Nearly every conversation I have had over the past two months or so has included a statement that incorporated the word "after," such as: "After the quarantine, what will you do first?" or "I can't wait until after the quarantine when I can get a haircut" or "I can't wait until after the quarantine when I can hug people again."
But the phrase spoken most often seems to be: "I can't wait until after the quarantine when things return to the way they were—normal."
During this time when we couldn't go out to eat, couldn't go to movies, couldn't visit with friends and couldn't gather all together for worship, I, like most of the people around the globe, have had some time to think. This is mostly because thinking is one of the few things that the quarantine didn't place a limit upon.
As I thought about the statements listed above, I began to think about the word "after." This simple word is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It holds within its definition hope and promise.
Yet of the promises inherent is a promise that scares many of us. The word "after" carries within its two syllables the idea of change. You cannot have an after unless change is taking place. These thoughts brought me to a series of verses found in Leviticus 16:1-2 (TLV):
"Then Adonai spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they approached the presence of Adonai and died. Adonai said to Moses, 'Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holiest Place behind the curtain—before the atonement cover which is on the Ark—so that he would not die. For I will be appearing in the cloud over the atonement cover.'"
These verses tell of one of the saddest moments in the Torah. To understand what is taking place, you would have to turn a few pages back in your Bible to Leviticus 10 where Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu enter the Holy Place and offer strange fire. The result of their actions of disobedience is fire coming from the presence of G-D and consuming them instantly. Six chapters later, we find that their actions had a further consequence.
Up until that time, Aaron could enter the Holy of Holies anytime he wanted to spend time with G-D. But, after the death of Nadab and Abihu, that changed and now Aaron could only enter into the Holy Place when the cloud of G-D's presence appeared upon the ark, or atonement cover.
Just imagine for a moment what a tragic "after" this was to Aaron. Not only had his sons died because of their disobedience, but after their death, Aaron was quarantined from the Holy of Holies. From that moment on, things were different. There was a significant and overwhelmingly sad change that had taken place.
Aaron's freedom to enter into G-D's presence for fellowship had been removed. This is one of the most significant and difficult "afters" in the Bible. This "after" remains the "new normal" for nearly 1,500 years.
However, about 1,500 years after Aaron experienced his "after," Israel experienced a new "after" that we read about in the book of Hebrews 10:19-20:
"Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have boldness to enter into the Holies by the blood of Yeshua. He inaugurated a new and living way for us through the curtain—that is, His flesh."
You see, because of Aaron's son's disobedience, Aaron and all the other priests of Israel experienced their "after" and were quarantined from the Holy of Holies. This horrible "after" was reversed because of the obedience of Yeshua, G-D's Son. After His death, G-D restored our freedom to enter boldly into the Holies. While Aaron's "after" was one of the saddest in history, our "after" was the most glorious. Yeshua's "after" set you and I free to enter into the very presence of G-D 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This is confirmed in 1 Peter 2:9:
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
And the restoring of the promise made in Exodus 19:
"'So as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.' These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael."
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer, Jesus Is to Christianity as Pasta Is to Italians and Galatians in Context.
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