Dwelling in God's Presence
The Psalmist David makes a remarkable statement: 'One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple' (Psalm 27:4)
Why is David so intent about getting into God's presence? Very simply, there is the supreme location of goodness, justice, mercy, and kindness - and all in their most extreme expression, marked by God's intense purity and holiness. As he says in Psalm 16:11, 'At your right hand are pleasures forever more'.
But God's presence is problematic for sinful people. It is precisely because God is holy that He is worth being with; but his holiness is so intense that it consumes anything marked by mortality and death.
Think of the sun: it is the source of light and energy that sustains our planet; without it life on earth is impossible. Therefore, it is intensely good. But it's also intensely dangerous. And if you get too close to it unprotected, you'll die.
The unfiltered presence of God is like that. And this is the problem tacked by the book of Leviticus. When the book begins, God is speaking to Moses from within the tent of meeting ... but Moses is unable to come into the tent to be with God.
The heart of Levitucus describes the Day of Atonement, on which two goats were chosen as part of a reconciliation ceremony with God. The high priest laid his hands on one goat while confessing Israel's sins and then sent it away into the wilderness. The other goat was sacrificed, and the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and sprinkled its blood on the mercy.
By these two acts, God showed his people that their sins were covered and sent away. And this accomplished the solution to the problem of separation because of sin. The book of Numbers begins with Moses in the tent of meeting, able to meet with God.
The good news for us is that we have access to the presence of God through the blood of Jesus. According to the author of Hebrews, Christ is both Priest and sacrifice and has presented his own blood before God - the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 9:11-14). Thus, we can come boldly into God's presence - not through our own works, but beause of what Jesus has done.
The good news for us that we can live the Psalmists dream: we can live in the presence of God, enjoying him, fellowshipping with him, gazing on his beauty. We can do all of this - not because we're good, but because God is good, and has made a way that we can come into his presence.