When I was a kid, my family’s home was at the bottom of a large hill. Every time it rained, it seemed that all the water in the neighborhood ended up in our backyard. It was great! We could stomp in the puddles to our heart’s content, and that was allowed. But here’s what we weren’t allowed to do—come back inside the home in that unclean state. It’s not that we would die if we did, but—maybe! We never tried.
Our state of uncleanness kept us from being able to go back home.
Ever since Adam’s failure in the Garden of Eden, that reality has been the experience of all humankind apart from divine intervention. We have been expelled from God’s presence into a wilderness of sin and death, and we cannot seem to find our way back.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this recently. Maybe after a period of failure in your life, you knew you needed to come back to God, but you just couldn’t. Fear, shame, and guilt held you back. Perhaps an unwillingness to repent or the busyness of life kept you from drawing near to find grace to help in your time of need. Maybe you thought, “Does God even want me to draw near to Him after I’ve sinned?”
The Bible presents an amazing truth…
God invites you to draw near.
Enter the book of Leviticus. (Your favorite book of the Bible, right?) Leviticus presents God’s answer to this problem, starting with the first verse. In Leviticus 1:1, God invites the people of Israel to bring an “offering”—literally, “a thing brought near.” The first seven chapters of Leviticus then describe how an everyday person can draw near to God.1
Stop and think about that for a minute. God actually wants you to be near Him!
The anticipation in this section begins to build as a group of holy priests prepares to enter the tabernacle (the first time that will have happened in the storyline of the Torah).2 All the people assemble to watch (9:2), Moses and Aaron enter the tabernacle, the glory of God appears, a fireball consumes the burnt offering, and all the people shout and fall on their faces (9:22–24). Yes, I’m sure we all would have responded that way.
But there’s just one problem.
Your sin keeps you from drawing near.
Most likely, the people are still present when, a short time later, Aaron’s sons also try to enter the tabernacle. Only this time, they do what is right in their own eyes. The result? God’s fire doesn’t consume the burnt offering. It consumes them! (10:2)
Can you imagine the pandemonium that ensues? Don’t forget—everybody’s watching! The people hear a blast, and now dead corpses are being dragged out from God’s presence (10:4). That’s when Moses stands up to speak to the people. For five chapters (11–15), God, through Moses, gives Israel some rather dense laws, explaining what just happened and giving them uncomfortable pictures of the wages of sin.3
Here’s how Paul says it: “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Though you must draw near to God, you cannot draw near with your sin. But there’s good news!
Jesus has drawn near on your behalf.
After Moses finishes speaking, God offers an undeserved, mind-blowing gift, the gift of atonement.4
On the Day of Atonement, God provided a chosen representative who entered God’s presence on behalf of sinful people with an atoning sacrifice. This atonement brought reconciliation to God through the covering of sin provided by a blood sacrifice.
What an amazing reality!
But the Day of Atonement ritual was only temporary (Heb. 9:9–10). It was a powerful picture of a full and final atonement yet to come. Our Lord Jesus entered once for all into the very presence of God (9:24), having covered your sin with His own blood (9:12–14). He drew near to God on your behalf, and then sat down at the Father’s right hand (10:11–14). If you have trusted Him as your blameless representative, then your sins are covered! All your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven (10:15–18).
The way is open.
So, now, you can draw near through the person and work of Jesus Christ. So what should you do?
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
God not only wants you near Him, He has made a way for you to draw near through the sacrificial death of His only Son. So draw near! Don’t tarry till you’re better. Don’t try to clean yourself up. Don’t look to yourself. Don’t wait until you feel worthy. Trust His full and final atonement, and draw near.
Here’s how we draw near:
- We draw near at salvation through the work of Jesus.
- We draw near in prayer in the name of Jesus.
- We draw near in confession and repentance based on the blood of Jesus.
- We draw near in joyful worship responding to the mercy of Jesus.
- We draw near through His Word beholding the face of Jesus.
And when you draw near to Him, He promises to transform you! Here’s how A.W. Tozer described it:
“While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves—blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”5
Do you need grace to help for your time of need today? God’s answer is simple: draw near.
It’s important to remember that the tabernacle was decorated and furnished to remind Israel of the Garden of Eden. In other words, this is the way back home! ↩
Moses attempted to enter the tabernacle in Exodus 40:35 but could not, perhaps due to the fallout from Israel’s failure in Exodus 32. ↩
Interestingly, many of these laws use words or themes first introduced in Genesis 3–9, a description of the fallout and consequences of sin and the banishment from Eden. None of the “unclean” behaviors in these chapters are moral sins. Rather, through these laws, “God teaches people to feel about sin as they are accustomed to feel about an ignominious and uncomfortable exclusion from the ritual service” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, 182). ↩
Leviticus 16 is the climax of the very center section of the entire Torah. This chapter depicts the only recorded entrance into the most holy place in the Torah which took place once a year on the Day of Atonement, a day the text calls a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” (16:31) ↩
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 95 ↩