Into the Holy of Holies on Sunday Night!
Ancient Israelites made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times each year. The goal was to celebrate special festivals (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles) and worship in the Temple. Regardless of the challenges of travel, the journey was marked with joyful expectation.
The celebration began as the people prepared to go to Jerusalem. Perhaps you have noticed in the Bible that when people go to Jerusalem, it is always described as going “up” to Jerusalem—regardless of the direction of one’s approach. To be sure, Jerusalem sits on a hill, but it also represents a metaphor of lifting up a holy place.
On the way up to Jerusalem, the people would sing Psalms of Ascent. This was truly the beginning of worship, even before they arrived in the temple. After entering the city of Jerusalem, there were multiple gates to enter the outer courtyard of the Temple (the court of Gentiles). Move inward, there was a gate which led to the court of women, followed by another gate to the court of men, followed by another gate to the court of priests, where the central altar for burnt offerings was located. The area beyond that was separated by a curtain, and the priest serving that day would bring incense offerings before the Lord. Another curtain beyond that space separated the entrance into the Holy of Holies, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was located. Only the High Priest entered there—once a year, on the Day of Atonement—to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people. It was understood that the very presence of God was dwelling in that place. It was quite a journey from outside Jerusalem all the way into the Holy of Holies.
This brief overview of temple worship provides a guide for us as we pursue the Lord in worship. Our goal is to honor God, who is worthy of our “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). Through our worship we are journeying ever closer to the very presence of God. We intentionally embark on a journey that will take us from Songs of Ascent toward the Holy of Holies.
I hope that you will join me for a similar journey this Sunday evening for a night of praise and worship (beginning at 7:00pm). Libby McNay and our worship band will lead us in an extended time of praise and worship. In addition, there will be space for individual prayer, intercessory prayer and communion throughout the night. There will not a be a sermon, but the message will be clear: As Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
On the journey with you,