“Because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.” (Leviticus 16:30)
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
From Sunset to Sunset – Yom Kippur
The Day of Atonement, ordained by God for observance by the tribes of Israel, happens each year from sunset until sunset. On the designated day, the 10th day of Tishri, atonement was made for the people of God, year after year.
Yom Kippur has always been a day of fasting and repentance. And, according to L. Michael Morales, it was “understood both as a day of judgment and a day of reconciliation.” It was also a day for the confession of sins of the community. A day to recognize the sins of we (something often overlooked today).
When animal sacrifices were still being conducted, Yom Kippur included two purification offerings by the High Priest (one for himself and his family by the blood of a bull and one for the people of God by the blood of a goat). After the High Priest offered a sacrifice for his sins and the sins of his family, he conducted a rite involving two blemish-free goats. One, chosen by lot, was sacrificed as the sin offering to cleanse the people of their sins. The other was a scapegoat. The High Priest would lay his hands upon the goat, confess Israel’s sins, transgressions, and wickedness, transferring them onto the goat, which was then led out into the wilderness. This act represented the removal of sins from the people and the presence of God. The ceremony was then concluded with two ascension offerings (for the High Priest and his family and one for the people).
“After the High Priest offered a sacrifice for his sins and the sins of his family, he conducted a rite involving two blemish-free goats.”
God graciously established a sacrificial system by the blood of substitution. The cleansing blood was not that of the sinner but a substitute. This substitutionary blood was used to cleanse the tent, the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies and Mercy Seat, and the altar. This ceremony purified the community of their committed sins—until the next sacrifice was required.
From Age to Age – Jesus
Through this observance, the Holy God created a way to commune with His people. But this also acted as a symbolic parable of sorts until the reality was fully realized in Jesus Christ. Where sacrifice and offerings were required by the law, Jesus said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will” (Hebrews 10:9).
“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:10, 14)
Jesus’ death paid the penalty for our sin. He fully satisfied the immense debt of our sin, that those in Him might be reconciled to a holy God. There is no longer any need to offer goats as a sacrifice for atonement.
Jesus took the place of both goats used in this sacrifice. His blood cleanses and purifies. He bore our sins and removed them from us. And He is the propitiation for sin which satisfied God’s justice. Solemn and sincere confession of our sins transfers those sins upon Jesus, just as once the priest made confession and placed a hand upon the scapegoat. Jesus now takes those sins away.
“Jesus took the place of both goats used in this sacrifice. His blood cleanses and purifies. He bore our sins and removed them from us.”
The atonement from one goat covered yesterday’s sin. Another sacrifice would have to be made for the next sin. Again and again. If this system was still in place and I was required to make pilgrimage to the temple to offer a sacrifice for my sins, I would likely commit another one trekking away from said temple! Falling yet again into a state of guilt and judge-ability. But the atoning blood of Jesus is purification for sin once for all. Even greater still is the life graced by His blood.
Where there were sins committed against another person under the old covenant, reconciliation was required beforehand. Wrongs had to first be righted before Yom Kippur. This should sound familiar to the Christian. For we are also to make right those wrongs committed against others before we come to the table of Christ for communion (Matthew 5:23-24).
Our High Priest has entered the heavenly realms as our Forerunner. So, our hope too enters the Most Holy Place (Hebrews 6:19-20). It’s a sure hope anchored in the finality of His perfect sacrifice.
“It’s a sure hope anchored in the finality of His perfect sacrifice.”
Such grace! That God would make such provision under both covenants! It casts an even brighter light on His desire to be with us!
Yom Kippur, from sunset to sunset. From one point in time to another. Practiced again and again, year after year, until the Son of God came. Jesus, from age to age. For all time. His sacrifice complete, from the sunset of that age into eternity. To Him be eternal praise!
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