How do we approach God? How do we come to Him? Living in the time after the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is easy to put an unrealistic distance between ourselves and the world of the Old Testament. Though Christ has now fulfilled the law completely, we find in the Old Testament the richness of Christ foreshadowed. Though the temple veil has now been torn in two, it was always by grace that men have approached God. From the time of Israel until now, the central focus of the Word is upon a God who seeks relationship with His people, while simultaneously providing the means by which they may come to Him.
We don’t need the rituals and ceremonies of the law to fall into the dangerous pattern of attempting a works-based righteousness. Legalism isn’t just an Old Testament issue. On my own, I invent all manner of foolish ways to approach God. If I am grieved by a sin, I like to think I can come to Him through my own remorse; if I can drum up enough sorrowful feelings, I think somehow it will appease Him. He’ll see how really sorry I am, and only then will we be okay. I am prone to approach Him via my own sincerity, my own accomplishments, my ideas, my friends and associates, and so on, believing that my successes make Him love me more.
But from the beginning, our access to the mercy seat has only been at the invitation of Christ, who is unchanging in His love and His provision (Hebrews 13:8). Because this is true, the Old Testament covenant ceremony should be quite familiar to us. Pay close attention. The ceremony is not a foreign one, but one we revisit every time we approach the throne of grace. We come before Him as His people, reiterating our desire to walk faithfully with Him, laying before Him our confessions as we lean upon the satisfying sacrifice of Christ. There, we feast on Christ in His Word and in sacrament. In all this, He has made His dwelling with us, and He has appeared to us all. Like the elders of Israel, we feast in His presence.
Our source of identity, the call to fidelity, the feast of fellowship, and the rest of His promises are all secured by a vicarious payment (Exodus 24:8; Hebrews 9:18-22).
“Pay careful attention to him,” God declares, “to my messenger, my angel, who will lead you into the land that I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20-22, my paraphrase). Can you hear this same voice echoed? “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to Him” (Luke 9:35).
So, back to my original question: how do we come to God? By His leading and invitation. Christ Himself leads Israel out of bondage in Egypt: He is the angel in whom is the Name of God. Therefore, make no covenant with false gods. Rather, run to Christ and feast on Him alone. Give up your aspirations of approaching God on your own merit. No matter how great, your merit is not the element that matters; come freely to Him through the invitation of His Son.
Written by Caleb Faires