Living in Shadows

One of my pet peeves is when people want to do away with “religion”. It irritates me because it’s ignorant to want to do so. Getting rid of religion means the person doesn’t understand what religion is. Because, everyone, including an atheist, practices some sort of religion.

On the other hand, I get why people say they want to get rid of religion. They see that the practice has become more important than Who we worship. And when that happens, I agree that change is necessary. But I disagree that the solution is to pretend to get rid of religion.

Nicodemus, aka the writer of Hebrews, points out the ineffective practice of the law of Moses through the priestly ministry. In his argument that the ministry of intercession of Jesus before the Father is superior, he points out that even the structure of the tabernacle itself is merely a shadow of the real tabernacle in heaven.

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.

Hebrews 9:8-10 NASB

The terminology adopted by the NASB is the “outer tabernacle” for the Holy Place, or the first part of the sanctuary (where the lamp stand and show bread are). The Holy-of-Holies is referred to as the “holy place”. The NASB is pretty consistent with the terminology, at least in chapter 9. So, what Nicodemus is saying is that as long as there is a two-part tabernacle/temple, the pathway to the inner Holy of Holies has not been revealed.

Yet, in a sense, he is also saying that this way has been revealed, through Jesus’ having traversed it. It’s not a path we follow, but the path Jesus has followed on our behalf. And a day is coming when we will follow it ourselves, and meet Jesus there, in the true Holy of Holies (see the end of chapter 9).

So, in the days when Nicodemus is writing, there is an existing temple/tabernacle. And in our day, there is a practice of worship as well. In his day, priests functioned according to the law given by God to Moses. In our day, we worship in may different ways, according to culture and personality. The point of congruity for both then and now is that these forms can become a distraction. The true path to the throne of God remains through Jesus.

When how we worship becomes more important that the One we worship. When His character is absent from us, absent from how we treat each other, then we have left the path to the throne of God. Our Creator desires us, a relationship with us, and that isn’t about the what song we sing as much as our heart as we sing.

Are we singing to Him or for the congregants around or in front of us? When we preach, is it for our Savior, or for the people listening? In a sense, it’s both. But in another sense, it needs to be more about Him than them. There are things our Savior wants His people to hear, are those things being preached? Or are we preaching what we think they want to hear, or worse, what we want them to hear?

The music, the building, the preaching, the food, the coffee, the clothes, and the hands either raised or in pockets, are not the point of worship. These things can help or hinder, but the focus must always remain on Jesus.

What’s your view through the knothole today?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

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