The Great Day of Atonement:
On the great Day of Atonement, the High priest was to offer sacrifices to make atonement for the people as a nation. The national offering was given on this day.
Leviticus 16: 1 – 3 (NIV): “The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord. 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. 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.”
In this Scripture Moses was given specific instructions as to when Aaron should enter into the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place was where the priests functioned, but only the high priest was to come into the Most Holy Place, and he was to come once a year, he’s therefore explaining to him in Leviticus 16:3, how to come, with – “… a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for the burnt offering”
Leviticus 16:4 goes on to say, “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” This is talking about his dressing; his regalia.
Verse 5: “From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering”. Now this is for, and on behalf of the people. So there are 5 animals altogether: one bullock and one ram for Aaron, and two goats and one ram for the people.
Verse 6: “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household.” This is the high priest, and he can’t offer for the people till he first offers for his own sin. He first offers a sin offering for himself and his household.
Verse 7 – 10: ”Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats – one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 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”
Now remember, he was to sacrifice one bullock for his own sin offering – to make atonement for himself. Then he takes one goat here, which is the one that falls to the Lord, and kills it as a sin offering. But the other goat, which is the scapegoat, is used for making atonement in a special way.
Verse 11 – 14 “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. 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. 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. 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.”
Let’s pause here for a second. These verses above show us the method through which Aaron was to carry out this service; how he was to approach God – this was God’s prescription. In the latter part, observe what he does with the blood – he sprinkles it on the atonement cover before God, which is the mercy seat.
Verse 15 – 16: “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. 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…”
Imagine this, he sprinkles this blood over the Most Holy Place. This is supposed to be the Most Holy Place, yet he sprinkles the blood, and what does God say about it? “…He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place…” He’s making atonement for the place! How holy God is; even the place of sacrifice had to be sanctified. There had to be an atonement for that place before it could be used for God.
Verse 17 – 18: “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. 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 the horns of the altar”
No one was to be there from the time Aaron went in till he came out, and he shall make atonement for the altar, by taking some of the bull’s blood, that was for his own, and some of the goat’s blood, which was the one for the people, and put it on the horns of the altar.
Verse 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” Here he cleanses the altar to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. No wonder the Bible says all things are purged with blood (Hebrews 9:22). The altars, the vessels, the Holy Place, were all purged with the blood of an animal.
Verse 20 – 22: “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. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it 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. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness”
So now we’ve got 3 animals left, the live goat, which is the scapegoat, the ram, which is for the burnt offering for the people and Aaron’s ram for the burnt offering. Two have been killed already. Aaron the high priest then lays both hands on the head of the live goat. God is specific here. He didn’t say on the back of the goat but on the head of the live goat. And then notice, he confesses over it all the sins, wickedness and rebellion of the people, and sends the goat away by a man appointed for the task.
No name is mentioned of who takes the goat; it just says: one qualified for the job. This man takes the scapegoat and lets it loose in the desert. That goat is called the sin bearer, and figuratively bears the sins of the nation of Israel. And so for a whole year, their sins were gone; borne by the scapegoat, the sin bearer.
Verse 23 – 24: “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. He shall bathe himself with water in a holy place 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”
When he (Aaron) returns, he changes his clothes, puts on his regular priestly garments, and he sacrifices the burnt offering for himself, and the other for the people. What’s the significance of this? Their sins are borne away to the desert by the scapegoat. But even though their sins are gone they need another sacrifice, which is the burnt offering, to be accepted by God. As we said earlier the burnt offering is the offering of acceptance. So he kills these animals, first, one for himself; the blood is shed, and so blood is brought again before the Lord for the high priest to be accepted. Then, he takes the one belonging to the congregation and does the same thing, so that the congregation of Israel might be accepted before the Lord.
There’s another significant thing here from Verse 25 – 27: “He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar. The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterwards he may come into the camp. 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 offal are to be burned up.
Now remember, the blood ministrations were done inside, but for the remains of the animal, God said, carry the rest of it outside the gate. This is all significant because the Bible tells us that this was the reason Jesus suffered outside the gate (Hebrews 13: 11-12).
Note 3 important things in atoning for sins:
1. God had to give instruction on the kind of animal to be used for atonement.
2. The altar had to be designated by God.
3. The offering had to be administered by a priest called of God.
So the High Priest carried out this ministry on the great Day of Atonement. Next, we’ll begin to relate this with Jesus, His blood and what He did for us.
What was the significance of Aaron’s sacrifice for himself and his household? Is it related to us as priests in the New Testament? In other words, is it related to leaders’ personal offerings?
ANSWER TO DISCUSSION QUESTION:
No, the purpose was for his own sins and acceptance, as we already saw. However, those offerings were sacrifices for sin but the offerings we give today, whether as leaders or members are not sacrifices for sin.