Day of Atonement

Day of Atonement.

Today we are going to look at the Day of Atonement. Leviticus chapter 16 is the text I will use. I note that "It will be helpful to remember that in this chapter the Most Holy Place (the "Holy of Holies") is called the Holy Place, and the Holy Place is called the tabernacle of meeting[1]." This is noted as we have studied both these areas and one may become a little confused whether the priest is in the inner sanctuary or the outer portion of the tent.

1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the LORD, and died; 2 and the LORD said to Moses: "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. 3 "Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering. 4 "He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.

5 "And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering. 6 "Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 "He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 8 "Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 "And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD'S lot fell, and offer it as 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 atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. 11 "And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself. 12 "Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. 13 "And he shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die. 14 "He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 "Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. 16 "So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 "There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 "And he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD, and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 "Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

20 "And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. 21 "Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. 22 "The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. 23 "Then Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of meeting, shall take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Holy Place, and shall leave them there. 24 "And he shall wash his body with water in a holy place, put on his garments, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 "The fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. 26 "And he who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. 27 "The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. And they shall burn in the fire their skins, their flesh, and their offal. 28 "Then he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

29 "This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. 30 "For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. 31 "It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. 32 "And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; 33 "then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 "This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year." And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is a lengthy chapter describing a complex series of tasks. This synopsis is brief, and I confess I referenced some old authors on the topic as much is written: C.H. Mackintosh and his weighty tome, Notes on the Pentateuch, Genesis to Deuteronomy[2], Stanley, The Atoning Death of the Son of God[3], William Kelly, a very wordy man,Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16[4], and online MacDonald and Farstad's Bible Believer's Commentary[5]. I leave it to you to study further beyond what I touch on today. I note last week my Brother David thought that I may touch on certain aspects. I trust that I do not disappoint, however, do confess, I do not have the same approach, nor knowledge in types, but I let you judge for yourselves.

Let us begin with Noah who, when he went into the ark God told him "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female" Genesis 7:1, I asked myself why seven? There were three couples and one not! Genesis 8:20 tells us why: "Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar." This was the first offerings to God in the world we know today, that is post flood. As we all know, Abel made the first sacrificial sacrifice in the pre-flood world. God found their offerings acceptable to Him, both people were required to shed blood, and animals had to die. The result of Noah's sacrifice was written down for us to read: Genesis 8: 21 "And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. 22 "While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease." 9: 1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth."

A further well known passage is worth touching on here: it is a further picture God provides about the true meaning of a blood sacrifice, in this case, what the sacrifice was. "But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." Genesis 22:7, And God did indeed provide a lamb for the burnt offering, both then, quite literally, and used this event as a picture for later, with the Lord Jesus.

A final passage that must be mentioned in this preliminary sketch is that of the Passover. If we edit the text for sake of time we read these instructions starting at Exodus 12:3 "On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb.5 `Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. .6 `Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 `And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 `Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it..10 `You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11 `And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. .12 `For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; . I am the LORD..13 `Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Why was there a need to shed blood? Hebrews 9: 19 tells us: "For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

Clearly, shedding of blood is God's way of purification, as we read in 1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. The blood of Christ cleanses us, it is as simple as that. In the Old Testament, this was the blood of animals, in our lives, it is the blood of Christ. We could finish here; this is the centre of the lesson.

The blood was brought into the most Holy Place, inside the veil and sprinkled both before the mercy seat and on the mercy seat. Blood being sprinkled is paramount. We can return to Hebrews 9 at this point and verse 22 "And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. 23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." Quoting from C H Mackintosh[6] - whose writings are of greater learning than mine, he writes: "There is but one way into the holiest of all, and that is a blood-sprinkled way. It is vain to strive to enter by any other. Men may attempt to work themselves in, to pray themselves in, to buy themselves in, to get in by a pathway of ordinances, or it may be of half-ordinances, half-Christ; but it is of no use. God speaks of one way, and but one, and that way has been thrown open through the rent veil of the Saviour's flesh. Along that way have the millions of the saved passed, from age to age. Patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, martyrs, saints in every age, from Abel downwards, have trod that blessed way, and found thereby sure and undisputed access. The one sacrifice of the Cross is divinely sufficient for all. God asks no more and He can take no less. To add ought thereto is to cast dishonour upon that with which God has declared himself well pleased, yea, in which He is infinitely glorified. To diminish ought there from is to deny man's guilt and ruin, and offer an indignity to the justice and majesty of the eternal Trinity."

Death must also occur, again, the reason for this is clear, in verses we all know well.

Romans 6:6 "our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him."

We can match this to John 12:24 that states: ""Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." Without death, grain cannot grow into what it should be. Without death, the old man remains. Without death, sin is not conquered.

Therefore, we find that both shedding of blood and death are required for sin to be erased, for a new man to be raised. This picture demonstrates who is doing the salvation. The dead cannot save themselves, and we before, were "dead in sins" Eph 2:5. We all know the next bit Ephesians 2:8: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" Christ Jesus was the shedder of blood, who conquered death, so we may also conquer death - but it was His gift, not our works, not our sacrifice, nothing, except our sins - and He bore those.

Moving onward to a different part of the topic I thought I may touch on what the priest needed to do as part of the Atonement ceremony. Quoting MacDonald and Farstad: First the high priest bathed and dressed in white linen ... garments (v. 4). By way of preliminaries, he brought a bullock and a ram to the tabernacle. He would offer these for himself and for his family, the bull for a sin offering and the ram for a burnt offering[7] The priest had to first acknowledge his own sin and offer sacrifice for them. Our Lord and Saviour became the atoning Lamb - if we read Hebrews 9 verses 26 and 28 in reverse we can read "Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many." "He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." He was offered to bear the sins, which were put away by the sacrifice of him self. We can also read in 1 John 1:8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." We need not bring a sacrifice as in Leviticus, but, we do need to have a heart willing to confess. We need to acknowledge our sin to God. As Romans 6:17 tells us But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered." The Holy Spirit convicts, we confess, God forgives and forgets.

Why did God commission the Day of Atonement, a yearly event? It has been answered already, but I want to bluntly put it in a paragraph of its own. Israel, like us, sinned regularly and without fail. They needed to be able to become right with God. Once a year, the Israelites as a nation, came before God to make this sacrifice. Atonement covered their sins of the time. The sacrificial shedding of blood enabled God to dwell among His people. However, it did nothing for their future sins. The ceremony had to be repeated every year. What joy we have. Our lives are so different. We need not have a priest make sacrifice for us each year. We know that we have a great High Priest, who not only made the sacrifice, but sacrificed himself for all sins, including future ones. But - remember Romans : "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" 2 Certainly not!"

Jumping to a different point, it can be noted that the ceremony had both sin and burnt offering, the entire animal to be burned, all was to be given to God, nothing was to remain. We read much of the Lamb of God, but note that the sacrifice included a bull. I wondered why this was so. Spurgeon tells us that the bull was the most valuable of all animals of the people. We needed God's most valuable for our sins as well, the Lord Jesus Christ. The sin offering was also burnt outside the camp, the Lord was crucified outside the city walls. Spurgeon states: It was a sin-offering, and therefore it was loathsome in God's sight. And the priest went right away from the door of the tabernacle, past all the tents of the children of Israel, bearing this ghastly burden upon him. Went, I say, right away, till he came to the place where the ashes of the camp were poured out-and there-not upon an altar, but on wood which had been prepared upon the bare ground, every single particle of the bullock was burned with fire. The distance the bullock was carried from camp is said to have been four miles. The tracking of which is just this-that when the Lord Jesus Christ took the sins of His people upon Himself, He could not, as a Substitute, dwell any longer in the place of the Divine favour, but had to be put into the place of separation, and made to cry, "Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabacthani?" (The sin-offering for the common people, No. 1048, A sermon delivered on Lord's-day morning, April 28, 1872, by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.)

A further item for thought from this chapter in Leviticus is the goat, or to be exact, the two goats. One was for a sin offering, the other the scapegoat. The choice was made by lot, God made the choice. I quote here from the Believer's Commentary: The two goats symbolized two different aspects of atonement: "that which meets the character and holiness of God, and that which meets the need of the sinner as to the removal of his sins. Aaron's laying his hands on the head of the live goat pictures the placing of the sins of Israel (and of ourselves) on Christ, to be taken away forever (v. 21).

The hymnwriter has expressed it thus:
My sins were laid on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God;
He bore them all and freed me
From the accursed load.
My guilt was borne by Jesus;
He cleansed the crimson stains
In His own blood most precious
And not a spot remains.

-Horatius Bonar, alt. [8]

Mackintosh writes: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1: 29) With this we may connect a kindred passage in John's first epistle, is which the Lord Jesus Christ is spoken of as" the propitiation for the whole world." (1 John 2: 2)* In both these passages the Lord Jesus is referred to as the One who has perfectly glorified God with respect to "Sin" and "the world," in their broadest acceptation. He is here seen as the great Antitype of "the goat on which the Lord's lot fell." This gives us a most precious view of the atonement of Christ, and one which is too much overlooked, or not clearly apprehended. Whenever the question of persons and the forgiveness of sins is raised, in connection with these and kindred passages of scripture, the mind is sure to get involved in insuperable difficulties.". "And is it not a blessed thing to know that God is glorified in the putting away of our sins We may ask, Where are our sins? Put away. By what? By that act of Christ upon the cross in which God has been eternally glorified. Thus it is. The two goats, on the day of atonement, give the double aspect of the one act. In the one, we see God's glory maintained; in the other, sins put away. The one is as perfect as the other. We are as perfectly forgiven as God is perfectly glorified, by the death of Christ. Was there one single point in which God was not glorified in the cross? Not one. Neither is there one single point in which we are not perfectly forgiven. I say we;" for albeit the congregation of Israel is the primary object contemplated in the beautiful and impressive ordinance of the scape-goat; yet does it hold good, in the fullest way, with respect to every soul that believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, that he is as perfectly forgiven as God is perfectly glorified, by the atonement of the cross. How many of the sins of Israel did the scape-goat bear away? "All." Precious word! Not one left behind. and whither did he bear them? "Into a land not inhabited" - a land where they could never be found, because there was no one there to look for them. Could any type be more perfect? Could we possibly have a more graphic picture of Christ's accomplished sacrifice, in its primary and secondary aspects? Impossible. We can hang with intense admiration over such a picture, and, as we gaze, exclaim, "Of a truth, the pencil of the Master is here!" Thus the goats show both the Glory of God, and the forgiveness brought to all by Christ's death.

Finally, I want to mention the incense. Remember that the priest first had to fill the Most Holy place with the smoke from incense. It was not ordinary incense from the Middle East Bazaar just up the road! Exodus chapter 30 verse 34 states: "And the LORD said to Moses: "Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 "You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 "And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 "But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD." 38 "Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people." When I first read of incense my thoughts went to the prayers of saints. However, this is not the case, as, what has that to do with atonement? Revelation 8:3 provides a major clue: "Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand." Note the words - "he should offer it with the prayers" Incense is added to the prayers. In Leviticus chapter two we can note that incense is added to the offering, and this is a "sweet savour" to the Lord. The offering is made sweet before God. The High Priest uses incense [so] "that he die not" Lev 16:13. It is the Grace of God that keeps the priest alive, the incense represents that grace brought to us by the offering of Himself upon the cross. Ephesians 5:2 gives us the final word on this topic: Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

There is much more to say, but no time to say it. I want though to note a couple salient points before closing, for you to go away and meditate on - along with checking out all I have said!

1. Melchizedek. Hebrews7: 17 For He testifies: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."."22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. 23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.".

2. Fat burned within the tabernacle at the altar of the burnt offering. Leviticus 3:13 tells us that the fat is "all the Lord's". The people were not to eat the fat. It was to be given to God. It is interesting to note Isaiah 25:6 "And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees." A gift of God to His people, including fat. This is a demonstration of what we need to give to God - what he considers the best. It is His. It is our sacrifice, starting with the "sacrifice of praise" Heb 13:15.

3. Washing of clothes. This was done outside the camp, after the whole animal was burned outside the camp. All is left outside the camp. Nothing soiled remained. What of it? We read Hebrews 13 starting at verse 12 so we can apply this to our lives: 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."

I will finish with C H Mackintosh from that book Notes on the Pentateuch: "The entire book of Leviticus, and particularly the chapter upon which we have just been meditating, is a commentary upon the doctrine of the blood. It seems strange to have to insist upon a fact so obvious to every dispassionate teachable student of holy Scripture. Yet so it is. Our minds are prone to slip away from the plain testimony of the word. We are ready to adopt opinions without ever calmly investigating them in the light of the divine testimonies. In this way we get into confusion, darkness, and error.

May we all learn to give the blood of Christ its due Place! It is so precious in God's sight that He will not suffer ought else to be added to or mingled with it. "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."

This appears to be an appropriate place to stop. Let us pray.


[1] MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. 1997, c1995. Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[3] Stanley, Charles (1914, re printed 1979) The atoning death of the Son of God, Bible Truth Publishers, USA

[5] MacDonald & Farstad, Op. cit.

[7] MacDonald & Farstad, Op. cit.

[8] MacDonald & Farstad, Op. cit.


Stephen B Simon (July 2009 CCC)