Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur

The most important day of the year for the Old Testament Jew was the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, when God accepted the symbolic shedding of animals’ blood as atonement for the sins of all the people, and gave everyone a new beginning.

The deaths of Nadab and Abihu [Leviticus 10] had been a shocking reminder of how important it was to approach God on His terms.

Sin is an outrage against God and the source of terrible harm to ourselves and others. At this point Aaron and his other sons must have felt some fear about entering the tabernacle, knowing that was where Nadab and Abihu had been consumed by the wrath of God.

Now God gave careful instructions to Aaron so that he wouldn't die when he approached God. God made it clear that Aaron and future high priests did not need to be afraid to serve, but there was only one way to approach God. Only the high priest could enter the most holy place, the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and never without the shedding of blood.

God gave instructions in Leviticus 16 on how Aaron was to prepare himself before offering atonement for Israel:
Verse 3 he was to present a bull as a sin offering for himself and his family, and have a ram ready for a burnt offering, also for himself and his family, and in verse 5 he was also to bring two goats as a sin offering for the people, and another ram as a burnt offing for the people.

Verse 4 He had to take off his beautiful outer garments, wash at the basin and put on the simple, white linen garments of an ordinary priest. He had to leave his high priestly robes in the holy place. Laying aside his glorious robes was an act of humiliation, and washing in the basin was an act of sanctification. He was setting himself apart to serve the Lord, and the Lord’s people on this special day.

Remember the night that Jesus took off His outer robe, took a basin of water and became a servant to each of His disciples, as He washed their feet? In a much greater way the Lord Jesus Christ set aside His glory and took on the ordinary body of a little baby, and humbled Himself to die on the cross.

After making atonement for himself and his family, Aaron then made atonement for the people. Verse 7, Aaron presented two goats as a single sin offering. One goat was killed,

Leviticus 16:15-16 "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. 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. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses."

Remember that the atonement cover was also called the mercy seat, the place where God’s presence dwelt.

Underneath the mercy seat were the ten commandments, each one broken many times by the people. Paul the apostle wrote (quoting from the Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the prophet Isaiah) in Romans 3 that everyone is a sinner, and that sin has so pervaded human nature that "there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God," [Romans 3:11-12] all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.

The shed blood sprinkled on the atonement cover, covered over the sins of the people. By grace God was willing to show mercy for the people’s sin, and not demand the just penalty of their deaths for breaking His commandments.

The second goat was symbolic of the total removal of sin and guilt from the people,

Leviticus 16:20-22 "And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 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. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness."

The man did not come back to the camp until he was sure the goat was gone into the desert; the people’s sins were lost forever in the desert.

Jesus Christ is called the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. He not only covers you and me with His righteousness, He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness [1 John 1:9]. There is no need to carry onto our guilt. In Christ you and I are completely forgiven every time we repent. Thankfully, because of the Lord Jesus Christ, you and I don’t have to wait a whole year, we don’t even have to wait for the next minute.

Verses 23-24, Only after the sin offerings had been made could Aaron and the other priests come back into the camp, symbolically wash away the old year and put on their clothes to start afresh. This symbolized their total disassociation with that sin anymore. We are too, completely separated from our sin, we too can put on Christ’s righteousness and start fresh.

Verses 24-25 Finally, the burnt offerings were sacrificed, symbolizing the surrender of the people’s lives to be used by God in anyway that He pleased.

Once our sins have been atoned for, you and I are also to give our lives over to God. Forgiveness and reverence for God go hand in hand. The privilege of forgiveness carries with it the responsibility of commitment and obedience. The Lord Jesus offered Himself up to the Father in total obedience, and you and I are called to do no less.

What Jesus did was not symbolic. What He did was for real. The Bible says He became sin for us [2 Corinthians 5:21], and thereby satisfied all the wrath of God for all the sin. All of sin was transferred onto Jesus, who was taken outside the city gate to be crucified. He took the penalty of sin, but also the guilt of sin. Jesus then literally became the way for you and me to enter into the real Holy of Holies in heaven to stand before God cleansed completely from sin, clothed in pure linen of Christ’s righteousness.

Because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness of sins.

Sin subjects us to the wrath of God. So God prepared a ceremonial Day of Atonement when the people could symbolically confess their sins and be completely cleansed of them.

Leviticus 16:29-30 "And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins."

God wanted His people to be clean so they could be with Him, and He with them, together.

Never believe there are many ways to God. There aren’t. God has said, over and over again in His word, that there is only one way to come to Him, and that is through Christ. The whole Levitical system of priests and sacrifices was intended to be a One Way sign for everyone to recognize the Lord Jesus, Messiah.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation


  1. Leviticus is my favorite book of the Bible and Hebrews is a strong second. Enjoyed the post!


  2. Thanks israel, glad you stopped by :o)


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