Many years ago, my friend, Joel, and I decided to build a bonfire. We had built bonfires in the past, but this one would be one to remember. We spent the week leading up to New Year’s Eve by driving around town collecting pallets from any warehouse that would give them to us. In the end, we had over 200 pallets stacked in a cone formation over 20 feet tall that was strong enough to hold our weight standing on top. This was going to be the best bonfire we had ever done! We setup the bonfire approximately 50 yards from my parents’ house on their 3 ½ acres of land. We put some diesel fuel on the bottom crates and let that soak a bit – knowing that diesel would not be as combustible as gasoline.
New Year’s Eve brought rain that year and by nightfall the wood and ground was soaked. Still, as the revelers gathered at my parents’ house, we lit the fire. Both results of this lighting were unexpected – though they should not have been. First, those extraordinarily dry pallets lit and burned, all 200 of them, in approximately two minutes. The fire was so high and so hot that those standing on my parents’ back porch, approximately 50 yards away from the fire, had to move back. The ongoing rain helped, but my dad had concern that the siding on his house would melt from the heat. The second result was less spectacular – thousands of nails fell to the ground in my dad’s yard that needed to be picked up before he could mow again.
With this image in mind, refer to Hebrews 10:19-22:
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.
Since we have confidence by the blood of Jesus and assurance of faith, Christians are called to draw near to God – entering the holy places. How quickly and carelessly we might read a passage with such a remarkably frightening instruction. Draw near to God. That’s it? Draw near to God? Draw near with confidence?
- The people of Babel sought to draw near to God via their own means and the languages of man were confused.
- Moses drew near to God in the burning bush and had to keep a distance and remove his sandals on that holy ground.
- God drew near to the people in Egypt and killed the firstborn male of every living thing of value that was not under the banner of sacrificial blood.
- God drew near on Mount Sinai and boundaries were erected around the mountain so that no one might accidentally touch the base of the mountain and die.
- God allowed Moses to glimpse His goodness (but not His face) as He passed by, but Moses had to hide in the cleft of a rock and his face radiated from that encounter to the point of scaring others around him.
- Aaron’s two sons offered an incorrect offering before God, and He sent fire out to consume them and they died.
- Aaron was told to only enter the Holy Place at the correct time and in the correct manner, accompanied with sacrifice and cleansing, lest he be killed as well.
- Uzziah drew near to the Ark of God in an unworthy way and died immediately.
- Solomon built a house for the glory of God, the Temple, and sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep to prepare for God’s presence.
- The priests dedicated the Second Temple with 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 male lambs, and 12 male goats to prepare for God’s presence.
This is still the God we worship today. His holiness has not changed. His requirements regarding the approach of His glory have not changed. Anyone who dares to approach the holy presence of God must do so through the means that God has established or he will surely die.
That is the great joy of Christmas! We have confidence, assurance and even peace in the presence of God because when we could not approach Him, He approached us. He sent Himself – God the Son – Jesus – to take on humanity, live perfectly, die sacrificially, rise victoriously, and rule eternally. It is through the sacrificial blood of Jesus, and only through the blood of Jesus, that we may draw near to God. That is a good tiding of great joy that has come to us!