Atonement

Forgiveness. Since the first sin in the Garden of Eden, there was a desperate need for a way to be forgiven. Throughout the Old Testament we see sacrifices of animals offered to deal with sin. When Israel was in the wilderness, God gave a command for a national Day of Atonement to be held each year (this is known by Jews today as ‘Yom Kippur’).

“This is to be a perpetual statute for you. In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you must humble yourselves and do no work of any kind, both the native citizen and the foreigner who resides in your midst, for on this day atonement is to be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you must be clean before the Lord. It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must humble yourselves. It is a perpetual statute.” (Leviticus 16:29-31 NET).

Earlier in the chapter we find the instructions for the Day of Atonement. The high priest was to take a bull and offer it for his sins and and those of his family (Leviticus 16:11). Then he was to take two goats. One was to be killed for the sins of the nation (Leviticus 16:15-16). The other was to be kept alive. The high priest would lay his hands on the head of this goat “and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins” (Leviticus 16:21 ESV). The goat was then to be taken to a remote area of the wilderness and released (see Leviticus 16:20-22).

This was to be done year after year. “This is to be a perpetual statute for you to make atonement for the Israelites for all their sins once a year” (Leviticus 16:34 NET).

This took place each year for over a thousand years, at least when Israel was faithful to God. But have you ever stopped to wonder why God wanted blood shed for sin? This was explained in the next chapter.

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:11 ESV).

This was why there was a prohibition on eating animal blood for the Israelites (Leviticus 17:10-12). The life was in the blood and it was the animal’s blood that made atonement by the life of the animal.

But there was a problem with this arrangement. How could the blood, the life, of a bull or goat take away the sin that we commit? As the Hebrews writer put it, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). If the sacrifice of an animal could take away sin, they wouldn’t have had to be offered each year (Hebrews 10:1-3).

In reality, the offering of the blood of animals was pointing towards a greater sacrifice that would take place in the future. This is why Jesus came into the world (Hebrews 10:5-10).

“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” (Hebrews 10:11-14).

One sacrifice, offered one time, for the sin of everyone for all time. What a great Saviour we have!

Readings for next week:
16 January – Leviticus 16
17 January – Leviticus 17
18 January – Leviticus 18
19 January – Leviticus 19
20 January – Leviticus 20

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Jon Galloway

After graduating from Freed-Hardeman College and teaching school for three years, as well as preaching for small congregations in West Tennessee, Jon & Arlene moved back to her home of Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1985 Jon has been involved in evangelistic work in the Glasgow area, currently serving the congregation in East Kilbride. They have three grown children. Besides writing 'Bible Bytes', Jon is also one of the editors of the "Christian Worker," a news magazine for congregations in the UK, and is a teacher and governor for the British Bible School.

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