Tuesday, November 1, 2011

May I Go In There?

This is taken from an illustration in John Phillips' Exploring Hebrews commentary that has always moved me.
Imagine with me a Moabite of old gazing down upon the Tabernacle of Israel from some lofty hillside. This Moabite is attracted to what he sees so he descends the hill and makes his way toward the Tabernacle.

He walks around this high wall of dazzling linen until he comes to a gate and at the gate, he sees a man. “May I go in there?” he asks, pointing to the gate where all the bustle of activity in the Tabernacle’s outer court can be seen.

“Who are You?” demands the man suspiciously.

“I’m from Moab,” the stranger replies.

“Well, I’m very sorry, but you can’t go in there. You see, it’s not for you. The Law of Moses has barred the Moabite from any part in the worship of Israel until his tenth generation.”

The Moabite looks so sad and said, “Well, what would I have to do to go in there?”

“You would have to be born again,” the gatekeeper replies. “You would have to be born an Israelite, of the tribe of Judah, or of the tribe of Benjamin or Dan.”

“Oh, I wish I had been born an Israelite,” the Moabite says and as he looks again, he sees one of the priests, having offered a sacrifice at the brazen altar and the priest cleansed himself at the brazen laver and then the Moabite sees the priest enter the Tabernacle’s interior. “What’s in there?” asks the Moabite. “Inside the main building, I mean.”

“Oh,” the gatekeeper says, “That’s the Tabernacle itself. Inside it contains a lampstand, a table, and an altar of gold. The man you saw was a priest. He will trim the lamp, eat of the bread upon the table and burn incense to the living god upon the golden altar.”

“Ah,” sighs the Moabite, “I wish I were an Israelite so that I could do that. I would so love to worship God in there and help to trim the lamp and offer Him incense and eat bread at that table.”

“Oh, no, the gatekeeper hastens to say, “even I could not do that. To worship in the holy place one must not only be born an Israelite, one must be born of the tribe of Levi and of the family of Aaron.”

The man from Moab sighs again, “I wish that I had been born of Israel of the tribe of Levi of the family of Aaron,” and then, as he gazes wistfully at the closed Tabernacle door, he says, “What else is in there?”

“Oh, there’s a veil. It’s a beautiful veil I’m told and it divides the Tabernacle in two. Beyond the veil is what we call ‘the Most Holy Place’… ‘the Holy of Holies.’”

“What’s in the Holy of Holies?” the Moabite asks.

“Well, there’s the sacred chest in there and it’s called the Ark of the Covenant. It contains holy memorials of our past. Its top is gold and we call that the mercy seat because God sits there between the golden cherubim. Do you see that pillar of cloud hovering over the Tabernacle? That’s the Shekinah glory cloud. It rests on the mercy,” said the gatekeeper.

Again, a look of longing comes over the face of the Moabite man. “Oh,” he said, “if only I were a priest! How I would love to go into the Holy of Holies and gaze upon the glory of God and worship Him there in the beauty of His holiness!’

“Oh no!” said the man at the gate. “You couldn’t do that even if you were a priest! Only the high priest can enter the Most Holy Place. Only he can go in there. Nobody else!”

The heart of the man from Moab yearns once more. “Oh,” he cried, “If only I had been born an Israelite, of the tribe of Levi, of the family of Aaron. If only I had been born a high priest! I would go in there every day! I would go in there three times a day! I would worship continually in the Holy of Holies!”

The gatekeeper looked at the man from Moab again and once more shook his head. “Oh now,” he said, “you couldn’t do that! Even the high priest of Israel can go in there only once a year, and then only after the most elaborate preparations and even then only for a little while.”

Sadly, the Moabite turned away. He had no hope in all the world of ever entering there!

. . . 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 (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Here it is, a tremendous word of welcome, extended to Jew and Gentile alike, to come on in and worship, not in the holiest place of the human tabernacle, but into the Holy of Holies in heaven itself "by the blood of Jesus."


Gabe said...


Dave said...

Thanks for sharing that!

Would you recommend any other commentaries from Phillips? What is his theological "bent"?

Jared said...

Dave, I couldn't really recommend any other Phillips commentaries but only b/c I have no experience with any outside of this one, which I inherited from my dad. I like it fine, but it is not of the academic stripe, more for laypeople or pastors wanting an overview or applicational lens on the text. It is part of an "Exploring" series that Phillips wrote most or all of.

Phillips is an evangelical. He is fairly aged now. He taught at Moody for a while and was a popular conference speaker in the Moody networks and has appeared on their radio program.

Unknown said...

I have Exploring Romans and we used it in our Church for our Adult Bible Study Hour when we studied the book. I found it excellent. I would very much like to get the entire NT Exploring series.

As with any commentary or teacher, you will not agree with everything, but I found Mr. Phillips has a way of setting aside denominational tradition and looking at the scripture alone in a very practical way.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what to think about all of this jesus bible stuff.

Anonymous said...

This is my first time reading the blog. I was linked from Challies. But, I just wanted to thank you for the encouragement! :D

Tom Slack said...

That is so awesome and so reassuring thank you for shedding light on this.Hopefully one day I will be allowed to finally enter eternity as a priest, if only I can overcome this deathly veil of human nature and put on Christ righteous character.

Dave Miller said...

This is a wonderful essay that really imparts a sense of what the words "far off" mean in Ephesians 2:13, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

Thank you for sharing your writing talents!

Matt said...

Anonymous 2:39, I encourage you to get sure!

Read the book of John. Get a look at what this man Jesus said about Himself. Get a look at what others said about Him. Read about the things He did.

You will not regret it. It won't take much time, but it tell you what you need to know. If it speaks to you, go to a Church and listen to them there. Watch what they do.

Sean said...

This is beautiful. Thanks be unto God.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Phillips passed away a couple of years ago. He was saved and discipled in England as a part of the Brethren churches. He was a Southern Baptist most of his life. All of his commentaries are expository and wonderful for their outlines alone. He had a British accent and I loved to hear him preach and teach.