In Old Testament times, God’s people were aware of a great distance between themselves and God.
One of the first times God met with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt, the experience was scary: “a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’” (Hebrews 12:18-21).
Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness brought people to their knees and made their sin stand out all the more in contrast. Isaiah reacted by saying, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-7). Peter responded to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:1-11). John, called the beloved disciple, “fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:9-19).
The children of Israel had to go through detailed rituals to have their sin forgiven. In Exodus they were instructed to build a tabernacle with an inner Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter once a year. Leviticus had instructions for the different kinds of sacrifices. The tabernacles, sacrifices, and priesthood all carried wonderful symbolism of what Jesus would come to be and do. But at the time, the clearest message was that the people could not draw near to God without sacrifces and mediators because God was holy and they were not.
But even with all those rituals, “since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1).
But then Jesus came. The Savior, the Messiah promised ever since the first sin separated man from God. He fulfilled all the OT prophecies about Himself. His death was the reality pictured by the OT sacrifices for sin. At His death, the veil covering the Holy of Holies was torn open, signifying that the way was open to God.
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)
The OT sacrifices had to be offered continually because they were insufficient to take care of sin for ever.
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)
The OT priests died and had to be replaced.
But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)
Though Jesus was God, He was also man. He was holy, but He faced temptation and weakness and dread.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and symbolism given to the Jews. But what about the rest of us?
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
How do we draw near? The verses above mention faith and cleansing: faith Jesus is who He claimed to be, faith that His atonement took care of our sins. This privilege is open to anyone willing to repent of sin and believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrew 11:6)
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)
We have the incredible privilege to draw near to God—for salvation, for cleansing, for fellowship, for grace and help.
What a privilege to come into God’s presence,
Just to linger with the One who set me free.
As I lift m eyes and see His awesome glory,
I remember who He is and bow the knee.
For more information, see 4 Conditions to Draw Near to God.
(Sharing with Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth)
He drew near to us in the incarnation and gave himself up so we could draw near to God!
I love that He drew near so we could.
It is an enormous privilege! Reading of all that the Old Testament people had to go through in order to approach God makes me grateful that Jesus has made a way for us.
Me, too, Lesley.
beautiful reminder of His heart and compassion towards us.
You’re right, it is certainly an incredible privilege to think that we really can draw near to God, and that He will draw near to us … thank you for such an encouraging way to start the week.
Thanks, Susan. I think because it’s “easy” in our time, sometimes we don’t appreciate all that was involved.
And yet how often do we think that by right living or doing certain things we can win God’s favor or forgiveness? I’m so glad drawing near and accepting is all we have to do.
We do have a tendency to lean on performance, even when we know better. Silly, since we could never do enough. I’m thankful He made a way.
Barbara, I’ve read about God as fearful – all the Old Testament stories that made one tremble and shake at God’s might and greatness – but how blessed that I have known Him through the eyes of Jesus – and the blood of Jesus – a Father I can run to instead of hide from! Your post was such a good reminder of the differences in the relationship available to us because of Jesus! Shalom, friend! ~ Maryleigh
Yes–such a wonder that the God of the universe made a way for us to come close.
beautiful reminder in the grace of drawing near. In reading through the Bible with my group, we are in the OT and seeing over and over (in Judges) how true this is for God’s heart verses man’s sin, and yet He made a way in Jesus because His heart always was for us to be near.
Yes, even in the OT there are such heartfelt passages about God wanting His people to be close to Him.
I am so grateful Jesus has made a way for us to draw near to God in intimacy and unashamed. When I look at all God has done through time to make it possible for us to be in relationship with Him, I am humbled.
It is indeed a privilege. He drew near to us, so that through Him, we could draw near to God. It is amazing and humbling to think of how our God desires to be near to us and He made the way Himself.
Beautiful post, Barbara. It is an incredible privilege to be able to draw near to God. Not because of anything we have done, but through grace and love.
Great post, Barb, it is humbling to think God desired to draw near to us, but He invites us to draw near to Him!
This is lovely!
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