Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Leviticus 16, 17, 18 Yom Kippur

High priest offering a sacrifice of a goat, as...Image via Wikipedia

The importance of sin being atoned for is again underscored in these chapters where Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement,  became a permanent statute for Israel. In earlier chapters, God addressed the sin problem and sin offerings.  Before the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, Yom Kippur was probably the most important  event in the Jewish religious calendar.  This was the day that the nation got right with God, as it were.  Once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishri 9 and 10, the consecrated High Priest who already made sin offerings for himself, entered the Holy of Holies to apply the blood of the sacrifice onto the mercy seat.  As recorded in Leviticus 16: 30,31:

"For it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins before the Lord.  It is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute."

The priest had sacrificed the animals and covered the mercy seat with their  blood. According to God, all sin is punishable by death.  When Adam and Eve sinned, the curse placed upon them was the introduction of death into the world.  Though their sin brought death into this world, God said that all of the sin of Israel could be “covered” or atoned for, through blood, following God’s strict directions.  Any deviation from His plan, resulted in an unacceptable sacrifice without atonement. In Leviticus,  God repeated His directions for the sacrifice so frequently  that He precluded the possibility of anyone accusing Him of ambiguity.

But what I think is so compelling here is that atonement “is made for you” on a “Sabbath of solemn rest”.  During Temple times, the Israelite was expected to accept God’s cleansing for him;  he was not supposed to do anything to make the atonement better, more perfect, more acceptable, etc.   Essentially, God Himself atoned for His people so that no one person could boast of being holier than another, for it was God who effected the cleansing from sin.  Israel was ordered to rest, in Hebrew שַׁבָּתוֹן (shabbathown), meaning that it was a special Sabbath that was synonymous with rest from all work.  No-one, on his own strength, could become extra good so that God would take notice of him.  Rather, God chose to cleanse all of Israel annually by the sacrificial system He instituted.  Israel was told to simply rest in God's love for the nation. 


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