July 10, 2018
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place
Now there are four words we would never expect to see in the same biblical sentence: Most Holy Place and confidence. You will remember, the Most Holy Place, also known as, “the Holy of Holies,” is the place inside the place inside the place. There was the larger Temple and within that, separated by a curtain was the “Holy Place” and beyond yet another curtain was the Most Holy Place. The Ark of the Covenant resided here and atop it, the Mercy Seat—the dwelling place of God on Earth.
On one day of the year, the Day of Atonement, a human being, the High Priest, would enter the Most Holy Place to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat as an offering of atonement for the people. Tradition has it they stitched bells inside his robe and tied a rope around him so if he fell dead while inside they would hear the bells and be able to pull him out without entering in themselves. This would be the opposite of confidence to enter.
by the blood of Jesus,
Because of the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross, we have full, immediate and continuous access to THE Most Holy Place, which is the dwelling place of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We get to go inside. It raises a big question, though. Where is the Most Holy Place and how do we get in?
20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
Remember what happened to the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Temple in Jerusalem as Jesus died on the Cross? In a stunning miraculous occurrence, it was torn from top to bottom. The old way, through the blood of dead animals, was now replaced by the new and living way—the glorified body of the resurrected Jesus Christ is the new curtain.
The Most Holy Place is now wherever he is. And He is with us, seated in the Heavens at the right hand of God, and dwelling by the power of the Holy Spirit in our innermost selves.
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
There’s the clear nod to the Ascension of Jesus. Now, what do we know about the house of God? The house of God is the house of prayer. This means the Most Holy Place is the most prayer-filled place.
So the Most Holy Place, in a sense, has gone from somewhere very specific to everywhere, which is another way of saying, nowhere in particular. The problem with “everywhere” is the loss of any sense of place. Everywhere can mean anywhere and anywhere can easily become nowhere. It happens so easily. When our practice of prayer loses a sense of place, it can also lose a sense of other dimensions, and before we know it, we kind of think of our prayers and our thoughts in the same way. Before we know it, what was once sacred has become casual.
Some will cite Brother Lawrence and his celebrated approach to practicing the presence of God in all things. He famously said that God was as present to him when he washed the dishes as when he was praying in the church. Certainly this is true; however, unmoored from any definitive practices of prayer, this easily drifts in time into a shallow presumption of God’s presence and finally into spiritual laziness.
What many of us need, both beginners and veterans alike, may not be so much to “practice the Presence” as to presence our practice. I think Jesus was getting at this when he said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
The Most Holy Place is everywhere, but unless we do the tangible work of locating it somewhere, chances are, for us, it will be nowhere. Because prayer can be so intangible, it needs some tangibilitation. Do you have such a room as Jesus references? Are there any set times? How about any set prayers?
Let’s be clear. There is nothing sacrosanct about your particular place or my particular place other than the way it helps us “to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,.”
We began our Old Testament series on prayer at stratospheric heights and at impractical depths. This New Testament prayer series begins at ground level with profound practicality. I want you to find or create space for prayer, and not just space but a space. This is about giving more presence to our practice. Some of you may already have such a place. If this is you, I want to challenge you to step beyond that familiar comfort zone. I’m not saying change it, but find a way to re-presence your practice.
In my case, I’ve gotten comfortable sitting in a certain chair on the back porch in the morning. It has become an undefined kind of practice where I easily bounce between the Bible app on my phone in one minute and gmail the next. In other words, my practice has become un-presenced.
Sometimes finding the Most Holy Place can require creating a more “holy” which is to say, “set apart” practice. I think now might be one of those kinds of times for many.
Almighty Ascended Lord Jesus Christ, you are high and exalted and near as my breath. Teach me this new and living way of drawing near to you with a renewed confidence. Train me to bring my presence into your presence. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.
- Do you sense that your approach to prayer has fallen into a lackadaisical practice? Why might that be?
- How do you relate to this challenge to re-presence your practice of prayer?
- How might you create “set apart” space as Jesus seemed to call for in your practice of prayer?
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.