What Separated us has been Removed: Thoughts on Atonement and Relationship with Hashem

   


Since that fateful moment when Eve and Adam took that forbidden bite, humanity has been cut off from their creator. Walking with and enjoying the company of our creator was an everyday affair—a relationship for which countless Christians and people the world over have longed. And as the consequences of their crimes became apparent, Adam and Eve were driven from the presence of God and the perfect state of being in the garden. Though no doubt they would try to enter into His presence once again, a barrier of steel and flame wielded by fierce cherubim blocked their access to God. The killing, spilling of blood, and the curse to sacrifice perpetually were the final images they saw of their creator. Their shame was covered by the flesh of an innocent animal sacrificed for them.

This image haunted countless generations after. In nearly every ancient civilization and religious system, blood sacrifice—whether human or animal—played an incredibly important role. Humanity was perpetually anxious concerning the demeanor of the gods and whether that day their creators would strike humanity down. Every sacrifice was one done with the intent to appease and curb the anger of the gods. And all the while, humanity still remained isolated and alone—long removed from those walks and talks with their creator.

The jewish nations were given an incredibly intricate and complicated system of sacrifices. And they clung to these rituals, maintaining some degree of connection with YHWH—Hashem as Rabbis and teachers call this most holy God whose name ought to never be mentioned. No clearer image is seen than in the highly ritualized Feast of Atonement—Yom Kippur. It was this one day in which man had access to his God. But this was no joyous filled time or peaceful walk in the cool grass of Eden. Terror characterized all interactions with YHWH. He dwelled as smoke in the Holy of Holies between the two Cherubim above the Mercy Seat. And as his eyes looked down on the broken law within the ark, wrath and anger exuded from his presence. Humanity was cut off. A great and massive curtain, four inches thick according to the first century historian Josephus, separated humanity from God. He was never to be seen. That would mean utter and instant death.

As the blood of goats, bulls, and rams were slain and their blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, the sins of God’s people were atoned for. Their creator’s wrath was satiated for another year. God now looked down on the law through the innocent blood sacrificed for the people’s sin and justice was satisfied.

It was on this day that God became more personal to his people, as the High Priest was allowed to say His name three times when the sins of the people were transferred to the sacrificial animals. And even then they lay prostrate with their faces in the dirt.

But this communion was only temporary. God still remained behind the curtain, the people blocked from his presence. It was not until God offered his own perfect son to atone for his children’s sins that man had access to God once again. His blood, through which God now looks through at the broken law, perfectly satisfies for all time. No new sacrifice is made nor does new blood need to be spilled.

The veil, that massive obstruction blocking man from God, was torn asunder. This is according to Matthew 27: 45-56.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. At about three in the afternoon Jesus cried out

with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni? ” that is, ” My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah!”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, and offered Him a drink. But the rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him!”
Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had gone to their rest were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.
When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!”

God and man are one. Things returned to the way they were created to be. We can walk with our creator once again. The dead come to life, both physically and spiritually.

And as we go about our busy days, let us not build up the veil of obstruction in our lives by our unwillingness to walk with Him. He is there, ready to talk and walk with us just as He did with Adam and Eve. Countless generations before us had no access to having relationship with Him. We should rightly understand the great gift and treasure that we have in the torn sanctuary curtain. That Holy of Holies is empty. He dwells within us and through us.

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  • mikelardiii

    Jon- caught a typo at “four inches THICK” (not “think”), regarding the veil of separation…

    There is also a weird sentence break at the next paragraph – between “God’s people were atoned for.” This is perhaps a formatting issue?

    On a non-grammatically related note – I always get the chills when I read that account from Matthew’s gospel, about the dead coming out of the ground when the earthquake strikes… the power of the living God unleashed for a brief moment on the fallen holy city! Scary indeed.

    mikelardiii

  • Thanks for the quick eye Mike. It’s always tricky business writting these things at 5:00 in the morning. You never know if the coffee has hit the brain yet!

    You are so right in pointing out the radical and zombie-like scene that Matthew paints for us. How could anyone doubt Christ’s identity after that display!? Nothing like this had happened before—the closest being Elijah of course. It’s funny, albeit tragic, that they though Elijah might come and save him when in fact the authority which that prophet held was nothing in comparison to that which Christ had at his fingure-tips.

    Thanks for reading!

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