This chapter describes The Day of Atonement, a once yearly event in which the high priest, in this case Aaron would enter the Holy of Holies and make atonement for all of Israel. But it wasn’t that simple. First the high priest had to make atonement for himself. He had to get a bull and two goats. The bull he sacrificed for his own atonement. Then lots would be cast over the goats. One goat would be for the Lord, for the atonement of Israel the other for Azazel. Azazel is an unknown being but the scapegoat given to it, carried the confessed sins of Israel on it, and led outside of the camp to the wilderness also called Azazel. God removed the sins of the people and from the camp through this ritual done after the goat given to the Lord was sacrificed.
Then high priest had to bathe, put on the holy garments and go into the Holy of Holies before the Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant in the presence of the Lord to sprinkle blood first for himself and the Holy of Holies. No one was allowed even inside the tent of meeting while the high priest did this. If he didn’t do it properly, if he in anyway entered while he was unclean, he would die. It was after he made atonement for himself and for the Holy Place that he killed one goat, reentered the Holy Place and for the Israel, and confessed the sins of the people over the scapegoat which would carry sins of the people far away. Verses 20-22 describe it.
“And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.”
It was a very somber day, with a very serious purpose. But it was also a day of worship and rest. Verses 29-31 read,
“And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.”
It was a holy day, A Sabbath. The people entered into God’s perfect rest and He made them pure by His high priest and by the offerings. In Jesus when we ask Him to forgive our sins, we enter into God’s perfect enduring and eternal Sabbath. We enter His rest. There is nothing we can do to make atonement, to be holy or become holier. There are no gradients to holiness. One is or is not. Holy is holy.
Jesus didn’t have to make atonement for Himself first. So He was worthy of being our perfect lamb. Hebrews 9:23-28 explain it this way,
“Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 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. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 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. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
All our sins were placed on Him, and He removed them as far as the East is from the West. They are gone. They are not for us to hold onto. When we hold onto our sins, we invalidate what the Lord has done for us. He calls us holy. He calls us saints. He calls us His children with His Spirit. Why do we insist on calling ourselves sinners? Why do we call Him a liar and live by flesh instead of His Spirit? God took all our sins, not some, not most, but all and He removed them completely. We are forgiven. He knows who we are. He forgave us. He chooses to know us by a new name. He calls us holy, so we should be holy.
Psalm 103:10-14 says,
“He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.”