| DAY OF ATONEMENT |
The book of Leviticus opens with laws regarding sacrifices that are made at the tabernacle, and later the temple. It then moves to laws regarding the priesthood. It then moves to what is clean and unclean, how a person can become unclean and how a person can be made clean again. All these laws about clean and unclean have to do with who and what can be in the presence of God and approach God in His tabernacle/temple for worship.
So, why does all this matter?
“The book of Leviticus was the first book studied by a Jewish child; yet is often among the last books of the Bible to be studied by a Christian.” Today’s readers are often put off by the book’s lists of laws regarding diet, sacrifice, and social behavior. But within these highly detailed directives we discover the holiness—the separateness, distinction, and utter “otherness”—of God. And we learn how sin devastates humanity’s relationship with their Creator. (Insights on the Bible)
What does it mean when Aaron, as the High Priest, keeps making “atonement” for himself and for the people? The word “atonement” is an interesting one. William Tyndale, when he was translating the Bible into english, found that there really was no good english word to represent the idea of being reconciled to God. So, he created the word “atonement” to represent this idea. It literally means “at-one.” It means to reconcile two who were previously separate. The whole purpose of the Day of Atonement and all of these sacrifices is to reconcile God and man. The Day of Atonement is a reminder both that people are separated from God because of sin (Hebrews 10:3), and that reconciliation requires a blood sacrifice.
You’ll notice that Aaron takes two goats. The first goat is sacrificed as a sin offering. The goat dies in the place of Aaron and the people he represents as priest. The second goat ceremonially has the sins of the people placed on its head and is sent out of the camp into the wilderness. God is ceremonially removing sin from the midst of the people. It is sort of like on Passover how the people are to remove all the leaven (yeast representing sin) from their house.
The priest would perform this ceremony every year on the Day of Atonement in addition to sacrifices that were made continually throughout the year. The question we should ask is, did it ever work? Did it ever really atone for sin and take their sin away? Consider Hebrews Hebrews 10:11–14
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
I hope that you are continuing to see how everything that happens in the Old Testament serves to point to Jesus. God is calling His Old Testament people to trust Him, that He will provide a way to atone for their sin. God is calling His New Testament people to see that Jesus is that way!