In ancient Israel, God gave ceremonial laws to his people for them to perform. These required worship rites did not make Israel righteous. In no way did they contribute towards Israel’s accumulation of merit or aid in their subtraction of demerit. Therefore, what was their purpose? Why did God ordain and require such extravagant, expensive, and bloody rituals? God’s ceremonies were given to Israel to point them to the someday coming Prophet, Priest, King, Son, and Lamb. One day, God’s representative would come on the scene to forever reconcile unholy men with their very holy God. They were visible dramas, acted out to encourage all worshipers to place their faith in the Promised One to come.
One of the most special rituals was performed on the Day of Atonement. One can read of this day in Leviticus 16, and when one read this through a Gospel-lens, this is what one sees:
- God is just and holy. Man is not. Therefore, without a divinely authored and sanctioned plan of reconciliation, there is no possible way for unholy man to enjoy the presence of the holy God. Sin has separated all men and women from God’s presence and glory.
- God is merciful and gracious. He is the one who outlined the day, place, man, and manner of atonement and reconciliation. All those who, in faith, looked forward to the coming Prophet, Priest, King, Son, and Lamb, were promised reconciliation and life. All those who disregarded God’s means of atonement, they were to be excommunicated and executed. They were destined to perish in their sins.
- God prescribed all the work of atonement and reconciliation to his mediatorial priest — alone. The high priest was the only one who could labor and perform on this day. The high priest was the only worshiper who was allowed entrance into the sacred throne room of God. Everyone else who wanted to see and be with God, they had to watch in faith as the high priest did his work, on their behalf, alone.
- God required the high priest to remove his gorgeous robes of exaltation. As he performed the day’s duties, his more regal garments were replaced by simple linen. The exalted one would be humbled on this day as he looked more like a servant than a king.
- God required an incredible amount of blood to be shed, poured, worn, and sprinkled. The only way God’s people could be brought near to God was by the shedding of sacrificial blood, and blood was found everywhere.
- God required a large number of baptisms or washings. The representative high priest was always getting bloody and always getting wet. God presented clearly that He who accepts the bloody sacrifice is He who washes the dirty sinner clean.
- God taught by means of the wilderness goat that all sins atoned-for were forever driven from his presence and people. As the wilderness goat was driven into the desert never to return, so God casts all atoned-for sins behind his back or into his Sea of Forgetfulness.
- God proved the acceptability of the sacrifice by the high priests safe exit. Nadab and Abihu were not so fortunate as God did not accept their strange fire. However, Aaron’s work and worship was in accordance with God’s dictates. He came out alive, and because he lived and walked towards his people, Israel recognized God’s validation of his mediatorial work. (Consider the proof of Christ’s resurrection.)
- God ordained that, following the day’s events, the high priest would put back on his exalted clothing. After humiliation, exaltation was his to proclaim before all the people.
Friends, as you read and meditate on Leviticus 16, be thankful you do not need to perform these ceremonial laws. The days for strict performance of these worship rules are over. Your worship is much more simple and clean today. However, as you read and meditate, learn the principles of reconciliation from Leviticus 16 and look to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both the Sacrificing Priest and the Sacrificial Lamb, and he performed perfectly for all those who look to him in faith. Therefore, if Jesus is your priest, you are atoned-for and reconciled to God today … perfectly!
Rejoice, Jesus paid it all and does not have to do so again,.
Rejoice, there are no more sins for which you are held accountable. Damnation, condemnation, and punitive discipline are not coming your way, for all of this was laid on Jesus.
Rejoice, Jesus’ righteousness has been draped around you; it is your glorious garment.
Rejoice, Jesus is clothed in his robe of exaltation, and one day you will see him again — face to face.
Rejoice, Jesus has turned you into his holy tabernacle. You cannot get closer to him. You cannot get farther from him. He dwells in you, and forever this will be your atoned-for and reconciled condition. You are his Holy of Holies.
Leviticus 16 presents a part of God’s Ceremonial Law, but it also preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is your Great High Priest. Jesus is the Lamb of God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And because Jesus did his work so well, all your sins are like the wilderness goat — they are going, going, gone!