The One Year® Chronological Bible (Tyndale, 2013), February 21 

Leviticus 16 sits in the middle of the Torah, indicating that the Day of Atonement is the centerpiece of communal life of Israel.

Leviticus 16 highlights three celebratory days for the people of God:

The Passover recalls Israel’s deliverance from Egypt

The Feast of Tabernacles remembers God’s presence during the wilderness travels

The Day of Atonement acknowledges and addresses the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity

imagesOf these three the Day of Atonement is by far the most significant. On this day the high priest enters the Holy of Holies twice, once with the blood of a bull for his own sin, and the second time he enters with the blood of one of two goats for the sins of the people. God promises to meet with man at the mercy seat, where the sprinkling of the blood of the animals atones for his sin.

Just as the Passover lamb testified that death had already occurred through the substitute of another, so the blood of the bull and goat presented on the mercy seat testifies of the substitutionary death for priest’s and the people’s sin.

Beneath the mercy seat lies the Law, which was given by God and broken by man. The blood sprinkled on the mercy seat by the high priest covers the broken law. Sin’s price is paid through the substitutionary death of the innocent animal for guilty sinners. The scapegoat symbolizes the removal of past sins.

  • The high priest cannot come into the Holy of Holies at will. He can only come once a year and only after specific requirements are met.
  • The high priest washes himself to remove any defilement and puts on special clothing made specifically for entry into the Holy of Holies on this most special day.
  • The high priest must first offer the blood of a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering for himself and his house.
  • The high priest then casts lots over two live goats brought to him by the people—both goats are presented before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle meeting. One goat belongs to the LORD and is offered as a sin offering for the nation; its blood is taken inside the veil and sprinkled on the mercy seat, where atonement is made for the people. The blood is also sprinkled on the altar to consecrate the altar from the uncleanness of the people.
  • The high priest confesses the sins of the nation over the live goat as he places his hands on its head and sends the live goat (the scapegoat or escape goat) and the sins of the people into the wilderness.
  • The high priest removes the linen garments, washes himself, and dresses in his priestly garments. He then offers a burnt offering for himself and one for the people with the fat of the sin offering. The bull and the goat whose blood is brought into the Holy Place are taken outside the camp and burned.

The Day of Atonement pictures the wonderful promise of full redemption that occurs through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blood of bulls or goats could never remove sin, only cover sin for yet another year. The Lord Jesus offers complete atonement, having offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice to the Father on behalf of guilty sinners. His sacrifice demonstrates His complete reversal of what happened in the Fall:

  • In His death He becomes our substitute, bearing our sin.
  • In His burial He becomes our scapegoat, taking our sins upon Himself and carrying them away.
  • In His resurrection He becomes our Savior by giving us His righteousness and ushering us into the very presence of God (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Question from today’s reading (Leviticus 14:33-16:34):

What purpose do the laws regarding the cleansing of the body serve as they precede the instructions regarding the Day of Atonement?

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