What must it be like to be so tenderly loved by someone that they take delight in thinking of you, desire only what is good for you, and are beside you offering help and comfort during each time of trouble?
Somewhere deep inside us we yearn for an all-encompassing love like this and even vaguely recognize its existence. And yet we aren’t quite sure of what we long for, since love like this goes beyond our understanding. Love like this is greater than we can imagine because it is greater than the love we are capable of extending. But there is a love like this, and we are the object of this love when we are part of the family of God.
God loved the Israelites in this way. He desired to be always near them and gave instructions for building a tabernacle where His Spirit would dwell. Although the people could not interact directly with God, a high priest would be their representative with God.
Exodus 28 tells of the special clothing that the high priest was to wear. This clothing was symbolic, representing important aspects of the relationship between Israel and God. One of the most visible pieces was an ephod, or apron, which was worn on the shoulders of the high priest. And on this highly visible ephod were memorial stones, engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. As Aaron the high priest came before God each day, he would “carry these names on his shoulders as a constant reminder” (v. 12).
Did God need the stones to remember the people He loved so fervently? Of course not. But the people, whose memories were short and whose hearts were fickle, needed to be reminded that they were continually in God’s thoughts. Not sometimes, but at all times.
And so it is with us today. We sometimes forget how important we are to God. And sometimes our emotions mislead us into believing that we are not loved as much as God tells us we are. One of the greatest pieces of evidence of this love is that, unlike the Israelites whose access to God was through the high priest, each of us has been given the precious gift of access to God at any time.
This access was vividly illustrated at the time of Jesus’ death. “Then Jesus shouted out again, and he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:50-51). The Temple’s curtain, through which the high priest passed to come into the presence of God, was now opened wide to everyone. There were no longer any barriers between the people and God. Right of entry was available to all who accepted the invitation to come to God. That right of entry is still available to all who accept God’s invitation.
Access to a god who was dead would mean nothing. But Jesus lives! (See Matthew 28.) And His last words in Matthew to His disciples and to us as His present-day followers, show once more His great love toward us. “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
With us always. Not sometimes. Always!
© 2010 Arlina Yates