January 26, 2017 by J.A. Hardgrave
Take Me In To The Holy Of Holies?
Written By J.A. Hardgrave
While I know that God can use any song to help us enter in to worship despite our misunderstanding, I must admit, the song “Take Me In” is probably the most contradictory song I’ve ever heard when compared to the New Covenant realities we possess through faith in Jesus Christ.
We sang this song almost every other week during worship at church growing up. I won’t lie, we loved this song, because it made us feel like we were slowly but surely tip toeing our way into the presence of God one level at a time.
This song presents a model of worship that mirrors that of Old Covenant temple worship and sacrifice. We started at the outer courts, where apparently we would make our animal sacrifices at the brazen alter, then we had to push our way through crowds of people, and finally we begged God to please take us into the Holy of Holies where we found righteousness.
This song carried with it a level of sacredness that added another dimension to worship, but the lyrics actually promote an old covenant approach towards worship and keep us asking for realities we already possess in Christ. Let’s briefly look at the lyrics to this popular song, and then contrast them with the New Covenant realities we already have.
Take me past the outer courts
Into the holy place
Past the brazen altar
Lord, I want to see your face
Pass me by the crowds of people
The priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
And it’s only found one place
Take me in to the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood of the lamb
Take me in to the holy of holies
The entire purpose of the Old Covenant tabernacle was to enshrine “The ark of the covenant”, which was a symbol of the presence of God in the midst of His people. The ark of the covenant was located in “The Holy of Holies”, which was a windowless cube about 30 feet, which was dominated by two guardian cherubim made of pure gold that were 15 feet tall with outstretched wings spanning 15 feet.
A veil separated the Holy of Holies from “The Holy Place”, which was a room just outside the Holy of Holies where only priest and other worship leaders could go.
The Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant dwelt, was off limits except for the high priest who could enter and go behind the veil once a year on the day of atonement. (Leviticus 16).
Outside the holy place was the Outer Court. When the common Israelite approached the tabernacle with his animal sacrifice and passed through the entrance gate, he would see an altar called “The Brazen Alter”, or “The Alter of Sacrifice” with a priest waiting beside it.
This was the altar on which the sacrifices were made which Lev.1:9 describes as “a sweet savor to the Lord”. It was here that blood was shed and the sinner was pardoned. No matter how good a person was, without the shedding of blood, there was no forgiveness.
The sinner would lay their hands on the head of the animal sacrifice which represented their sin transferring from them to the animal, then they would slit it’s throat. The priest would then catch the blood in a basin, and pour out the blood at the foot of the altar and make the sacrifice, and then the sinner would go home forgiven, until the next sin that is. Along with individual sacrifices made by common people, there was also a yearly sacrifice that was made by the high priest on the Day of Atonement for the sins of the nation.
In addition to sacrificing animals for sin, Jews also had many types of other offerings such as peace offerings, burnt offerings, meal offerings, trespass offerings etc., which were all considered an act of worship.
This was the world of a Jew living in the days of temple sacrifice and worship. When you listen to the song “Take Me In”, it makes it seem as if nothing has changed!
Do we still need to go through all these rituals and levels just to get to the presence of God?
Let’s see what the New Testament has to say about worship in the New Covenant.
When Jesus was speaking to the woman at the well in John 4, He announces that worship in the New Covenant is not going to look anything like temple worship in the Old Covenant.
“Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:20-24
Jews had been worshiping God at the temple since Solomon built the first one. That temple was destroyed in 587 BC, but it was rebuilt under King Herod, not being finished until 63 AD, just 7 years before its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD under General Titus. Even in the midst of all the building, rebuilding, and destruction, when Jews thought about worship, they thought about visiting the temple of stone.
Now here Jesus was stating that worship was not going to take place in Jerusalem at the temple anymore, it was going to take place “In Spirit and in truth”.
What was He talking about?
I could only imagine how confused that Samaritan woman must have been. Little did she know, Jesus was about to fulfill every aspect of Old Covenant sacrifice and worship, and bring us beyond the veil and right into the Holy of Holies!
TAKE ME PAST THE OUTER COURTS & BRAZEN ALTER?
We no longer have to enter the outer courts and go past the brazen alter of sacrifice, because Jesus is our perfect and final sacrifice for sin.
“So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:28
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
TAKE ME INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES?
We don’t have to beg God to take us into the Holy of Holies, because we ARE the Holy of Holies! Remember, The Holy Of Holies was the sacred room that hosted the Ark of the Covenant which was just symbolic of God’s presence. We have something much better, the ACTUAL presence of God dwelling IN us, which makes US a temple! When we go to church, we don’t enter “the house of God”, because WE are the house of God.
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
“You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1st Peter 2:5
When Jesus gave His last breath, Matthew 27:51 states “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The veil was what the high priest had to go behind in order to enter the Holy of Holies. The veil was now torn, which was God signifying He was no longer operating in the old covenant system of worship and sacrifice, because Jesus had become our new high priest who went directly into Heaven for us, and took us beyond the veil directly into the presence of God! That’s why Ephesians 2:6 says “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”. In other words, there is no longer an alter of sacrifice, a sinful high priest, or a veil separating us from the presence of God, we are a living breathing temple that constantly carries the sacred presence of God!
That’s why Hebrews 8:13 says that the New Covenant in Christ blood has made the Old Covenant system of sacrifice and worship obsolete and would soon disappear. The high priest, brazen alter, holy of holies, were all just types and shadows that have been fulfilled by the realties we have in Jesus Christ.
God allowed a 40 year transition period between AD 30 and AD 70 known as “the last days” for people to come out of the outdated system of worship and animal sacrifice at the temple of stone and enter the New Covenant system which involved Christ being our last and perfect sacrifice for sin, and worshiping the Father through the Holy Spirit of Truth as living temples.
Even though the Old Covenant was instantly made obsolete at the cross when Christ blood was shed to create a New and Better Covenant, in AD 70, God allowed the Romans to destroy the temple and bring a complete end to the Old Covent system which was judgment for those who refused to accept God’s new way of relating to man through the New Covenant.
LORD I HUNGER AND THIRST FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS?
We are not hungering and thirsting for righteousness, because we already are righteous (right relationship with God) by faith in Jesus Christ.
For or I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
I hope you see how important it is to make sure what we are singing lines up with the New Covenant realities we possess. It’s the difference between asking God to take us into His presence, or rejoicing that we are already in the Holy of Holies since we have the Holy Spirit. It’s the difference between hungering and thirsting for a right relationship with God, or resting that the blood of Jesus has forgiven us of all our sins and reconciled us back to God, restoring our relationship forever. That’s a BIG difference wouldn’t you agree?
When we enter into worship, we can be bold and confident knowing we are already in the presence of God. We don’t have to ask God to take us into His presence, because His presence is a reality that never changes! The shedding of Christ blood established a New covenant where God can give us unchangeable realities such as the permanent dwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in us since New Covenant realities are based completely on childlike faith. Christ forgave us of ALL our sins long before we were even born, because He wanted to dwell with us permanently and not leave every time we made a mistake. In other words, we received the Holy Spirit, God’s presence, because we had faith in Jesus and received forgiveness of sins, not because we did something to earn it. God’s presence is not coming and going based upon whether we have a good or bad day or make mistakes, He never leaves. Of course we follow the voice of God, we do good works, we avoid sin, but we need to know that God is here to stay. When we worship, we should say “Thank you God that I am in your presence right now, and nothing can change that!”, and watch how the atmosphere shifts!
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