Shadows of Greatness 2.0 - Leviticus 16:1-22



(Picture of Delicate Arch on Slide) Last week, Andrew and I went out to Salt Lake City to minister our Lifepoint Church family as they go through a major transition. We flew in and out of Denver (flights to Denver were only $49!), and so driving back, we decided wake up early to carve out some time to stop by Arches National Park in southern Utah. There’s over 2000 naturally made arches in the park, but there’s one named Delicate Arch that is the most famous. Many of you have no doubt seen a picture of it before, and it’s even featured on the Utah license plates. We hiked three miles up hill to see this thing, and I was excited to see it, but I kind of felt like I knew what it looked like. And, when I was sucking wind because of the altitude and steepness, I was I having doubts as to how worth it this actually was. But, then, we finally turned a corner, and there it was. And, it wasn’t anything like what the pictures seem to depict. It towers over the majestic canyons like a stone gateway to God. I had always imagined it being about 10-15 feet tall. But, that’s just an optical illusion due to such an expansive backdrop. It’s actually more than 50 feet high and makes men like tiny beneath it. Being there and seeing it, you realize that it’s one of those rare places that invokes a sense of transcendence, a sense of being in the presence of One who is supremely great, One who is immeasurably big.
We say too often, “The pictures don’t do it justice”, but this is one of those rare occasions where there’s nothing else that you can say. That is, the picture showed you something great, but it didn’t reveal the fullness of its greatness. Its glory was still concealed until we could actually see it. That’s how Hebrews understands the Old Testament’s relationship to Jesus. Hebrews 10:1 says, “…the law has but a shadow of the good things to come.” And, this is what we’re getting at when we talk about the seeing the Big Story. What we see in the Old Testament are pictures that call us forward to see true greatness. They are shadows pointing us toward God’s plan to redeem the world through his Son, Jesus.

God’s Word

And, it’s shadows of Jesus, shadows of the gospel that we’re seeing with as much HD clarity as the OT offers in Leviticus 16. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, and Leviticus is the centerpiece of those books. It’s also the one that kills a lot of our reading plans, right? But, Leviticus is made up of 36 speeches, and this morning, as we look at the Day of Atonement, we’re looking at the 18th speech. Meaning that we’re looking at the very center, the very heartbeat of all of the writings of Moses, and it’s here that I want us to see shadows of Jesus(headline) at the center of the Law of Moses. I want you to see that Leviticus is a book that’s intended to leave us craving the gospel.

Insufficient “sacrifices” are shadows of a glorious “Savior” .

v. 16 “Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.” I want you to see, this morning in the big picture, that the Day of Atonement is filled with Insufficient “sacrifices” that are shadows of a glorious “Savior”. And, I want you to see this single, big picture masterpiece from three different perspectives, each different lighting and insights into the heart of the artist. The primary problem the Day of Atonement was to address was how a sinful people could retain God’s presence despite their obvious unfaithfulness to him. To see how God plans to overcome this problem we’re going to look at three big words that I think you’ll learn to love: 1) Imputation 2) Propitiation 3) Expiation. And, each one of these words will provide us a different perspective on the shadows of Jesus found here.


v. 16 “Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place” First, let’s look at imputation — not to be confused with amputation. By the word impute, I mean that it’s something that’s given to something or someone else because of the actions of another. It’s kind of like the opposite of amputation where you lose a pinky toe or an arm or something. It says in verse 16 that part of what Aaron is accomplishing by offering the sin offerings on behalf of himself and the people is that he’s atoning or purifying “the Holy Place,” the places in the Tabernacle where they have been entering and offering sacrifices. Now, let me ask you, what did the Tabernacle do wrong? Who did the Tabernacle lust after or envy or gossip about? Well, the answer is no one! So, why does it need to be purified? “Because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.” The Tabernacle had been charged with the uncleanness of Israel. It’s imputation. The unfaithfulness and sinfulness of Israel and her priests was being counted against the Tabernacle.
The picture goes deeper. If you were to read chapters 11-15 of Leviticus, you’d find example after example of weird things that God counts as being unclean. Most of these things are not even sins — leprosy, having certain defects, or bodily discharges, but they were intended to communicate through ritual what was spiritual. We are constantly in need of God’s provision for us. And so, everyone and everything that these folks touched would also become unclean, and everyone involved would have to go through the purification rites. You couldn’t touch a leper, or you were unclean as though you were a leper. You couldn’t touch a corpse, lest you become unclean as a corpse. That is, you were being imputed — credited and charged — with their uncleanness. The picture is clear enough. There is a pandemic far older than COVID-19. We’re infected with sin, and we infect everything that we touch. In fact, it’s a picture of what happened with Adam. We inherited Adam’s sin nature. His sinfulness has been imputed to us. We’re born credited and charged because of our original father.

Jesus Makes Us Clean

So, do you see how this draws out this craving for a time in which there would be no uncleanness, a craving for a time in which I don’t pollute others and can’t be polluted by them? Now, let’s get excited. Think of how Jesus reverses this picture when He comes. In Matthew 8, a leper comes to Jesus without any hope and as an outcast in his society. He has to literally live outside the city gates. He hasn’t been touched by another person in no telling how long because he’ll make them unclean. What does Jesus do? It says, “And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately “the leprosy was cleansed.” Not healed. Cleansed! Do you see it yet? Jesus isn’t polluted; the leper is purified! Matthew 9, a little girl has died, and her grieving father wants Jesus to come and heal her. But, Jews don’t touch corpses or even get close to them. They don’t want to be unclean. What does Jesus do? “He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.” The dead doesn’t defile Jesus. Jesus raises her to life! In the same chapter, a woman with a discharge of blood reaches out and touches Jesus in desperation. Everyone else would have to go through purification rites. Anyone else would be unclean. But, power goes out from Jesus having been touched by the one unclean and guess what — the flow of blood stops, and Jesus says, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well!” Jesus isn’t made unclean by sinners; sinners are made clean by Jesus. We may have been given sin by Adam, but we are offered perfect righteousness by Jesus. And, there is more grace in Jesus than there is sin in you! So, that’s imputation: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

You Perfectly Kept the Law?

There are some of us who have been convinced by others — or maybe even by ourselves — that Jesus isn’t as good as He really is. You’ve become convinced that you need to clean yourself up best you can and that Jesus will do the rest. And, you tried that for a while, but what you found is that you ended up just feeling more ashamed, more exhausted. But, this is the good news of imputation — Jesus is better than that. He’s better in his moral purity, and He’s better in his lovingkindness toward you. Jesus doesn’t invite the morally strong or the resolved or the self-disciplined — He invites the tired adulterer and the weary liar. You see, Jesus lived perfectly and offered himself as a sacrifice in your place, meaning that He decided to be credited and charged with your sins SO THAT you might be credited with his perfectly kept law. That’s how good He is. Jesus has given your account a perfectly kept law so you don’t have to bring anything to the table except your own exhausted life. The Christian life isn’t for the morally resolute or the self-disciplined or the emotionally stable; it’s for erratic, exhausted, entangled sinners who are able to love and savor the goodness of Jesus.


v. 15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.” So, that’s imputation. The next angle of this shadow I want you to see is — propitiation. Propitiation means to satisfy God’s wrath. So, you have two goats for the people of whom the High Priest casts lots. For one of the goats, the lot falls on the LORD, and that goat is to be slaughtered. The blood is poured out over the mercy seat, and it’s to satisfy the wrath that all of the people are owed from God for the sins. It shouldn’t be a goat. It should be them. But, through the goat, God is teaching them that if they will come to him on his terms, in his way, He will provide them the way that his wrath might be satisfied by a substitute. They don’t have to suffer. Another will suffer in their place. But, there’s a problem: (Hebrews 10:3-4) “3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Craving a Greater Sacrifice

So, again, there’s a craving for a Substitute that can actually take away your sins, for a sacrifice that won’t leave sinners returning to the altar again next year. There’s a craving for a sacrifice that will ultimately and finally satisfy God’s wrath so that it will never again be aroused against us. And, to this, Hebrews 10:10-14 says: “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” These sacrifices weren’t sufficient. They were shadows. They were shadows that left us craving. Constantly, our conscience tells us how bad we are. Constantly, we’re reminded of how far short we fall. Constantly, we’re reminded of the distance that is to be between us and God. What hope do we have? Jesus has satisfied his wrath!

Jesus is Sufficient for Your Low-lights

There’s something that counseling has taught me. Many of us have a low-lights reel of our worst moments and our biggest failures and our severest sins playing on repeat on the big screen in our minds. Our thinking is that Jesus suffered wrath and so must I. We become so filled with shame and so convinced that God is going to get us that we begin to beat ourselves down. Our minds shame us. Our actions sabotage us, and it’s a twisted way of thinking that if I don’t punish myself God will have to do it much more severely. But, listen up: there’s nothing for you to add to the sacrifice of Jesus. He endured the fullness of God’s wrath for you. There’s none left for you to endure. God may discipline his children for their good, but he never penalizes them. Jesus endured the penalty in full, and his sacrifice is sufficient. You live free from sin’s penalty, and this morning, many of your need to offer the self-harming thoughts of your mind and self-sabotaging actions of your life on the Jesus’ cross because you’re free. Jesus’ drank the cup of wrath once and for all. It’s satisfied. Jesus is sufficient for your low-lights!


v. 21 “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.” So, He’s provided propitiation for your sins. One more big word, and we’re finished— expiation. Expiation means to have to your guilt removed from you. If propitiation is the satisfaction of your Judge’s wrath, expiation is his full, unconditional pardon. I know it’s hard to keep up with as we read it, but there is 1 bull, two goats, and two rams, all of which will be slaughtered with the exception of one goat. And, that goat is the highlight every year on the Day of Atonement. The priest would take both hands and lay them upon the goat, and it was the picture of the fullness of every sin on behalf of all of the people being laid upon the head of the goat. And, then, the goat was removed from the camp. It’s told that they would take the goat 12 miles outside of camp, turn him loose, and watch him until he was out of sight. The picture is a powerful one — God isn’t merely overlooking their sins. He’s removing them. They aren’t to be counted against them any more. Their sins have been removed. But, at the end of the day, it’s just a goat. It’s a shadow. Another glorious picture that still falls short. But, Isaiah 53 promised a messiah would come, and it said: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And, the shadow of Leviticus 16 along with the promise of Isaiah 53 would find its answer in Jesus about whom it is said: “He himself bore our sins in his body.”

He Removes It All

I wonder if you’ve come here this morning feeling dirty. I wonder if you’ve stayed up at night feeling guilty. Maybe you’ve been pregnant and aborted the pregnancy, and you can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe you’ve had an affair, and it was the worst moment of your life, and it’s haunting you. Maybe you’ve betrayed the very people that you love most. Maybe you have a secret pornography addiction, and you just feel worthless all the time because of it. Here’s the offer. It’s not hearsay. It’s not some late addition. Here’s the offer from more than 3000 years ago until today. The offer that has set generations of people free. If you will come to Jesus, if you will come to the Substitute that God has provided for you, if you will abandon yourself and your life and your misery and your good works for the sake of Jesus, He will remove your guilt. He won’t just overlook it. He won’t take care of most of it, but leaven you some shame. He won’t endure most of the penalty. He’ll remove it all. Every last scratch of filth. Psalm 103:11–12 (ESV) “11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” There are two types of people here this morning: those who have had their sins removed by Jesus and those who still can. This morning, put down all of your defenses and all your reasons and all your excuses, and come. You see, Jesus is better than we think He is, and He’s more sufficient than we believe He is, and He’s more forgiving than we trust him to be. This morning, come to him with everything you have, and He promises to remove it all.
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