(This post is part of a series. See Entering the Most Holy Place: a Study on the Day of Atonement for an introduction and list of posts.)
In order to understand the rituals for the Day of Atonement, we need to be familiar with the Old Testament Tabernacle, a portable worship center that the Israelites took with them as they traveled. Exodus 26-30 records the instructions God gave to Moses about building the Tabernacle and everything inside it, including the robes the priests would wear.
When the tabernacle was built and dedicated, God’s glory filled it (Exodus 40:34–38). (Centuries later when King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, it had the same layout, and at its dedication God once again filled it with His glory; see 2 Chronicles 7:1–3). Since His glory was manifested in a special way in the tabernacle, you could say that it was God’s dwelling place on earth. When the Israelites were camped, that dwelling place was in the center of the camp. God so desired an intimate relationship with His people that He lived in the midst of them!
But access to God was still limited. Although any Israelite could come into the tabernacle or temple courtyard, only priests and Levites could enter the Holy Place. And even they couldn’t go into the innermost room, the Most Holy Place where God manifested His presence; only the high priest could go there, and he could only go there once each year – on the Day of Atonement.
Apparently that wasn’t enough for God; He wanted even greater intimacy with us. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) – The phrase “made his dwelling” in the Greek is one word: “tabernacled.” The glory of God now lived in a human body instead of a tent or building. Anyone, not just the high priest, could see God the Son, walk with Him, and talk with Him.
But Jesus was limited when He walked on earth; He could only be in one geographic location at a time, and He traveled within a very small area. Once again, that wasn’t enough for God. He wanted even greater intimacy with even more of us. Look at Ephesians 2:19–22.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Notice the plurals and the repeated word “together.” God is building us corporately into His temple/tabernacle. God’s intent for the church is to be His dwelling place, the place where He manifests His glory on earth. His desire is that any time anyone enters any kind of church gathering in any place, they should encounter the presence of God.
But there’s more – an even greater intimacy between God and His people. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that each individual Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Every person who truly trusts Jesus is a dwelling place for the living God.
Think about it. I mean REALLY think about it.
The church is a place where the God of the universe lives and manifests His glory.
Every Christian you know is a place where the God of the universe lives and manifests His glory.
You are a place where the God of the universe lives and manifests His glory.
Does this effect how you think about the church, or other Christians, or yourself? Is there some practical application God wants you to make that you would feel free to share in the comments below?