“Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.” (Exodus 20:26)
This prohibition was spoken in regard to the altar of sacrifice meaning that, instead of steps, the top of the altar was to be reached by means of a ramp. This method insured that the priest’s nakedness would not be exposed as they ascended the altar. This, in turn, hinted at the very reason for the altar’s service in the first place — that fallen man could approach the Creator of the Universe and be reconciled to Him. In short, this prohibition hearkened back to what happened in the garden before and after the fall of Adam.
Before he and his wife ate from the forbidden tree, Adam had unhindered access to the Creator and the Tree of Life, unaware of their nakedness. But when they ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, their eyes were opened to good and evil and they realized they were naked — and were ashamed. Flagrant disobedience resulted in their exile from the garden and from God. Nevertheless, before sending them away from the garden, God clothed them with coats of skin in order that their shame might be covered.
It is clear to us that, for multiple reasons, God does not wish for anyone’s nakedness to be exposed. Our God is merciful and compassionate, willfully desiring to cover our shame when our heart is moved to return to Him. But it is also true that God desires that we do not stand before Him in a state of spiritual nakedness. In other words, those called to repentance are compelled to clothe themselves that the shame of their nakedness is covered. As He said to the church of Laodicea:
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed.” (Revelation 3:17-18)
It seems that, Biblically speaking, nakedness is emblematic of shame and thus the refusal to cover ones’ nakedness would be evidence who someone who is shameless. In turn, this alludes to the requirement that those who approach a Holy God must do so in humility and contrition. Though we must be cognizant of our shame, He should be desirous that He would mercifully cover it. And so as we approach Him, let us do so with a humble heart and the determination to do nothing that is shameful; and to be grateful that He has covered our shame because Messiah extends to us white garments purchased with His death, burial and resurrection.
Blessings and Shalom,