Text: Leviticus 16-18
Observe God reminds Moses of the illegitimate sacrificing Aaron’s sons made, resulting in their deaths -- approaching the Holy of Holies is not to be done lightly. Moses now hears His specific laws for atonement.
Before sacrificing for sins, Aaron purifies himself, the people, the Tabernacle and altar; he washes and changes his clothes through the day. In specific locations of the Tabernacle, Aaron slaughters unblemished sacrificial animals, drains and sprinkles the blood to cleanse. He lays hands on a scapegoat, confessing his and the peoples’ sins over it, then sends it, burdened, into the desert to die. But for the shedding of blood, the sacrificial goat was killed, its blood sprinkled to purify, its parts burned, the remains burned outside the camp. The Day of Atonement – sacrifice, Sabbath and self-denial.
The life of the body is in the blood. (17:11,12) Blood, life for life, purifies. Blood must not be eaten, nor animals that have not been killed -- early kosher laws.
God requires sexual purity of His people. Israel will not follow the sins of Canaan when they reach the Promised Land. (Chapter 18)
Interpret The high priest entered the Holy of Holies only on the Day of Atonement (think of Zechariah in Luke 1:8,9). Ritual symbolized cleansing from sin but could not achieve it. But -- !!
The old has passed away; Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah), the New, has come.(2 Cor 5:17). Imagine the earliest Christians, the Hebrew Bible their scripture, reading of sacrifice and atonement with entirely new eyes of faith in Jesus! Freeing them and all future generations of believers from ineffectual, repetitive ritual and fear of ‘never enough’, Jesus completely upends the old ways.
He is the only pure sacrifice, complete atonement for our sins, paying our unclearable debt, redeeming all who come confessing sins and believing He does forgive. Because of His Cross, we are truly set free, no fear of death or punishment under law, but absolute hope in His eternal life.
As for the moral laws of purity in Chapter 18, the sixth commandment holds. The sexual laxity of our culture, the noise that insists on bending God’s laws of ‘male and female’ and sexual boundaries, will be dealt with. Or, forgiven, by repentance and faith of those who turn.
Apply Atonement moved from blood that could never cleanse to Blood that utterly purifies. Blood, symbol of life, renews our life in Christ.
We no longer rely on external sacrifices (or good works) to be assured of forgiveness. We must know that God, out of love, gave His beloved Son, His very being, the only sacrifice to deal with Sin (our inheritance as fallen people) and sins (that we gravitate to as fallen people). Recognizing the deception of our hearts, we turn again (re-pent) to be reinstated by His grace into His real life. Without flailing ourselves over past weakness, we remember He took into Himself all sins committed, from very beginning to ultimate end.
Think hard -- Jesus, crushed under the weight of evil so horrifying that His own Father abandoned His beloved Son, suspended between heaven and earth, to an agonizing three hours of utter darkness, a blood sacrifice – we can’t begin to imagine this obedient suffering on our behalf. We can only be humbled, thankful -- and forgiven.
“It is finished!” Atonement is made. Ours is to avoid sin, but oh, those reappearances -- that ‘white’ lie, that ‘shared confidence’, that ‘no one will know’, that angry outburst, that peek, all grave sins in His sight. We return to Jesus and cry out, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” He remembers that we are but dust, (Ps. 103:14) and cleanses us again. His atonement, complete, reconciles us with God, our faces radiating His forgiveness and love.
Ask Do I really believe that His atonement for my sins is complete? What does repentance mean for me? Do I come to Him when I realize a wrong done, and forgive as I’ve been forgiven? I forget so easily… like the children of Israel.
Pray Jesus, You have atoned for, covered over our sins by Your sacrifice. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And -- thank You. Yes, thank You! We are forgiven! THANK YOU!!
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.