Read: Leviticus 16
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” Leviticus 16:34
All year long, daily, weekly, monthly, the Israelites would make sacrifices for their sin. As they took the life of a living creature it was a constant reminder that the ‘wage of their sin was death.’ However, there was one day each year called the Day of Atonement, that was a further reminder that no matter how many of these regular, ongoing, life-blood sacrifices were made, they were never done; they were never enough. A new day would bring the need for yet another life sacrificed.
But the Day of Atonement also offered a striking foreshadowing of the hoped for promise of a final High Priest and a final fully sufficient sacrifice: Jesus.
In the Israelite community, it was common for any ‘lower’ priest to do the daily slaughtering of sacrifices and other temple tasks. However on the Day of Atonement the High Priest took all responsibility upon himself; lighting candles, burning incense, killing and preparing the sacrifices on the altar, etc. The High Priest would take off his exquisite priestly garments and cloth himself in humility wearing simple, humble linen garments. He experienced physical and emotional toil and was immersed in blood, as he alone carried out dozens of sacrifices. He had no helper or anyone else to bear the weight of what was required. When it came to obtaining the goat for the atonement sacrifice it was to be without blemish and purchased by the public treasury. On the Day of Atonement the High Priest would shed the blood on the altar as a sacrifice for his sin and the sin of all the Israelites. Additionally the High Priest went alone into the holy of holies, the presence of God.
Similarly, Jesus came as the final High Priest. Our final atonement. He alone bore the emotional and physical toil of his arrest and suffering and was covered in His own sacrificial blood as He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice on the altar of the cross for all sin. Jesus alone bore the weight of what was necessary. No one helped him or went with him. And, Jesus, was ‘clothed’ with humility, “…He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:8) Jesus, was ‘the perfect Lamb of God’ and ‘purchased’ by the public treasury of the Jewish people with 30 pieces of silver. Jesus, entered the holy of holies tearing open the veil so that we too could enter into the presence of God.
Once the High Priest had completed all there was to be completed, it was common for him to redress in his ornate priestly garments, and come out among the people. When they saw him, there was celebrating that the priest had survived his time in the presence of God and that the offering had been accepted on behalf of the people, and they would walk with the priest to his home.
Similarly, Jesus rose, returned to life as our High Priest and is adorned with all Glory! He sits at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf day after day (Romans 8:24) and He invites us to receive His once-and-for-all forgiveness of sin and to walk with Him through eternity.
Father God, thank you for your plan for forgiveness of sin and for sending Jesus as the final sacrifice and High Priest. We praise you as our Savior and Lord!