“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”
As Easter approaches, my mind goes to the events that led up to that first Easter and inevitably, my mind travels to, and lingers upon, the veil in the temple. You know the one. The veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies; the veil that separated unatoned man from unblemished God; the veil that marked a boundary line that could not be crossed without redemptive blood; the veil that was torn when Jesus drew His last breath. That’s where I go. That’s where I stand. That’s where I’m torn.
When I think about the veil, I first think about its characteristics. It was vast; 60 feet in width, 30 feet in height, and at least 4 inches thick (the width of a man’s hand). It was crafted from fine linen and embroidered with blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. Images of cherubim adorned its surface heralding the glory of God in art form just as true angelic forms bow before His throne in Heaven, continually proclaiming His glory. It was impressive. It was imposing. It was impassable…until it was torn.
Next, I take in the objects on either side of the veil. Before it stood the altar of incense, the table of showbread, and the golden lampstand; behind it stood the Ark of the Covenant. Here, in this Holy Place, I find all that’s needed in my life: Jesus’ life-giving body (in the bread), the Holy Spirit’s indwelling light (in the candlestick), communication with the Father through prayer (in the incense), and direct access to God (in the ark). A perfect picture of the Trinity; a complete portrait of redemptive life. But that life is not attained without some tearing; that life requires veils of another nature to be torn. The temple veil was torn at a great cost, but for an eternal good; likewise, our temporal veils, when torn, will require a cost, but by God’s grace will result in an eternal good.
If you’ve ever felt pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, you’re acquainted with the feeling of being torn. Torn muscles, torn relationships, torn beliefs…they are all painful and they all leave us with a sense of loss…a sense of less. It’s as if something that we were holding on to has been ripped out of our hands and now we’re left with only a remnant of what we’d been clutching. Recently, I’ve experienced this in more than one setting and with each tearing, my mind went back to the veil in the temple. There had to be a connection, there had to be an application that related the purpose and price of a rent temple veil with the purpose and price of a rent temporal veil. As I contemplated this, I noticed some similarities that result from the tearing of eternal and earthly veils and as I did, I was able to look upon my tears with a little less confusion and a little more confidence. Here are some lessons God revealed…
- Veils are barriers; in Hebrew, the word veil means “divider; separator that hides”. While veiled things may sound mysterious and alluring, they are really just things that separate one area from another. When God tore the veil in the temple, He eliminated the barrier between men and Himself. Likewise, when God tears the veils in our lives, He takes down the barriers we’ve put up; He allows walls to come down and barriers to be broken.
- Veils are concealers; they hide that which lies behind them. The veil in the temple concealed a Holy God from sinful man. When the veil was torn, God revealed Himself…He made Himself accessible. When God tears our veils, He exposes that which we kept hidden so that we might be made fully accessible both to Him and to others.
- Veils must be maintained; they require upkeep. Jewish tradition states that it took 300 priests to immerse the veil when it needed cleaning. In our own lives, the veils that we allow to divide and disguise require a bit of maintenance as well and, in most cases, require the enlistment of others too. It takes time and effort to keep up walls and wrappings; how diligent we must be to make sure that nothing is showing…that all is properly tucked away. It’s exhausting work and goes against the saying “many hands make light work”.
As I look back over these truths, I see that God is in the business of tearing veils. He did it that first “Good Friday” and has been doing it ever since. From top to bottom (because we cannot tear that which we have sewn), God continually removes the veils that cover our hearts, our thoughts, and our lives. He wants us to be fully accessible to Him because He has made Himself fully accessible to us. No more letting others approach God on our behalf; no more limits on how close we can get to God’s holy throne; no more need for incense to shield our eyes or blood to shield our hearts; the veil has been torn before us, between us, and because of us. How great is this God who, through the death of His Son, tore asunder the veil that no man could sever so that we would no longer be veiled in our sin nor veiled from His grace.
If you’re experiencing a “post Band-Aid trauma” due to the recent tearing away of something you had covered, then don’t recoil but revisit the lessons of the veil. Remember that God is the one who does the tearing and He does it for our good. He tears away so that we may have more to hold, not less; He tears away so that we may be more approachable, not less visible; and He tears away so that we have more to magnify and less to maintain. When God tore the temple veil, it was a powerful and pricey act. When God tears our temporal veils, it is no less commanding or costly. So stand within that tear, stand within the gap it created, for it is there that God’s hand touched down and it is there that His grace flows through.