Leviticus 16 ~ 20160925 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
09/25 Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160925_leviticus-16.mp3
Overview & Purpose
We are in Leviticus 16, the centerpiece of Leviticus, which is the centerpiece of the Torah, the first five books of Moses. This was a most solemn day for Israel. It was to be kept annually on the 10th day of the 7th month, the month of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in our September / October. In Acts 27:9 this great day is simply referred to as 'the Fast'. We know it as the great Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The conclusion of this chapter gives us the summary purpose of this day.
This is a day to make atonement for the holy sanctuary, for the tent of meeting, for the altar, for the priests, for the people. Atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. What a promise! What a day!
This is a refreshing word after the burdens of the book of Leviticus.
Chapters 1-7 outline the major types of sacrifices to be offered for the different kinds of offenses against God and one another. There are sins of commission, sins of omission, and unintentional sins. It is mostly blood, death, sacrifice, blood, innards, more blood, fire, smoke, blood sprinkled, blood splattered, blood poured out, blood smeared. Animals butchered, animals gutted, animals washed, animals burned up.
Then chapters 8-10 institute the priests who are to offer these sacrifices. In chapter 8 they are dressed up and set apart with a bunch of blood sacrifices and blood smearing and blood sprinkling. In chapter 9 they begin to offer the bloody sacrifices, and in chapter 10 two of the sons of Aaron are torched because they disobeyed the procedures.
Then we get to chapters 11-15, which deal with different kinds of uncleanness and the consequences of uncleanness. Uncleanness from foods, uncleanness from dead things, uncleanness from childbirth, uncleanness from diseases, uncleanness in your clothes, uncleanness in your house, uncleanness in household items, uncleanness from normal and abnormal bodily discharges. Uncleanness that separates you from God and from the community for a day, a week, a month, months at a time, possibly the rest of your life. Toward the end of chapter 15 we find these words:
The presence of a Holy God living in the middle of sinful people is dangerous and he is to be approached with great care and humility.
If you have missed any of the messages on Leviticus so far, you are now caught up. And you can see what good news this chapter brings when it says:
The word 'atone' or 'atonement' means to cover, cover over, hide, wipe away, and carries the ideas of cleansing and forgiveness. Atonement is necessary because of sin and uncleanness. Sin separates from a holy God. Sin needs to be removed so that the relationship between the sinner and God can be reconciled. This chapter is full of good news!
The remainder of Leviticus, chapters 17-27 deal primarily with holy living. Now that I am clean and my sins have been atoned for, what does it look like to live in relationship with a holy God? The motive and power for holy living grows out of this decisive act of atonement in chapter 16.
Humble and with His Own Offering
Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu died because they approached God in a way he had not commanded. Aaron is now warned that even he, as the high priest of Israel, does not have unrestricted access to the most holy place. God is to be honored as holy.
The high priest is not to approach the Holy Place empty handed. He is to bring his own offerings, a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, because he himself is a sinner.
And he is to dress appropriately for his task. There is a specific outfit designated for this once-a-year task. It is much more simple and plain than the extravagant and colorful garments usually worn by the high priest. This is a simple linen outfit that does not include the colorful ephod of gold, blue, purple an scarlet yarns nor the breastplate set with twelve gems, nor the pure gold nameplate on his head, all described in Exodus 28. He changes into this simple outfit in verse 4, and he changes back into his more ornate high priestly outfit in verses 23-24. Future high priests mentioned in verse 32 are also to wear these holy linen garments which are kept in the holy place. This simple linen outfit would look less like a royal outfit and more like the clothing of a servant.
The Congregation's Offering
It is restated a second time in verse 6 that Aaron is to offer a bull for himself to make atonement for himself and his house.
The congregation is to bring two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The destiny of each of the two goats is determined by lot. One goat will be sacrificed on the altar and its blood presented in the most holy place; the other will be sent away bearing the sins of the congregation into the wilderness. These are two parts to the picture of atonement, one securing forgiveness through blood sacrifice, the other bearing away the burden guilt never to be seen again. We are going to look primarily at the first part today, and we will take up this second part next week.
Entering the Holy of Holies
This is the third mention of the bull for a sin offering that Aaron must offer for himself. He takes the blood of this bull into the most holy place. But he must also bring live coals from the altar and incense to create a cloud that obscures his view of the presence of God in the holiest place. Again the reason is given 'so that he does not die'. The mercy seat or atonement cover is the solid gold cover of the ark of the covenant, which resembles a throne overshadowed by angelic figures. This is where God said in Exodus 25
This atonement cover is to be sprinkled with blood from Aaron's sin offering.
Cleansing the Congregation
Now that sacrifice has been made to atone for Aaron's sin, the sacrifice of the congregation can be made.
Aaron comes out from presenting the blood of his sin offering and now kills the goat selected as the sin offering for the people. This blood is also splattered on and in front of the atonement cover, making atonement for the holy place. The mercy seat or atonement cover served as a lid for the box called the ark. The ark contained the second set of stone tablets, God's covenant contract with his people, his ten words. The second set of tablets, remember, because the first set of tablets were destroyed because the people had violated them while they were being given. Later this box would contain Aaron's staff that budded because his authority was challenged by the rebellious people; and a jar of manna, a reminder of God's provision for the needs of his people in spite of their grumbling and discontent. If God is understood as dwelling above the mercy seat between the cherubim, he would be looking down on his broken law, and reminders of the rebellion and discontent of his people. These contents were covered by the golden mercy seat, which was now splattered with sacrificial blood, reminding God to respond to his people with mercy and forgiveness rather than the judgment they deserved.
The blood splattered in the holiest place made “atonement for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.” Chapters 11-15 specify the things that make the people of Israel ceremonially unclean. 'Transgressions' is a word that means revolt or rebellion, intentional, willful covenant violations. 'Sins' is a more general word including any type of offense against God. The sins of the people (and of the priests) are pervasive and penetrating, even contaminating the most holy place. This place is cleansed from contamination by blood, as is the holy place, the tent of meeting, with its golden altar of incense, lampstand, and table of the bread of the presence.
The high priest is to do his work alone. Priests regularly entered the holy place to tend the lamps, replace the bread, and offer incense, but on this day no one was to enter except the high priest.
When he has made atonement for himself and for the people, then he must use blood from the two animals to cleanse the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard.
[we will take up verses 20-22 next week]
Conclusion of Ceremonies
This gives the details of concluding the ceremony. Aaron is to bathe and change back into his high priestly garments and offer the burnt offerings that confirm his and his peoples entire commitment to God. The fat of the sin offerings is to be burnt on top of the burnt offerings. The remains of the sin offerings are to be burned outside the camp. The man who led the goat away and the man who burned the remains of the sin offering are to wash their clothes and bathe before returning.
This is to be an annual event, with priests anointed in his father's place to carry on the tradition from generation to generation. All this, of course points us to Jesus.
Jesus our great High Priest, laid aside his royal robes and humbled himself.
The great heart of the gospel presentation in Romans 3 says
This word 'propitiation' comes from the Old Testament word for 'mercy seat'. Jesus is the atonement cover, the mercy seat, the place where God and man meet. Jesus is the one who covers our rebellion, our discontent, all our sin, and hides it from God's view. It is Jesus' blood that satisfies the holy wrath of God against our sins so that we die not.
The Greater High Priest
Almost all of this points to Jesus. Seven times in this chapter Aaron is said to make an offering 'for himself' - 16:6 (2x), 11 (3x), 17, 24.
There is a stark contrast here between Aaron and Jesus. Unlike Aaron and the other high priests, Jesus had no sin of his own to atone for. His offering was completely for others.
Hebrews 9 specifically has this annual Day of Atonement in view.
Jesus our great High Priest offered a better sacrifice once for all in the greater tabernacle and secured eternal redemption
Jesus offered himself once for all to permanently put away sin. It is finished! But as Aaron entered the tabernacle with blood, the people anxiously awaited his emergence from the holy place. We too wait for our great High Priest to re-appear from the holy place to take us to be with himself.
Access to God
In the mean time, we have a way opened to us. When Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mt.27:51; Mk.15:38; Lk.23:45)
We have a hope that enters behind the curtain.
We now at all times have access to enter the holy places. We can enter boldly, with confidence, not shrinking back with fear, because we enter by the blood of Jesus. We can draw near with full assurance of faith. We can draw near at any time. Let us then draw near!
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org