All Posts Tagged: Day of Atonement
Whereas the whole earth was given to humankind to inhabit and rule (Genesis 1:28), the Garden of Eden was specifically designed as a Meeting Place for God and man. “The truth is clearly set forth that Life comes from God, that for man Life consists in nearness to God and that it is the central concern of God’s fellowship with man to impart Life” (Geerhardus Vos).
The Creator’s plan was diverted. Disobedience produced disconnection. Fellowship was fractured. Consequently, “God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life.”
Fortunately, the story didn’t end there. After God delivered His people from 430 years of Egyptian bondage He gave this order: “Let them make a Dwelling Place for Me, so I may live among them. Make the meeting tent like the plans I will show you.” The design called for three sections oriented to the east: the Courtyard, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the latter two separated by an ornate curtain. “Make a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet material and fine twisted linen. Have a design of angel-cherubim woven into it by a skilled craftsman” (Exodus 26:3-33).
Did you catch it? Just as at Eden angel-cherubim guarded the eastern entrance (the curtain) to the place of God’s Presence, the Holy of Holies. So, how would disconnected humankind be able to have face to face fellowship with God? How was God able to have a Dwelling Place in the midst of disobedient traitors? It seems as if God changed His standards!
Once a year on the Day of Atonement (see last Lenten post) the High Priest entered God’s Dwelling Place with the blood of a slaughtered lamb. The High Priest walked around the throne (i.e. the Mercy Seat) of God’s Presence seven times, sprinkling blood on it as he moved. So, for a brief period the High Priest had fellowship with God because of the blood. God and sinful man were ONE through the blood. OOPS! Don’t forget this: The High Priest bore on his shoulders and over his heart the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. One might say that the entire nation was in long distance fellowship with God during that period.
Centuries later the real Lamb of God was dragged to Calvary to be slaughtered. As His blood oozed out, His life was depleted. Finally, Jesus said, “It is finished!” After that “the curtain in the Temple was torn into two pieces. The tear started at the top and tore all the way to the bottom” (Matthew 27:50-52). “Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the Most Holy Place. Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to go through the curtain, His own body” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
The door is open! Just walk into Father’s Presence via the blood of the Lamb of God!
Aaron shall take the two goats to the entrance of the Tent of the Lord’s presence. The goat chosen for Azazel shall be presented alive to the Lord. Aaron shall put both of his hands on the goat’s head, confess over it all the evils, sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel, and so transfer them to the goat’s head. Then the goat is to be driven off into the desert. The goat will carry all their sins away with him into some uninhabited land. (Leviticus 16)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God. He takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29)
It’s called the “Day of Atonement” or, in Hebrew “Yom Kippur.” It’s the most elevated day on the Jewish calendar … like Christmas and Easter on the Christian calendar. “Knee deep” is too deep; so, I’ll drastically simplify.
On Yom Kippur two goats were chosen by lot. The one that was kept alive was referred to as “the goat for Azazel” or the “scapegoat.” Note Aaron’s action relative to this goat: Having placed his hands on the goat’s head, Aaron “confessed all the evils, sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel, transferring all of it to the goat’s head.”
The next action is equally important: Weighted down with all of the “dis-eases” of the people, the goat is “driven off into the desert … some uninhabited land” never to be seen again. In other words “as far as the east is from the west—that’s how far He has removed our rebellious acts from Himself” (Psalm 103:12). WHO, in point of fact, is this Lamb? “Look, the Lamb of God. He takes away the sins of the world!” His name is JESUS!
We need to dig bit deeper—“The goat for Azazel carries all their sins into some inhabited land.” “Azazel” refers to none other than satan.
Hence, Jesus carries all of your sins to the place of Azazel; that is, Hell. In the presence of satan Jesus pays the price for your ransom: His blood. “It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb” (1 Peter 1:17-21). Consequently, satan doesn’t have a leg to stand on relative to any and all of your sins and guilt. “Now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Finally, the early church fathers clearly understood the action of Jesus in fulfilling the Day of Atonement. Note the words of the Apostles’ Creed, finalized in the 4th century: “Jesus descended into hell.” Bearing our sins, He went to hell for us, paying the price for our freedom which satan rightly demanded. In other words, at the Cross Jesus not only paid our bail; he got us off “scot free”!
The activities on the Day of Atonement took place around and in God’s dwelling, the tabernacle. Though many priests were involved, the High Priest played the central role. I want to concentrate on two objects that the High Priest wore when he walked into God’s presence.
The ephod was similar to a pair of suspenders. “Have the Ephod made from gold; blue, purple, and scarlet material; and fine twisted linen by a skilled craftsman. Give it two shoulder pieces at two of the corners so it can be fastened. Next take two onyx stones and engrave the names of the sons of Israel on them in the order of their birth, six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. Then mount the stones in settings of filigreed gold. Fasten the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the Ephod. The High Priest will wear these names on his shoulders as a memorial before God” (Exodus 28:6-13).
The breastpiece was similar to a baseball catcher’s vest, though much smaller. “Now make a Breastpiece, using gold; blue, purple, and scarlet material; and fine twisted linen. Make it nine inches square. Mount four rows of precious gemstones on it. Set them in gold filigree.
“The twelve stones correspond to the names of the Israelites, a name engraved on each. The High Priest will carry the names of the sons of Israel over his heart as a memorial before God when he enters the Sanctuary” (Exodus 28:15-30).
Now, let’s proceed to the “main event.” A spotless lamb is slaughtered. Its blood is drained. The High Priest takes the blood into the Sanctuary of God’s presence. God observes the stones (names) through the efficacy of the blood. He views the names over his heart—the symbol of love, compassion, mercy and grace. In a similar fashion He observes the names on his shoulders—the symbol of responsibility (as in, “he shouldered the whole task”).
Who is Jesus? He’s the Lamb of God who was slaughtered so that His blood flowed profusely. He’s the Great High Priest who presented His own blood to the Father for our redemption. Ah yes, what about the stones? Jesus bears on His shoulders and over His heart the name of every person who has received Him as Savior!
In a single sentence Paul beautifully summarizes the meaning of the Ephod and Breastpiece: “I am absolutely convinced that there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:30-32).