Leviticus 16

Leviticus 16 – July 11

Leviticus 16 describes the ritual sacrifices that were to be made on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This was the chief sacrifice made by every Jewish family each year. The Israelites were supposed to make these sacrifices in faith. If they did so with hearts that believed that the Lord would deal with sin on their behalf, then they were, in a sense, cleansed. “For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins.” (Lev. 16:30) But, how did these sacrifices make anyone clean? Hebrews 10:11 tells us that, “Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.


So, what is going on? What was actually taking place in the heavenly places when these sacrifices were made? At this time, all that the people of Israel understand about these sacrifices is that their sin is being cleansed because something else died. They understood that atonement was necessarily and intrinsically about substitution. And there is a very real sense in which their sins were dealt with when they sacrificed those animals. Someone much more clever than I am once described in this way. The Old Covenant saints were saved on credit. New Covenant saints are saved on debit. Under the Old Covenant, the sacrifices were looking forward to the ultimate sacrifice that would be made by Jesus Christ. They were looking forward to the promise of fully forgiven sin. After the cross, we are saved by looking back to the finished work of Jesus Christ and trusting that His blood is sufficient to purify us from our sins.


The author of Hebrews has made it clear that the blood of those animals that were scarified never took away sin. All that they could do was postpone the penalty one more year. But, the true and better sacrifice was effectual. It was a once-for-all-time act that put an end to all of our sin. Hebrews 9:24-26 explains it like this, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”


One more parallel that you should know is found here – the scapegoat. This animal was selected for the purpose of symbolically absorbing the sin of the people and carrying it far away. Just like that goat that had the sin of the people placed on it and was required to be sent outside of the camp, Jesus had our sin placed on Him (1 Peter 2:24). This is symbolically displayed by the emblem of the curse (thorns) being placed onto His head before He was forced to walk outside of the city. This is a picture of separation and removal due to sin. Hebrews 13:11-13 helps us understand. “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.”  Praise be to God that Jesus served as our scapegoat and who has removed our sin from us as far as the east is from the west!


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