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Vayikra/Leviticus 16:18 And he shall go out to the altar that is before the L-rd
This instruction appears in the middle of the sequence of commands describing the ritual to be carried out on Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonements. The verb , 'he shall go out' attracts the attention of the commentators because Aharon is already in the Holy Place, and the 'altar before the L-rd' is the gold altar that is in the Holy Place. Has Aharon left the sanctuary and returned, or where was he that he 'went out' to the gold altar? The overall flow of the text in the surrounding verses suggests that Aharon's preceeding action was inside the parochet, curtain, and that he is working his way out from the Most Holy Place, to the altar in the courtyard.Rashi suggests that he is moving around inside the sanctuary, but moving out of the direct line between the gold altar and the curtain. Other commentators (Mizrachi, Sifsei Chachamim) suggest that this is speaking of the circular movement that Aharon must make in order to put blood on the four horns of the altar.
Singer and song-writer Stephen Curtis Chapman has a song which speaks of going out, called 'Treasure Island'. Some of the words say: "And I'll go sailing out to Treasure Island / The Treasure Island that G-d's word can be / I raise the sail as I kneel to pray / Guided by the Spirit's gentle wind / I'll pray and make my way to Treasure Island" (CD: 'More to this Life' - Words and music by Stephen Curtis Chapman, © 1989 Sparrow Song / New Wings Music / Greg Nelson Music). Talking about having a quiet time each morning, he is speaking of the need to withdraw from the normal day-to-day activities and spend time alone with G-d and His word. We find Yeshua doing the same thing: "After He had sent the crowds away, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray" (Matthew 14:23, CJB). If Yeshua needed times apart in order to pray and connect with Father G-d, then surely we do too!
But there is actually more to it than simply time alone with G-d, as the words of the Torah hint. Aharon had to 'go out' in order to perform some of his service in the Tent of Meeting. Almost, he had to step outside himself and even the role was was playing - not just a man, but the anointed High Priest - he had to go out from normality in order to touch G-d. In some books, G-d is described as being 'entirely other'; strange words that don't make grammatical sense, but point to the fact that G-d isn't 'in' this world in the way that we are. He exists in the spiritual world that nevertheless touches and intersects with our physical world in many ways and places. What both Aharon the Cohen Gadol and Stephen Curtis Chapman found is that sometimes in order to experience G-d's presence, to draw near to the altar, to function before Him, one has to 'go out', step into the 'other' and simply follow G-d by faith and obey Him 'because'. When we do that, we find Yeshua, the Great High Priest, who has already charted our course, guiding our feet and leading us on in the Kingdom of G-d.
Further Study: Luke 6:12-13
Application: If you are comfortable and routine in your relationship with G-d, why not try stepping out and finding Him in the other. Look around you and see Him afresh in other people, times and places.
© Jonathan Allen, 2005
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