The Day of Atonement
Scripture reading for February 6th: Leviticus 16-17
Sin has devastating consequences for human beings. Sin permeates all humans from birth because of Adam’s original sin. (Romans 5:12) Sin separates man from God and God cannot look on the sinners or hear them. (Isaiah 59:2) Sin holds men in its power and they cannot escape from its grip with any human effort or good works. (Isaiah 64:6) Sin ultimately ends in eternal separation from God in the lake of fire, which is called the “second” death. (Revelation 20:14-15)
Right after the death of two of Aaron’s sons because of failure to approach the Lord in a proper way, God gave instructions for the Day of Atonement. This was to be one day each year when the high priest went into the presence of the Lord behind the veil and offered blood sacrifice for himself and then for the nation. First, a young bull was to be offered as a sin offering for Aaron’s sins. Then two goats were also brought before the Lord. One of them was chosen to be sacrificed for the sins of the nation. That goat was slaughtered and Aaron was to take the blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood on behalf of the people.
The second major sacrifice that day was the scapegoat. This goat was selected by lot and presented alive before the Lord. (Leviticus 16:10, 20-22) Aaron was to lay both hands on its head and confess all the sins, wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites over this live goat, symbolically putting them on the goat’s head. This goat was then led away in the presence of all the people and taken into the wilderness. The people would watch it disappear from view. This goat symbolized God removing their sins away from them, as far as the East is from the West! (Psalm 103:12)
God used these object lessons to help the Israelites visualize what was necessary to remove sin from their lives. These sacrifices are a picture of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross of Calvary. There He became sin for us. God the Father laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (2nd Corinthians 5:21) He shed His own blood as the “sin offering for us”. He did not need a sacrifice for Himself! He was crucified outside the camp and His death took sin away. As we look to Him as our scapegoat, our sins are atoned for! What a plan!