"The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover."
The emphasis in the above verse is mine. That warning seems strong. Especially to someone like me who is living after the New Covenant. Aaron - and the High Priests of Israel that came after him - were allowed only one visit each year to the most holy place. In the rest of Leviticus 16 you can read the painstaking ritual that had to be followed for Aaron to safely enter and exit the most holy place. If any of those steps was skipped or short-changed the high priest would not survive the experience. The most holy place was filled with the presence of God. The access was limited to one man, once a year.
Heady stuff right? I admire Aaron's willingness to even try and enter the most holy place. I don't know that I could have done it. Or watched a husband or son try it!!!
Then I read Hebrews 4:14-15:
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Wait a minute. I am being told to approach God's throne confidently. And I don't see a limit on when or how often. If I'm reading these verse correctly - and I believe that I am - the gift of Calvary changed the requirements for entering God's presence and the frequency with which it can occur. I can confidently enter God's presence. No ritual sacrifices or bathing as described in Leviticus 16. No offerings or special garments. Just enter.
Do I even get what that means?! When I pray I have immediate access to God's throne!! Not even the High Priest of God's chosen people had that kind of access prior to Calvary. And what do I do with that access? What kind of attitude do I bring with me into the presence of God? I'd rather not answer that question.
Oh, let's be honest. I walk into the presence of God wanting help managing my time, solutions for problems, intervention for friends who are stressed . . . not that those aren't worthwhile things to pray for. It just ends up sounding like a shopping list. But do I REALLY get that I am in the presence of Almighty God?! That he listens and wants to move in my life?! Truth be told, I don't think so.
So now what? Where do I go from this realization? I'm going to spend much more time simply "being" in the presence of God and not so much time talking! I want to enter every time of prayer very mindful of the privilege that it is to enter the presence of my King. I wonder if my prayer habits will change? What do you think?