It is time.
The tenth day of the seventh month.
The Day when I may go into The Presence.
The Day when I must go into The Presence.
I stand alone.
The acrid smell of burnt fat lingers in my nostrils. Smooth pine cools my feet. Dread is clutching at my guts.
The crowd is assembled, silent, expectant. I can see the scared eyes of my family upon me. They know the stories. Uzzah, the Kohathite, struck down for touching The Ark. Nadab and Abihu, consumed by the fire of YHWH for approaching Him incorrectly.
And I, High Priest of Israel, must venture all and go into the Most Holy Place.
Am I ready? The ceremonial washing is finished. The jewelled breastplate and golden ephod are set aside. Today I wear simple linen from head to foot. Ceremonially clean… but He will see my heart. What foolish wisdom is it that sends a sinful man to make atonement for a sinful nation? But provision has been made for this, too. The first sacrifice must be a bull to atone for my own sin.
The hopes of the nation pressing on me are suffocating. For ten days, the court in Heaven has been in deliberation. Ten days since the Feast of Trumpets announced its commencement. And today will come the verdict. Will there be mercy and cleansing again this year? The people fast…and wait.
Their only hope: that I go in.
My only hope: that I approach in the manner He has prescribed.
I hold a censer of burning coals and two handfuls of fine incense to burn when I enter. Fragrant smoke to screen me from the Shekina, and to signal to the people I am in The Presence. Face to face with YHWH. One man standing in the place of the people.
And there will be so much blood! So much blood to atone for so much sin. Cover the mercy seat with blood, and maybe He will have mercy on us for another year.
The veil is ahead of me, thick and unyielding. It seals the Most Holy Place from the rest of the Temple. And through that curtain I must go. I alone, of all people on earth. And on this day alone, in all the year.
Will my prayers be heard? Will I be able to endure The Presence? This I do know: I would rather see the Shekina glory of YHWH and be consumed in the same moment, than live endless days outside the curtain.
I bear the nation’s sins.
I will enter.
It is time.
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