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2 And Yahweh said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
Aaron is told never to enter the Most Holy except on the divinely-appointed occasions, and in the divinely-appointed way. Only the High Priest could go into the presence of God; and he only once a year, and then only with solemn and elaborate ritual.
If God wants man to draw near to Him, why did He set up this complicated and burdensome system of barriers and restrictions? Why did Christ-sent forth to man because "God so loved the world" - keep saying such harsh, penetrating things that the vast majority-all but a mere handful-turned against him?
Before man can have intimate companionship with God, he must be indelibly impressed with his own worthlessness and God's dreadful holiness and majesty. Let us remember with humility and reverence the rigid, lifelong obedience, and the terrible, agonizing death of Christ, which God considered necessary to manifest the requirements of His holiness and to establish a basis of approach. *
3 Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.
The priestly position was high ranking requiring a superior sacrifice - bullock and ram.
The Day of Atonement was the center and climax of the last and greatest ceremony of the year. And every 50 years this Day of Atonement marked the beginning of the joyful Jubilee year of freedom and release. On this day the High Priest made two separate sacrifices and two visits into the Most Holy-first for himself and then for the people. For himself, the sacrifice was a young bullock-for the people, it was two goats. What is the difference between these two offerings?
In the first place, the bullock was a much more important and valuable sacrifice than the goat. Then the bullock has no implications of waywardness and disobedience, as has the goat. Goats symbolize those on the left hand-the sinners. The bullock, or ox, stands for strength, labour and productiveness.
As befits its greater importance, the bullock is usually considered as an individual unit, but the goat in herds. While the goat symbolizes the waywardness of the flesh, the ox represents the faithful leaders and laborers in the Truth. Isaiah (7:25; 32:20) uses the figure of the plowing ox as the Truth-proclaimer, and Paul likewise brings it out when he speaks of the prohibition of muzzling the ox that treads out the corn and applies it to those who devote their lives to preaching the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:9).
So we see that it was fitting that the High Priest (representing Christ) should first offer for himself a single bullock, then a plural number of goats for the people. *
4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.
On this occasion (v. 4) the High Priest was not to put on his usual ornamental garments "for Glory and for Beauty," but plain white linen-for on this day he was to offer for himself. The "Glory and Beauty" came later - after the offering - but they would be out of place in this time of humiliation and atonement.
But we notice in this v. 4 that he must first wash himself before putting on the white linen. And this washing, we are told in Ex. 30:20, is "THAT HE DIE NOT." It meant death if he failed to cleanse himself personally before taking on the Christ-righteousness. All these ordinances are to emphasize eternal principles.*Bro Growcott - The Day of Atonement
10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before Yahweh, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
It will be noticed that for "scapegoat" the margin has "azazel"-the original Hebrew word. All dictionaries and concordances agree on the general meaning of this word-"sending away, getting rid of, averting, departure, removal, separation."*
11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:
12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before Yahweh, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:
We know the symbolic meaning of fire-consuming judgment. Coals of fire seem to carry the more particular meaning of controlled, useful fire-a regulated purging and trying with a view to cleansing and purifying. For example in Isa. 6:7 (after Isaiah speaks of his unclean lips) an angel lays a coal of fire on the prophet's mouth saying,
"This hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."
Beside the censer of coals (which probably hung by a chain from his arm) the High Priest was to take his hands full of sweet incense beaten small (v. 12). The incense of the Mosaic service had to be made exactly as God specified. It was offering strange (incorrect) incense that caused the death of Aaron's two sons. And this special kind could not be made or used for any other purpose than the properly-ordained worship of God. Two hundred fifty men of the company of Korah presumed to offer incense contrary to the Law, and were destroyed by fire for their presumption.
In the plague that followed, Aaron (the true, God-appointed priest ran out with a censer of incense and made atonement-standing between the living and the dead-and the plague stayed. From all this we see that incense is a God-ordained form of atonement and intercession. In the Revelation (5:8; 8:3) incense symbolizes intercession and prayer.
The High Priest had to have his hands full (v. 12)-all he could hold. There were to be no limits or half-measures in Christ's intercessory work. Paul says,
"He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him,
seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
On our part the full hands mean there must be "prayer without ceasing." Our hands, or activities, must be filled with prayer.
It was, we note, "sweet" incense. The process involved in preparing the incense, both for Christ and his brethren, is often far from sweet at the time. But patient endurance is a sweet savour to God, and in the ultimate will produce
"fullness-full hands-of joy for evermore."
Then, the incense had to be "beaten small." To be beaten small is to be humbled by affliction. All the lumps of human pride and self-assertion must be pounded to fine powder, so that the whole mass can mix and blend smoothly, and the resultant aroma be a pleasant, balanced harmony of all the elements.*
*Bro Growcott - The Day of Atonement
16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place [within the vail before the mercy seat v2], because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
How forcibly this taught the etiquette of acceptable worship showing that no fellowship of man with God was possible except upon the basis of atonement for his sin.
Yet, once such atonement had been effected, fellowhip was possible, and eternal fellowship at that, for that was what the Most Holy Place symbolized. In the Holy Place everything was suggestive of mortal life; the Oil, coals, Incense, Loaves and Drink Offering, each had constantly to be replenished or replaced in keeping with the figurative value of the Holy Place as a symbol of mortal Israel in fellowship with God.
In the Most Holy Place, on the contrary, everything was of an abiding nature-the un corrupting manna (hence Rev. 2 : 17) ; the dead stick sprung to life, its unfading buds, blossom and fruit (symbols of the spiritual life of the Priestly People now at last come to fruition) serving as a perpetual token: the enduring tables of stone; and finally (as the counterpart of the two piles of Loaves without ?) the Cherubim typifying the ideal Israel now having achieved its destiny (since from between them shone forth the effulgence of God's glory).
It was this sacred place that beckoned Israel forward and stood as the goal of its priestly calling: here was the very heart of the Sanctuary, the Presence of Yahweh Himself, that condition of perfect and permanent fellowship with Him who had redeemed Israel specifically to manifest His glory in and through them.
Law and Grace Ch 5