The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord. 2 The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.Leviticus 16
3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. 5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.
11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. 12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. 14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.
15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.
18 “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.
20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.
23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.
26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. 27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.
29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.
34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”
And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.
The chapter begins with reference to the death of Aaron’s two sons who offered unauthorised fire before the Lord. Their actions were in contravention of the Lord’s command and the Lord demonstrated His justice by their immediate death. Having introduced the chapter indicating God’s justice and highlighting that man needs to approach the Lord in reverence and awe, the writer goes on to describe the specific requirements in preparation for the Day of Atonement.
The preparation that the High Priest needs to undergo to be ‘right’ before God even before he enters God’s presence in the Most Holy Place demonstrates how serious God takes sin. The High Priest’s clothes, his family, and himself personally need cleansing before he may enter; and the atonement cover in the Most Holy Place required cleansing. The Day of Atonement was to take place once a year for the atonement for all the sins of the Israelites.
The Day of Atonement must have been a day that was eagerly anticipated as the Israelite people would then know that their sins were forgiven even if just for a point in time. Today the Day of Atonement also known as Yom Kippur; it is still the holiest day in Judaism.
What a privilege for Christians today knowing that the atonement of our sins is not required on a repeated basis but that Jesus has made atonement once and for all for our sins. Our gratitude should know no bounds, and so we in response should celebrate our freedom from sin by living in humble obedience to our Lord, Saviour, and King.
Dear Father God, we confess with shame that we don’t always approach You in prayer with the reverence and awe that you deserve. We confess that we don’t realise the amazing privilege we have in being able to approach the throne of grace in prayer at any time because of Jesus’ atonement. We pray that You will help us to glorify You in a way that is honouring and worthy of Your greatness.
We are truly thankful that Jesus has enabled us entry into the Holy of Holies, the very presence of God by His death. We are also thankful that Jesus sits at Your right hand making intercession for us.
We pray that as we start the new series on prayer that You will help us to make the most of the privilege we have in prayer, that we will make prayer a priority in our lives, and that we would practice prayer in a way that is sincere and acceptable to You.
We thank you Father God for your goodness and favour. In Jesus’ name we pray.