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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

February 14, 2020

"Draw near to God"

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you", the apostle James tells us (James 4:8). It is encouraging to know that we draw near to God and that He responds in the same way. Do we realize what a privilege this exhortation of James is? In other words, how could the Israelites of old draw near to God if they were not even allowed to appear before his throne?

The best way to recognize the situation of that time is the task of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. That was the only day during the whole year when the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies — the room where the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat were located. And the High Priest was the only Israelite who was allowed to enter this room at all!

On the Day of Atonement, the high priest was to offer sacrifices for himself and for all Israel to make atonement for the people before God. It was a symbolic annual cleansing from sin. The high priest was supposed to "take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat", but before he could do this, he had to do something important:

"And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself. Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die" (Leviticus 16:11-13; my emphasis).

Even on the only day of the year when the high priest was allowed to stand before the mercy seat, he was not allowed to see it! "The Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing" (Hebrews 9:8).

How would the high priest of the Israelites have been pleased to read the exhortation that he would have been able to carry out not just one day a year, but every day? "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). We can do that because Jesus "with His own blood entered the Most Holy Place once for all" (Hebrews 9:12).

"Draw near to God" — yes, we can do that!

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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