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THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
by Jack Ngann, Pastor
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“For 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” (Leviticus 17:11; p. 150 Scofield).
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in Judaism and is sometimes called the Sabbath of Sabbaths. The word “Yom” can be translated “Day,” and “Kippur” is translated “Covering” or “Atonement.” Its origin points to the time when God spoke to Moses after the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who were slain by God after they had offered “strange fire” (Leviticus 10:1). The Lord then told Moses to speak with Aaron “that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not” (Leviticus 16:2). On the Day of Atonement, Aaron was instructed to bring a young bullock, two rams, and two goats for offerings for the atonement of the sins of the congregation. The issue of sin had to be addressed.
In the introduction his commentary on Leviticus, chapter 16, Matthew Henry said,
In this chapter we have the institution of the annual solemnity of the day of atonement, or expiation, which had as much gospel in it as perhaps any of the appointments of the ceremonial law…
In this message, we will compare the offerings of Aaron in the tabernacle and the offering of Jesus.
I. First, Aaron and the high priests had to make an atonement for themselves.
“And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house” (Leviticus 16:11; p. 148).
As Matthew Henry has stated above, there is as much gospel in this chapter as perhaps any of the appointments of the ceremonial law. Each of the animals that were involved in the day of atonement served a particular purpose. The bullock was to be offered for a sin offering for the high priest himself. The sin of the congregation could not be atoned unless the sin of the high priest was atoned first. Even though Aaron was chosen by God to be the high priest, he was still a man. And as a man, he had to account for his own sin. However, Jesus did not have any sin of his own. He was a lamb without blemish. See what the Apostle wrote of Jesus in the book of Hebrews,
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15; p. 1294).
In order to be able to redeem His people and make an atonement for our sins, Jesus had to be sinless. After all, how can Jesus be triumphant over sin if He Himself is a slave to it? If Jesus had any sin, He would have required a saviour Himself. Remember the account of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 where Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac for a burnt offering to God. In this account, Isaac is a type of Christ. Dr. M. R. DeHaan said, “Here the typology changes and we have an example of a double type. Isaac could be a type of Christ only so far and no farther, for Isaac himself [was a sinner who] needed a substitute who must be slain in his stead. And so the figure changes from Isaac as a picture of Christ, to a ram as a substitute for Isaac.” This is what we see with Aaron and the high priests. They had to first make an atonement for themselves.
II. Second, Aaron and the high priests made an atonement for the people.
“And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering… Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people…” (Leviticus 16:7, 15; p. 148).
Two goats were offered by the people and taken by the high priest into the tabernacle. Lots were cast on the two goats to determine which goat was to be sacrificed to the Lord and which goat would be the scapegoat.
“And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:8-10; p. 148).
Both of these goats are pictures, are types of Christ. The goat that is to be the sin offering would be killed by the high priest, and the blood of the goat would then be taken into the vail, the holy of holies, and the blood would be sprinkled upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:15). The other goat is to be the scapegoat.
“And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21-22; p. 148).
Now meditate with me a moment on how these examples picture Christ. Put yourself in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus leaves the rest of the Disciples on the outskirts of the Garden, and takes Peter, James and John with Him further into the Garden. Even the mighty trio could only progress so far. Only Jesus moves in deeper into the darkness of the garden and enters alone into the symbolic holy of holies as both the high priest and the sacrifice. The silence of the night is cut only with groanings of anguished prayer. The sins of not only Israel, but of the entire world past, present and future are confessed over Him. With every moment that passes, the greater the burden He experiences. He nearly collapses due to the weight. His friends and enemies are oblivious to the grief He is experiencing. The crushing load becomes unbearable, and Jesus is close to death; so immense is the weight of sin. However, His Father hears him and sends an angel to strengthen Him. He begins to sweat great drops of Blood. He carries the load through a series of beatings, scourging and crucifixion and ultimately, the sacrifice is slain. Yet in his death, He carries the sin of the world away as far as the East is from the West! (Psalm 103:12). As the scapegoat was taken away into the wilderness by a fit man to be seen no more, so has Jesus taken away the sin of the world.
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29; p. 1115).
He takes His own Blood to the true Holy of Holies in Heaven and sprinkles the Blood upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat! (Leviticus 16:15). His death alone was not sufficient to atone.
“For 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” (Leviticus 17:11; p. 150).
Those words in Leviticus may as well have come out of the mouth of Jesus Himself. He has given His Blood to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your soul. It is the perfect sacrifice for a sin offering that need not be repeated. But what does His sacrifice mean to you? Ask yourself the same question that Pilate asked, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” Behind the sacrifice, pain, and Blood, there was love. Love was the reason why God sent Jesus to die for us. Love was the reason that drove Jesus to endure such shame and agony to purchase your redemption. Will you not trust such a loving Saviour?
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; p. 1197).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; p. 1117).
I pray that you will trust the loving Saviour. Amen.