteousness. Father, let me come and feast at Your table in the light of Your Word, for Yeshua is the true manna from heaven. He is the finest of wheat. He is our food and drink, our portion, our cup overflows. He is our life, for Yeshua is the Bread of Life. He is the way, the truth, and the life; lead me in the path that leads to life and keep my foot from slipping, for Yeshua is the Light of the World. He is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Holy Spirit, anoint me in the oil of that light and impart to me Your wisdom, knowledge, understanding, discernment, your insight and Your foresight and Your truth. Let me not be deceived and pass on a deception, but give me truth. And Father, let my prayers and supplications and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You.”
Now you can start to petition God. You can begin to praise and worship again if you choose, or sing/pray in the Spirit; but then it is here where you begin to be still and listen to what God has to say to you.
Hush, God is Present
When we entered into the first veil or door of the tabernacle/temple, we entered with thanksgiving and praise, shouting and celebrating; but as we enter into the last veil, we enter in with silence. Entering into the Most Holy Place was done with awe and reverence. In fact, they would tie a rope around the priest on Yom Kippur so if he would die in the Presence of God, they could pull him out, because otherwise they would not be able to enter in to retrieve him. All that the priest would say at that time was God’s Most Holy Name. Scripture repeatedly says that we must enter in with a hush. Habakkuk 2:20 says, “But the Lord is in His Holy Temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Zechariah 2:13 says, “Be silent all flesh before the Lord, for He is aroused from His Holy Habitation.” Zephaniah 1:7 says, “Be silent in the Presence of the Lord.”
This is an element that we Christians miss. Scripture tells us that we may come into God’s presence with boldness, and so we think that we can just barge in on a Holy God. Yes, we can come before God with confidence because of the sacrifice of Yeshua; in other words, God will not strike us dead if we come before Him. But we must still enter in with a hush.
If we go through the process of entering in with thanksgiving and praise, and we stop at the altar in which Yeshua laid down His life, and we too lay down ours by humbling ourselves, crucifying the flesh, and we confess our sins, then going to the Laver we are washed in the blood of Yeshua and receive forgiveness, we then can enter in and feast at the Table of the Lord and eat from the Bread of Life, letting the Word abide in us, placing the Word in our hearts so that we will not sin again, which will cause us to walk in the light of the Menorah, Yeshua, and bring our prayers to the Altar of Incense; then we can come into the Presence of God, quietly waiting for God to speak to us. All too often Christians do not wait on the Lord to speak to them. All too often our prayers are hindered because of sin and we never are allowed to enter in because of our sins. We forgot to stop and repent. Before we enter into Communion at church—which is fellowship with God—we must examine ourselves and repent of our sins; so why do we not do this every time we commune with God in prayer?
There is a path to worship, and we must walk on the path that leads to God. As priests we must do our priestly duty as it is done in heaven. God spoke to Moses and told him to make the tabernacle exactly like Heaven, and the priests were to minister exactly like it is done in heaven. We can not say that the tabernacle/temple was just for the Jews. Ezekiel, Zechariah, and many of the prophets spoke of the end times, and they refer to the Temple in the Messianic Days. So too we must follow all of God’s ways now, which includes coming into His Presence with holiness and a reverence. Just think, we wouldn’t come before royalty or even into a courtroom before a judge with outbursts, but with a quietness and respect. How much more so before God Almighty!
Now We Are Ready!
When Moses saw the burning bush and went toward it, God called out to him and told him to take his sandals off, for the place where he was standing was holy (Exodus 3:5). Moses hid his face and was afraid to look upon God. Then God told him that He was sending him back to Egypt. When Joshua met the Captain of the Lord’s Army, he fell on his face (Joshua 5:15). Then the Angel of the Lord told him what he needed to do. In Isaiah 6:5-13, when Isaiah came into the Presence of God, he said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” The Angel of the Lord took a coal off the altar and touched his lips. After Isaiah comes into the Presence of God, he hears God say, “Whom shall I send?” And he responds, “Send me.” Time and time again when we come into God’s Presence and we are still before Him, God will speak to us and give us the answers that we need or the direction we must go. As we come before the Messiah, let us come with thanksgiving and praise, but then as we come to Him, let us come believing that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Let us pause in silence and listen for that small, still voice telling us the deep truths of His Word as He calls us into His service. As priests before God, let us be holy as He is holy, ministering to Him, bringing our gifts before Him just like the wise men who brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all of which were used in the tabernacle. Let us bring the best gift we have, our lives, and as a royal priesthood let us be used as vessels of honor in the hand of our King, Yeshua HaMashiach.