The High and Holy Place
“Thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit’” (v. 15).- Isaiah 57:14–21
In our look at the tabernacle/temple and its furnishings, we have made frequent mention of the Holy Place, where the lampstand, table for showbread, and altar of incense were all located, and the Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies. Perhaps the most significant distinction between these two important rooms in the tabernacle is that the Holy Place was the arena for priestly service throughout the year while the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place once a year and then only on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).
We will study the Day of Atonement more closely in the days ahead when we look at Israel’s feasts and holy days. Today we will merely note that access was restricted to the Holy of Holies because it was the place in the tabernacle/temple where God made His presence felt most strongly (Ex. 25:22; 26:34). Since even the high priest was a sinner, daily appearing before the mercy seat would be a danger to him, so the Lord graciously limited access to the one time a year when a special atonement would cover his sin (though it was ultimately inadequate, see Heb. 10:4).
According to Hebrews 9, the tabernacle/temple and its rooms and furnishings were a copy of heavenly realities, and this is confirmed in today’s passage. In words spoken before the exile but addressed to the Israelites who would return from Babylon, Isaiah reminds the people of the holiness of God. Isaiah 57:15 has a strong emphasis on the Lord’s transcendence — His separateness and exaltedness over all creation. He dwells in a high and holy place, a holy place of which the earthly Holy of Holies was but a copy.
Yet God is not only perfectly holy, He is also perfectly gracious. Though His presence was made known most strongly in the temple, He was also present with every contrite and repentant Israelite (v. 15). This was a truth that the old covenant believer did not understand as long as the temple stood, for its limited access reminded them of the separateness of the Lord. But Christ has come and has replaced the temple, and now we see clearly not only God’s holiness but also His grace. For in His great love He appointed His one and only Son to die in our place so that He could satisfy the demands of His holiness and still give us eternal life.
The Lord is transcendent — high above us as our Lord and Sovereign. Yet this is not a distant and wrathful lordship, for in Christ we no longer have to fear eternal judgment. In fact, Jesus has made us friends with God (Ps. 24:14); thus, we should avail ourselves of every opportunity to learn His will and way just as we do with our earthly friends. Corporate worship, prayer, Bible study, and more are all indispensable to building this relationship.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 6
1 Thessalonians 4:7