The Day of Atonement

In reading through the Old Testament, you'll come across passages that are hard to get through, such as the genealogies and the instructions on how to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the seemingly endless rules and rituals of the Law, but they're all there for a purpose. You'll come across many of the names later and the details of the Law serve to inform us just how wonderful God has treated us in this day of grace as opposed to living under the daily threat of the law.

One of the rituals, in Leviticus 16, was called the Day of Atonement. It was a ritual that averted the wrath of God for the children of Israel for all their sins of the past year.

All the sins had to be confessed, even those that an individual had brought a sacrifice for sometime during the past year, and this ritual had to be repeated yearly.

They also had to have an attitude of repentance and faith for this sacrifice to cover the individual's sins on the Day of Atonement. This was also true of any sacrifice offered for sin at other times.

This ordinance was instituted because two of the high priestís sons died when they entered the Holy of Holies. God had ordained that only the high priest could enter there, and only with the blood sacrifice that He had prescribed, and only on one certain day of the year.

I'll give a summary of God's required ritual under the Law.

I want to contrast it with God's requirements for us to come to Him for the forgiveness of our sins under this Day of Grace.

Leviticus 16:1-10: "And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died;
2: And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
3: Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.
4: He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.
5: And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
6: And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.
7: And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
8: And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9: And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
10: But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. The LORD spoke to Moses after Aaron's two sons were consumed by fire because they approached the presence of the Lord in an unauthorized manner."

God prescribed a time and ritual whereby the high priest was to approach the Lord and "not die."

In verse 2, Aaron, and the high priests that would succeeded him, could only go in to Godís presence in the Holy of Holies at the time God prescribed.

Entering the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt, would expose the high priest to the presence of the Shekinah glory of God and since his sins were only covered, not forgiven, he had to bring a blood sacrifice or he would die. An individual with un-atoned for sin can't come into the presence of God.

This ritual was still in effect during the life of Christ. The sins of all mankind wouldn't be permanently forgiven until Christ died on the cross at Calvary.

Verses 3-5 tell how the high priest had to bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering for himself and his family first. Then he had to offer two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering for the rest of the Nation of Israel.

Verses 6-10 give a summary of the Day of Atonement rituals. Later verses give the details. First, a bull was given as a sin offering for the high priest and his household. (verse 6). Next, the sin offering of two goats for the people, including the selection by lot of a scapegoat (verses 7-8) was given. Verses 9-10 tell that one goat is to be sacrificed to the Lord and the scapegoat was to be let go in the wilderness.

Only one man, the high priest, could represent the people before God. The people had to come willingly to the place of forgiveness to have their sins atoned for, but could do nothing more.

After all the sin offerings were made, the high priest went out of the tabernacle and brought in the scapegoat. He placed his hands on the head of the scapegoat, confessed all the sins of the people, and transferred them to the scapegoat. The goat bearing all their sins was then lead into the wilderness, never to be seen again.

In this day of grace, Christ has taken all the sins of the believer on Himself, never to be brought before us again! >

Leviticus 16:11-28 describe the sacrifice ritual in detail. It was the only way man could come to God, and it had to be through a mediator, and it had to be repeated every year without exception. Click here to read Leviticus 16:11-28. You can see what we are missing out on under grace!

Verse 24 describes the final offering of the day of two rams as burnt offerings, one for Aaron and his family and the other for the rest of the nation.

This Day of Atonement was designed for God's chosen people, the Jews, under the Law. It was the only way a man's sin could be covered until Christ died on the cross and made permanent and total forgiveness. Gentiles could enter into this relationship but it was a rare thing when one did.

Verses 29-34. "And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
30: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.
31: It shall be a sabbath of rest to you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.
32: And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:
33: And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.
34: And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses."

God no longer demands that we stand outside a tabernacle or temple all day while one man, a sinner just like us, represents us in His presence to bring us a forgiveness that would be only temporary.

Every believer in Christ's atoning work can come boldly to God's throne of grace and we can worship and praise our Savior both now and evemore.


Isn't it wonderful that we live in this dispensation of grace when our sins, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, can all be forgiven for all eternity just by trusting that Christ died for our sins? Jesus became our blood sacrifice and satisfied God for our sins for all time. Itís a wonderful reason to gather and worship our Lord.

No blood, no altar now, the sacrifice is o're!
No flame, no smoke ascends on high, The lamb is slain no more.
But richer blood has flow'd from nobler veins,
To purge the soul from guilt, And cleanse the reddest stains.

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