The Day of Atonement - an Object Lesson of the Need for the Ultimate Sacrifice of Christ

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Leviticus 1-27
God’s Holiness means he cannot look upon sin; out of love he seeks a way for it to be forgiven which is achieved through the substitution of sacrifice. The ultimate Sacrifice being Christ
Scene 1/ Prior Preparation Prevents Pretty Poor Performance.
Running in the Olympic finals is something that an athlete may do once or twice in their career.
To even make it onto the team requires years of preparation.
You don’t just turn up on the day and have a go.
You train & train & train and then train some more.
In the months leading up to the event the athlete seeks to reach peak performance.
The week of competition is planned to the last detail.
Nothing is left to chance it is simply to important to just turn up and have a go.
Prior preparation in our relationship with God provides great benefit.
Yes we can just turn up, but; and this is a very big but, if you want to grow you need to work at it.
2 Peter 1:3–11 NLT
3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. 8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. 10 So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God has given us everything we need to live a godly life.
We need to make the effort to grow.
Without the effort we forget what godliness is.
Sin is waiting to claim us back again.
When a person falls away from godliness it is because they have failed to prepare for the attacks that will come.
When a person fails to demonstrate fruitfulness as a Christian it is because there is no spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth is lacking because there is no spiritual preparation for growth.
You actually have to practice what you say you believe.
Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
The same principle applied in the Old Testament
For the High Priest of Israel, prior preparation prevented death!
Scene 2/ Prior Preparation was important because of the significance of the Day of Atonement
Leviticus 16:30 & 34 tells us that The Day of Atonement was the one day of the year when sacrifice was made for all the sins of all the people.
So significant was this day, that it was the only day of the year that the High Priest was permitted to enter the Most Holy Place.
The place behind the curtain where God’s presence dwelt.
Listen to the warning given to Moses, a warning for the first High Priest Aaron.
Leviticus 16:1-2 “The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died after they entered the Lord’s presence and burned the wrong kind of fire before him. 2 The Lord said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover.”
Now if that isn’t enough to make sure that Aaron prepared properly then there was also the fact that the entire ceremony was carried out alone.
He wasn’t just alone when he entered into the Most Holy Place.
On this day he entered the entire Tabernacle alone.
For a significant part of the ceremony there was no one else; just him and the animals that were to be sacrificed.
It was a journey into the unknown.
Listen to these words from Leviticus 16:17 “No one else is allowed inside the Tabernacle when Aaron enters it for the purification ceremony in the Most Holy Place. No one may enter until he comes out again after purifying himself, his family, and all the congregation of Israel, making them right with the Lord. “
The Tabernacle was normally a place of near constant activity.
There were daily sacrifices as well as the individual sacrifices required of people for different events in their lives.
It was a busy place.
But not for this one special ceremony!
Aaron knew the Holiness of God could not tolerate sin.
Two of his sons had disobeyed specific commands; they had not prepared properly so they didn’t do the job properly.
They died.
You see God takes sin seriously.
It has to be dealt with properly.
You can’t just brush it off.
You have to face it & deal with it or it will eat away at you.
And that is the path that leads to destruction.
The whole idea of the Tabernacle and the Old Testament Law was to remind people of their need for God.
Every rite of passage required a sacrifice of some sort.
These sacrifices were an offering.
Giving something to God to buy back the thing that was his.
Beyond these offerings were the sacrifices for sin.
Every sin required forgiveness.
The need for God and his forgiveness was constantly kept before the people.
And the Day of Atonement was the one day when the sins of all the people, the entire nation were dealt with.
Scene 2/ So what was the preparation
Firstly there was the preparation of the people.
This was centred on a special Sabbath.
Everyone was too fast, everyone was to cease all work, and it was a day of total rest, a special Sabbath.
Now I am not sure that we get what that really means.
From sundown one day to sundown the next, absolutely nothing happened.
We don’t see anything like that in our culture.
A time of complete national stillness!
Not even Anzac Day is like that, Christmas day certainly isn’t.
And on Boxing Day most people are recovering from Christmas Day’s gluttony by going for a second round with the relatives they missed the day before.
Leviticus 16:29-31 tells us that every person wether native born or a foreigner was to follow this rule and Numbers 29:7 fills in the details about the fasting for us.
We are also told that anyone who does not follow this command is to be cut off from the nation.
Now if you are in a desert camp being cut off meant to be thrown out of the community into the wilderness alone.
This wasn’t a bunch of people kicking back in their hammocks under the palm trees, being served drinks by the locals.
This was the locals, and they all gathered in solemn anticipation of the sacrifice.
They could not participate.
They simply waited in anticipation.
Always with that concern in the back of their mind.
What happens if Aaron doesn’t make it?
They knew what happened to his sons; they knew God was serious about this!
Scene 3/ After the preparation of the people the actual ceremony could begin.
When we read Leviticus 16 it is very repetitive, which in the Old Testament means that the detail is important.
So let me try to put it in order for you from the Teacher’s Bible Commentary. [1]
On this day, and only on this day, Aaron was to enter the “holy place within the veil” (vv. 2–3, 30).
He was to wear the simple garments of an ordinary priest rather than the colorful and ornate garb of the high priest (v. 4; for a full description see Ex. 28).
His entrance into the holy of holies was to be as a humble priest rather than in the magnificence of his authority.
In preparation, he was to select the animals for the sacrifices (vv. 3, 5).
Further, he was to make himself ceremonially clean (v. 4).
When all was ready, he was to make his sin offering (vv. 6, 11).
Then he was to separate the two goats by lot (vv. 6–10).
Next he entered the holy place “within the veil” with burning incense (vv. 12–13), which served two purposes.
It was symbolic of the prayers of himself and the nation but it also served to cover with a cloud of smoke the manifestation of God upon the mercy seat.
It is implied that he then went out for the blood of his sin offering, entering a second time into the holy place, where he placed it upon and near the mercy seat (v. 14).
Again he left the holy place, this time to sacrifice the goat which had been designated by lot as a sin offering for the people.
This done, he returned a third time to the mercy seat, where he sprinkled the blood in atonement for the sins of the people (vv. 15–16).
During the performance of this part of the ritual, no one else was to be in the “tabernacle of the congregation” (v. 17).
When he left the holy place, he went out to cleanse the altar and the tabernacle itself (vv. 18–20).
At this point he took the other goat, placed his hands upon it and confessed the sins of the people, thus symbolically transferring to it their sins.
Then a man who had been prepared led the goat into the wilderness (vv. 20–22).
The Hebrew word which is translated wilderness is the word Azazel.
We are not entirely sure but it seems to carry the idea that just as the sacrifice of one goat cleansed the people from their sin so the other goat carried those sins back to their author, the devil[2].
This is also known as the scape goat, which in our modern understanding means the one who gets the blame for others wrong doing.
Following all of this, Aaron cleansed himself again, resumed the normal garments of the high priest, and placed selected pieces of the animals he had just sacrificed as burnt offerings for himself and the people (vv. 24–25).
Others involved in this and the one who led the goat away also had to go through a ceremonial cleansing (vv. 26–28).
Then after all this they cleaned up by taking the parts of the bull & goats which were not used in the offering away from the camp and burnt them (vv 27-28)
It was incredibly complex and full of meaning.
But it also meant it was never enough.
It had to be carried out precisely and with great preparation every year.
So I need to ask a question here.
If you had to carry out an incredibly complex ritual every year just to get by to the next year and that ritual reminded you that you were trapped in the situation of forever being condemned for your sins; wouldn’t you be keen to find something that would fix things once and for all?
It is said, that if you keep doing the same thing why are you surprised when you keep getting the same results.
If you want something to change then you have to do something different.
It’s a basic principle isn’t it?
A new start means to do something different.
A different result requires a different approach.
If you want change then it is required that you actually change something!
If we want our sins dealt with once and for all then we need a once and for all solution.
Scene 4/ Jesus is that once and for all solution; he is the eternal Day of Atonement
Listen to these words from Hebrews 9:11-15 “11 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. 12 With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. 13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. 15 That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant”
Listen to these words from Hebrews 9:24-26 “24 For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. 25 And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. 26 If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.”
And Hebrews 13:11–12(NLT) — 11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.
And Hebrews 10:19–20 (NLT) — 19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.
Do you see it?
God’s Holiness means he cannot look upon sin;
Out of love he seeks a way for it to be forgiven which is achieved through the substitution of sacrifice.
The ultimate Sacrifice being Christ.
Just as 2 Peter 1:3 said right at the beginning the way has been prepared for us.
That way is Jesus.
We no longer have to repeat endless sacrifices.
We only have to take up the sacrifice that has been given for us.
The sacrifice that prepares our way into God’s presence.
Will you make the effort to get to know him?
Will you spend the time in prior preparation so that your Spiritual Growth is real and lasts.
[1]Cate, R. L. (1972). Leviticus. In H. F. Paschall & H. H. Hobbs (Eds.), The teacher’s Bible commentary (p. 88). Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers. [2] Cate, R. L. (1972). Leviticus. In H. F. Paschall & H. H. Hobbs (Eds.), The teacher’s Bible commentary (p. 89). Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers.
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