Over the last few weeks we have looked at the ark of the covenant and then the lid of the ark called “The mercy seat”. These were both housed in the innermost part of the tabernacle called “The holy of holies” and as we have seen, this is where God dwelt and where only the high priest could enter just once a year.
As we move outwards from the holy of holies we will encounter various objects which all, in some way, shadow Jesus.
This week we will look at the veil which separated the Holy of holies from the rest of the tabernacle.
The veil was quite an impressive screen for the Holy of holies. The exact measurements are not recorded in the bible, but there are details elsewhere, such as from the Jewish historian, Josephus. He stated that the curtain was roughly 60 feet high and it was an impressive 4 inches thick. According to tradition, horses tied to each side could not pull the veil apart.
It was woven together with various colours, which represent different aspects of Jesus; there was blue for heaven, purple for royalty and scarlet for blood. It was all bound together with white linen which represented purity.
The veil was purposefully thick and impenetrable because it represented the unapproachability of God, he is Holy and glorious and sinful man cannot approach him safely, we would immediately die. The high priest only survived because he sprinkled sacrificial blood.
Jesus’ earthly body was a ‘veil’ that hid the inner glory of His deity. Only on very few occasions was this veil drawn back, such as on the mount of transfiguration. The apostle Peter was an eyewitness of this event;
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 peter 1:16-18)
Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became bright as light (Matthew 17:1-13).
His body (veil) was torn at the cross which mirrored the physical veil in the temple being torn at the same time;
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Mark 15:37-38)
The veil was too high and thick to be torn by any man. No priest would have the audacity to break with tradition even if he had the enormous strength to tear it. In any case a man would rip the veil from the bottom, It was ripped from the top. The only explanation was that God did it. It was a hugely momentous act, signifying the access that is now available through Jesus. We can now enter in to the Holy of holies, to have an intimate relationship with our heavenly father. Through Jesus the ultimate and unending sacrifice has now been made.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)