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
Of 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. Other critical details regarding the role of the high priest on this most important day:
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:
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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