Saturday, March 26, 2011

Leviticus 16 - The Day of Atonement

LINK: Leviticus 16


It is important to grasp the full import of this important chapter in Leviticus.

The Day of Atonement happened annually. It was a fast day (16:29; Acts 27:9).

The Ceremony:

1) Aaron washed in the courtyard and put on special garments that were plainer than that of even the ordinary priest. He put the garments on in the holy place.

2) He sacrificed a bull as a sin offering on the altar (in the courtyard) to make atonement for his sin and that of his household. The blood was not sprinkled in front of the curtain and altar of incense like the ordinary sin offering of Leviticus 4. The blood went to the most holy place and was sprinkled in front of and before the mercy seat/atonement cover. Before he sprinkled the blood, he took coals from the altar and incense and put it on the altar of incense in order to make a shield between him and the Shekinah glory of God's presence over the mercy seat/atonement cover (see note on the mercy seat/atonement cover under #4).

3. Aaron went outside the tabernacle and cast lots for two goats. He sacrificed one at the altar as a sin offering for the people and the other would be the scapegoat.

4. He took the blood of the sacrificed goat and went back into the holy of holies and sprinkled blood on and in front of the mercy seat/atonement cover.

The mercy seat/atonement cover comes from the Hebrew word kapporeth. It is where the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, gets its name which means "day of atonement." The mercy seat was the gold cover of the sacred chest in the inner "holy of holies" in the tabernacle. God promised to meet with men above it (Numbers 7:89). It was the "place of atonement" in that the blood was sprinkled there on the Day of Atonement and propitiation was made. A propitiatory sacrifice was one that appeased the righteous wrath of God. (To see the connection of propitiation to redemption and justification, you can go to a post on Romans 3 HERE.)

Atonement is related to the Hebrew word koper which means ransom, "to atone by offering a substitute." This word illustrates the theology of reconciliation in the Old Testament. The life of the sacrificial animal (symbolized by its blood) was required in exchange for the life of the worshipper. It was a symbol of innocent life given for guilty life. By laying hands on the animal and confessing his sin, the worshiper identified himself with the animal as his substitute which was then killed and the blood was sprinkled on or in front of the mercy seat or sent out as a scapegoat.

5. He returned to the holy place and sprinkled the goat's blood there to make atonement for himself, his household, the whole community of Israel, and for the holy place.

6. He went outside to the altar of burnt offering and sprinkled it with the blood of the bull (for himself) and of the goat (for the people).

7. He laid hands on the second goat known as the "scapegoat." The scapegoat was sent away and bore the sins of the nation symbolizing removal of sin and its guilt. The goat would "escape" to the desert by the hands of an appointed man.

8. Aaron disrobed, washed, and put his priestly garments back on.

9. He made another sacrifice of a ram burnt offering for himself and another ram for the people.

10. The ceremony concluded with the burning of the sin offerings outside the camp and the cleansing of the man who released the goat.


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Only Christ was the Perfect Sacrifice and the Perfect Scapegoat! He was the innocent life given for my guilty, sinful life. His sprinkled blood has cleansed me. He has "removed" my sin and the guilt associated with it.


Only Christ was the perfect High Priest who did not need to offer a bull for His cleansing like Aaron because Christ was without sin. (Hebrews 5:1-3, 7:26-28). Christ does not need to perform this ritual year after year because He made one sacrifice for sin for all time (Hebrews 9:11-14, 10).


Take a look at the "Feast Chart for Leviticus." Also, try praying through Hebrews 9:11-14 in your prayer time!


Thank You for providing a way into the Holy of Holies through the sacrifice of Your precious Son for our sin, once and for all time. Your presence is our desire. Make Your presence more real to us as we read Your Word. Amen.
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