Leviticus 16 (NRSV)
The Day of Atonement
The first mention of this solemn day of Sabbath rest and prayerful self-examination came to Moses from God when they were together on top of Mount Sinai. Now the Jews call this day Yom Kippur; it is one of the Jewish high holy days. It is the supreme act of cleansing, and the very heart of Leviticus.
Exodus 30:10 (NIV)
Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on the horns of the altar. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the LORD.
The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died. 2The Lord said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark, or he will die; for I appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
3Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and shall have the linen undergarments next to his body, fasten the linen sash, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy vestments. He shall bathe his body in water, and then put them on.
This was extensive preparation for an important day. To the ancient Jews the Day of Atonement was called “the great day.” It was and remains the only day of commanded fasting on the Jewish calendar. Modern Jews still regard Yom Kippur an important day of fasting, soul searching, and righting wrongs.
5He shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7He shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting; 8and Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer it as a sin offering; 10but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
11Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house; he shall slaughter the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12He shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of crushed sweet incense, and he shall bring it inside the curtain 13and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the covenant, or he will die. 14He shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times.
15He shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the curtain, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (New Living Translation)
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
16Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, 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 remains with them in the midst of their uncleannes 17No one shall be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the sanctuary until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel.
18Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement on its behalf, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat, and put it on each of the horns of the altar. 19He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.
Luke 18:13 (New Living Translation)
‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’
20When he has finished atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21Then 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, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task.
22The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.
As the goat carries the sins of the people away into the wilderness–
1 Peter 2:24 (New International Version)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.
Psalm 103:12 (New Living Translation)
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
In the Wilderness
by Robert Graves (English poet, 1895-1985)
Christ of His gentleness
Thirsting and hungering,
Walked in the wilderness;
Soft words of grace He spoke
Unto lost desert-folk
That listened wondering.
He heard the bitterns call
From ruined palace-wall,
Answered them brotherly.
He held communion
With the she-pelican
Of lonely piety.
Flocked to his homilies,
With mail of dread device,
With monstrous barbéd slings,
With eager dragon-eyes;
Great rats on leather wings
And poor blind broken things,
Foul in their miseries.
And ever with Him went,
Of all His wanderings
Comrade, with ragged coat,
Gaunt ribs—poor innocent—
Bleeding foot, burning throat,
The guileless old scapegoat;
For forty nights and days
Followed in Jesus’ ways,
Sure guard behind Him kept,
Tears like a lover wept.
“Graves imagines in his poignant poem that an exiled goat saw Jesus, recognized in him a kindred being, and followed him the entire forty-day stint, guarding him and sharing his trials. The scapegoat had been driven out of the settlement; Jesus, on the other hand, was led out by the Spirit. The goat was to be the symbolic atonement for Israel’s sins; Jesus to atone for the sins of the world. Both of them were outside the city boundaries, away from the solace that others of one’s kind can be. Both of them were there because of the sins of others rather than their own.”
–from Echoings, by J. Ruth Stenerson
23Then Aaron shall enter the tent of meeting, and shall take off the linen vestments that he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. 24He shall bathe his body in water in a holy place, and put on his vestments; then he shall come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, making atonement for himself and for the people. 25The fat of the sin offering he shall turn into smoke on the altar.
26The one who sets the goat free for Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp. 27The bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp; their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be consumed in fire. 28The one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp.
29This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. 30For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord. 31It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. 33He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.
34This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins.
And Moses did as the Lord had commanded him.
In Leviticus 16 and the observance of the Day of Atonement, we see Jesus.
The shedding of blood was necessary . . .
Hebrews 9:22 (New International Version)
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
. . . but animal blood was not enough.
Hebrews 10:4 (New International Version)
It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Christ’s sacrifice is complete in every way and accomplished everything that God required!
Hebrews 9:28 (New International Version)
Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.
Christ’s sacrifice opens the door (or tears down the curtain) that separates us from God!
Hebrews 10:21-22 (New International Version)
Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.
HERE is “Jesus Paid It All” sung by Kristian Stanfill, worship leader at North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Jesus paid it all. https://christianfaithbook.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Isaiah-53-v5-jesus-paid-it-all.png
Aaron in the Holy of Holies. http://media.photobucket.com/image/Jesus%20High%20Priest/tracyyoungtv/HighPriestatHolyofHolies.jpg
goat to the wilderness. http://www.cofac.org/takeaway.jpg