A CLEAN NATION THROUGH
The sin and untimely deaths, of Nathan and Abiram on the very day that the Tabernacle was set up for worship, illustrates the limitations of the Aaronic priesthood, and its failure to effectively mediate to take away sin. To emphasise that lesson, a yearly Day of Atonement is instituted,during which the existing High Priest, once a year, atoned for his sins, those of his house, and finally, those of the people.
The repetition of this, year after year, brought home a constant remembrance of sins, so that they were never completely blotted out. Thus the tenth day of the seventh month of every year is set aside as a special day of re-consecration to Yahweh: a Day of Atonement, of solemn gathering, in which the people are to refrain from ordinary occupation, and concentrate their minds upon God in penitence through fasting and meditation.
The elaborate details of offerings made this day are meticulously set out in this chapter: They provide sacrifices for the High Priest, his associate priests, and finally the people. This chapter, therefore, is an appropriate conclusion to the laws of purification which precede it. It describes how that a cover is available for sins of omission or commission of which Israelites have been guilty.
Consequently, it is one of the most important chapters in the Book of Leviticus, it forms the basis of the Epistle to the Hebrews as illustrating the more perfect offering of the Lord Jesus Christ. In short, the ordinances relating to the Day of Atonement comprise a prophecy of Christ's work of redemption. - Expositor
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."*
The iniquity of all believers was laid upon him when crucified. He was then "the goat for the Lord;" but when raised from the dead, he became "the scape-goat presented alive before the Lord to make an atonement."
Being raised, his relations were changed. He then became the High Priest destined to enter alone into the Most Holy to make an atonement "for his own household" with his own blood.
He is there now; and will remain there, until all who shall constitute "his house" shall have come in and been reconciled. Till then no man can be where he is. When he shall have finished making atonement for his household, "He will come out," and "make an atonement for all the congregation of Israel."
"His house are we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
The household of the Lord Jesus appears in the temple of the kingdom, "holy, unblameable, and unreproveable," as the sons of Zadok, performing service before the Lord as his priests.
But when the household of the Lord Jesus shall be reconciled, their judgment or acceptance, still remains to be pronounced, and the secondary reconciliation for the nation of Israel effected. These particulars of the Mosaic typical atonement are yet unaccomplished.
Some of us who believe the gospel of the kingdom are looking for him. We are anxiously waiting for him to come out of the Most Holy place that we may be clothed with salvation, and enter the kingdom with him. "After death the judgment." Judgment on the members of the king's household; and judgment on the nations.
Will the dead in Christ-will the living in him-be accepted, or shall we not? That remains to be seen. Who but God's High Priest can tell; for He only knows whose names are written in the Book of Life.
Until He come out of the Most Holy, the consummation of the reconciliation of the faithful dead, the living believers, and the Twelve Tribes, will be in abeyance. But when He appears in his kingdom, the first will rise, the next be changed, and reconciliation be made for the whole house of Israel, as described above, in the purging and purifying the altar, and the reconciling of the house, in the first seven days of the first month.
When this is accomplished, the Mosaic representative atonement will be lost in the substance. There will be no more remembrance of sins once a year. Therefore the atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month forms no part of the annual service of the temple in the Age to Come.
The Herald of the Kingdom and Coming Age, Sept 1851.
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:
The only other object in the "Holiest of all" was the golden censer (Heb. 9:4), which Aaron used on the day of atonement in the manner prescribed as follows...
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
13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before Yahweh, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:
Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's two sons, diverged so far from these directions, as to get the "burning coals of fire" somewhere else than from the altar of burnt-offering: and they were struck dead on the spot--a sharp lesson of obedience that was not soon forgotten. The spiritual significance of the incense we ascertain from Rev. 8, where John records having seen an angel with a golden censer, who took the censer, and filled it with fire from the altar:
"And there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand"
Prayer, then, is indicated by the presence of the golden censer in the Holiest of all. It is on this basis that mercy is dispensed: "the cloud of the incense" was to "cover the mercy-seat"--"that he (Aaron) die not". For a prayerless man there is no mercy.
But the incense had to be of the sort prescribed: prayer in harmony with the truth alone is acceptable. Prayer bawled out presumptuously in the utterance of things that are not true, and in the making of requests that are inconsistent with the revealed purposes of God...is not the sweet incense of the sanctuary, but the rank compound of heathenish art.
And the right incense had to be "beaten small"--not offered in lumps. Some people neglect God in daily habit, and seem to think they can make up for lost time by being specially religious at certain times. This must be as odious to God as intermittent friendship would be unsatisfactory to man. The will of God is that we "pray always" (Luke 18); "in everything give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:18), be exercised in His fear all the day long (Prov. 23:17).
The incense had to be vaporized by fire taken off the altar. The use of other fire brought death, as we have seen. There is a deep import in this. The altar is Christ (Heb. 13:10)--the fire, his sufferings.
...The employment of incense to symbolize prayer is a proof that prayer is a source of pleasure to God--provided the conditions are right.
...that "the great and the terrible God who made heaven and earth" should find pleasure in the feeble recognitions of mortal man, however sincere, is a revelation which we require. It is a revelation which we have received,
"The prayer of the upright is his delight" (Prov. 15:8).
Law of Moses Ch 13
With the censer on his arm and his hands full of incense (v. 13), the High Priest reverently passed beyond the veil into the Divine presence. Then the carefully prepared incense is placed on the purifying fire, and a cloud of incense-vapor fills the room and covers the cherubim mercy-seat above the ark-"THAT HE DIE NOT" says the record (v. 13).
Here again, we are reminded that it was a matter of life and death. Without the purging, purifying fire, the incense-cloud with its sweet odors would not arise and the High Priest-unshielded-would die before the terrible majesty that dwelt between the cherubim above the ark. This is why Paul said he "gloried in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience," and causes the sweet prayer-incense to arise acceptably and protectively before God.
*Bro Growcott - The Day of Atonement
15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:
Blood spinkled mercy seat in the Most Holy
The saints who constitute the antitypical Holiest of all, in the age to come, will have attained to their position through the shed blood of Christ. This is prominent in their song of glory as heard by John in vision:
"Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood... and hast made us unto our God kings and priests" (Rev. 5:9-10).
The bloodstains on the pure gold coverlid of the ark find their antitype in the memory of the shed blood of Christ in the immortal hearts and minds of those who shall have attained to the golden state through
"the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."
That this is no strained or unnatural interpretation will be apparent to all who can realize how essential an element in the joy of the perfect state--in regard to the Father, and Christ, and the Saints --must be the constant recollection and recognition of the means by which salvation has been accomplished.
If the angels veil their faces in the presence of Eternal Glory, how much more an assembly of men and women, who, though their equals, have to remember with a sense of humiliation that they were originally sinners under condemnation, and that they owe it entirely to the appointment of God's mercy in Christ that they stand there in the strength and honour and gladness of immortal life.
If the object of the Father's methods now is that no flesh may glory in the Father's presence, we may be sure that that object will be attained to its fullest then, and that consequently thanksgiving only, in the memory of a humiliating past, will be the sentiment inspiring the bosoms of those who ascribe
"Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever."
Law of Moses Ch 13
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.
Why did these holy things need atoning for? "Because" (we read) "of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions." Here are two distinct things (though of course related). The original word for uncleanness (tumah) means any kind of defilement, regardless of actual sin, and it is applied throughout the Law to death, disease, unclean animals and childbirth. It is constitutional uncleanness-uncleanness that is the result of being part of an unclean system of things. Natural man is naturally unclean before God. There is defilement in the very process of being born.
Beside their uncleanness, there were also their "transgressions" to atone for. This word means (beside 'sin') "rebellion." Any act contrary to the Word and Will of God, however well-intentioned or however good it may seem to the doer, is-in God's sight-rebellion. "To obey is better than sacrifice," Saul was told. Saul, in mistaken and presumptuous 'mercy,' saved Agag-and lost his kingdom and his life. Man's proper-and only-course is to obey the commands of God and not presume to use his own fleshly understanding.
This word "atonement" has taken on a hazy, ecclesiastical meaning, but the basic idea is very simple. The regulations speak in v. 18 of making atonement for the altar. V. 19 says the High Priest shall-by sprinkling the altar with blood-cleanse it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. "Atonement," scripturally, is simply cleansing. In v. 30 the whole ordinance of the Day of Atonement is summed up,
"On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to CLEANSE you, that ye may be CLEAN from all your sins."
Any sin-anything out of harmony with God's eternal will-is a form of filthiness, infection and defilement; and it clings offensively and corruptingly to a man in God's sight until it has been properly washed away. Cleansing and cleanness make up the great theme of the Scriptures.
Beside the basic meaning of "cleanse," the Hebrew word translated "atone" (kippur, kaphor) also carried the idea of "cover." The shadowy atonements of the Law were a cleansing by covering, a provisional cleansing, but the true atonement is a true cleansing-
"How much more shall the blood of Christ CLEANSE your conscience from works of death" (Heb. 9:14).
"He hath washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev. 1:5).
"The blood of Christ CLEANSETH us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
Bro Growcott - The day of atonement
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
21 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:
For the offerer, therefore, to "put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering" was to transfer himself to the sacrifice, as it were, and to acknowledge himself justly dealt with in whatever should befall the animal. He was then to "kill the bullock", and the priests were to sprinkle the blood upon the altar, and to cut up the body and place the severed pieces on the altar for consumption.
Paul says (Heb. 10:4): "The blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sin", but "it was a figure for the time then present" of the "one offering" that could and did, even "the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (10:10) memorialized in the breaking of bread' "My body given for you ..... My blood shed for the remission of the sins of many".
We identify ourselves with "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" when we are "baptized into his death". We confess our sins, and offer ourselves to God in him, and are forgiven for his sake, in whose crucifixion "sin was condemned in the flesh" in the shedding of whose blood, "the righteousness of God was declared".
The testimony of the apostolic word is that it was so (Rom. 8:3; 25-26); and the fact that Jesus was the seed of David according to the flesh shows us how it could be so. Here we should rest in "faith in his blood". There is a danger of men reasoning themselves out of the verities of the Gospel by using their own thoughts as natural men against the appointments of God.
Law of Moses Ch 23.