On the Biblical calendar exists one of the most distinguished days of the year. It’s called the Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. This day falls on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei not July). The Bible doesn’t operate on the Gregorian calendar that most of the world uses today because of the Roman Empire. That’s why Yom Kippur can be in September or October depending on the year. This day is packed full of significance in terms of the Messiah. This is post number two from the book of Leviticus showing how the Messiah is revealed in the Old Testament. The first post looked at the process established for cleansing leprosy in chapter 14. Feel free to scroll back through my site for the posts out of Genesis and Exodus as well. If you’re joining us for the first time, welcome!
The Day of Atonement is regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”. The word sabbath means “rest” in it’s simplest terms. Sabbath was first practiced by God in the process of creation and then humanity was invited to follow suit. Yom Kippur would be a day unlike any other, where the people of God poured out their hearts, sang worship songs, praised, lamented, and more. Basically, anything that had nothing to do with a person’s relationship with God would be set aside in pure devotion. It was also seen as the day that people’s souls could find rest with God as the Atonement and repentance were done. The Messiah and Sabbath are incredibly connected. It is the Messiah who provides the ultimate rest for our souls and mends our relationship with God. That’s exactly what Jesus came to do.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
The act of atonement is the idea of making full reparations for a wrong or injury. The wrong in this context is sin. The sins of the people needed to be paid for. The injury was dealt to God since sin is an offense towards Him as well as others who are hurt by our selfishness. While sin carries with it, often heavy consequences, every sinner has the hope of escaping the full wrath that their sin deserves. We can’t always escape the temporal effects of our sin, which makes it all that more important to try to live a God-honoring life. And a good Father would never spare us from all of the consequences of our bad choices. That’s how we grow. But a good Father does spare us from His wrath because His love is so much greater. In God’s economy, payment for sin would only be fully made through the Messiah.
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 2:22-24 (ESV)
It was the responsibility of the High Priest to carry out the service on the Day of Atonement. He made the sacrifice. He got blood on his hands. He prayed for the people. In a sense, the High Priest acted as a mediator between God and His people. The Messiah would step into this role upon His arrival. Only the Messiah would have to be a greater-than the high priest. Jesus Christ is called the Great High Priest because the sacrifice He made was greater than all of the sacrifice of the sacrificial system combined.
These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Hebrews 9:7-14 (ESV)
While one goat was sacrificed, the other was taken outside the gate and released into the wilderness. Before this was done, all of the sins of Israel were confessed and figuratively laid on this animal. Of course, the goat couldn’t carry the sins of anyone. But this was a powerful image of innocence carrying the sins of the guilty. The Messiah would be someone without guilt but would be treated and punished as someone who was sinful. A scapegoat is an innocent person who takes the blame and punishment for the guilty party on themselves. That’s exactly what Yeshua (Jesus) did for humanity.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
It is Finished
This day atoned for the sins of the people for the year. It would have to be repeated each year at the same time. The nation of Israel would spend an entire day repenting for sins known and unknown, for themselves and for those they knew. It was a day that many would both dread and rejoice over. It is a day to remember the price for sin as well as the goodness of God to make a way for our sins to be atoned for. The Messiah’s atoning sacrifice resembles that in all ways but one. His death on the cross should be both a dreadful moment for Christians, as well as a sacrifice that causes rejoicing. Remembering our Savior on the cross should lead every Christian into heartfelt repentance. Because it was our sin that put the Messiah there. Hebrews chapter 10 is a great description of the Messiah’s sacrifice in comparison with that of the Day of Atonement.
…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:10 (ESV)