Day of Atonement - Leviticus 16

Yesterday we read a section from Revelation; today we are pushing you more and asking you to read from Leviticus. If we are honest, most of us have not read Leviticus in its entirety. Even if we have, we may only think of it as outdated sacrifices and law. Yes, Christ’s death and resurrection put a stop to sacrifices (Heb. 7:27), and we no longer live under the law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 3:25; 5:18). However, to dismiss the importance of Leviticus on those grounds is incorrect. The story of the Old Testament—including Leviticus—is the story of redemption.

The Day of Atonement was a very involved sacrificial ritual. Don’t worry - this short devotional is not going to turn into a lecture on all the details of what this ritual is about. (Though, if you want to learn more about this I’d recommend you either talk to one of the pastors, or read Holiness to the Lord by Allen Ross.)

In this ritual, the high priest (Aaron) had to be purified (ritually cleansed from sins) before he could offer the sacrifices on behalf of Israel; thus he sacrificed a bull for his own sins. He then took the blood from the bull and went into the holiest room in the tabernacle. This room was entered only once a year and contained the Ark of the Covenant and a few other things. He sprinkled the blood on the Ark. Then he took a goat and sacrificed it as a sin offering and sprinkled the goat’s blood just like he sprinkled the bull’s blood. Then he took the blood from both animals and also put them on the horns of the altar in the open area of the tabernacle. (The altar was huge and had a horn on each corner.) With a second goat, the high priest put both of his hands on the goat’s head. This was a symbolic way of placing the sins of the entire nation on the goat. The goat was then sent out into the wilderness, never to be seen again.

This was done every year. Every year the nation came together and confessed their sin.

Thoughts to Ponder
Think about what it would be like if we still lived under this sacrificial system. There were also individual sin offerings as well as free-will and peace offerings that took place daily. For the individual sin offerings the people took part in the killing and they placed their hands on the animal’s head. What would it be like if we still had to sacrifice animals today? It is very easy for us to walk into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. What if we each had to sacrifice an animal for our sins before we were allowed to enter? Would our attitude in approaching God be different? As we will read in the following days, we no longer offer sacrifices because Jesus offered Himself as the final Sacrifice, the fulfillment of the sacrifices. What a wondrous blessing!