Some common phrases are “back when I was a kid,” or “well, back in the day…” The idea being that life used to be so much easier! There is freedom in making mistakes, if you remove any responsibility! Our sin nature always wants someone or something to blame.
This being in the back of my head, I have to disagree, when I’m reading about the people of Israel in the Old Testament. Their circumstances may have been different and there may have been completely different distractions, but one thing sticks out to me most of all. Something so substantial that it completely changed my view on what it must have been like, living during that time.
Although God spoke to Moses, His presence only descended for a time. God came upon people; He did not live inside them. The people of Israel, themselves, did not speak to God. They did not have the Holy Spirit to be their help and comfort. Because Jesus Christ had not yet come, the people did not have direct access to God.
No matter what we as believers today may face, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit inside us is an absolute game changer! No longer do we fear the loss of God’s presence. Because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, we have direct access and eternal peace.
God commanded the people, beginning in chapter 35 of Exodus, to build a tabernacle and ark. A consecrated place where God’s presence could be. He established very specific instructions on how it should be built and set up. He would teach the people what having a spirit of reverence for His holiness looked like. It says, “every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded” (36:1). He gave each person to do their job, which He had specifically equipped them for, in order that the people would see what walking with God meant. Literally.
We tend to take for granted that God’s spirit is inside of us, while the Israelites literally carried this holy place everywhere they went, waiting for His spirit to indwell the mercy seat. This is now our body because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. How much would change in our lives if we remembered what we are and what this access cost?
The mercy seat was made of pure gold and it was located in the holy place, inside the ark. It was screened with a veil. While many men (approximately 603,550) worked on constructing each part of the tabernacle, only the priest was allowed access to the holy place on a certain day. When the work was finished, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (40:34-35).
The people were separated from God’s presence by fabrics, ceremonial days, and animal sacrifices. It was required because of God’s absolute holiness. When Jesus died, as the final sacrifice, “he appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:11-14).
Where there were once tents and veils. Now, there is a holy God with His chosen people in a redeemed relationship.