Veils have a double function. The term Hebrews uses for veil (katepetasma) could refer to the screen of the court (Exodus 38:18), the screen at the entrance of the outer apartment of the sanctuary (Exodus 36:37), or the inner veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-35). These three veils were both entrances and boundaries that only some people could cross.
Read Leviticus 16:1-2, and Leviticus 10:1-3. What warning do we have in these passages?
The veil was a protection for the priests as they ministered before a holy God. After the sin of the golden calf, God said to Moses that He would not accompany them in the way to the Promised Land lest He consumed them because they were a “stiff-necked people” (Exodus 33:3, NKJV). Thus, Moses moved the tent of meeting and pitched it far off, outside the camp (Exodus 33:7). After Moses interceded, however, God agreed to go with them in their midst (Exodus 33:12-20), but He established several measures to protect the people as He dwelled among them.
For instance, Israel camped in a strict order that created a hollow square in the middle where the tabernacle was pitched. In addition, the Levites camped around the tabernacle in order to protect the sanctuary and its furniture from encroachment by strangers (Numbers 1:51, Numbers 3:10). They were, in fact, a kind of human veil that protected the people of Israel: “But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony” (Numbers 1:53, ESV).
Jesus, as our Priest, has also been our veil. Through His incarnation, God pitched His tent in our midst and made it possible for us to contemplate His glory (John 1:14-18). He made it possible for a holy God to live in the midst of an imperfect people.
|Think about what it meant that the Creator God, the one who made the universe, would dwell among His people, who at that time were a nation of escaped slaves. What does that teach us about how close God can be to us?|