Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Way of the Cross (6)

Having been rescued from Egypt, the LORD makes his covenant with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. As the people journey towards the promised land, the law is revealed to them, God's gracious gift to enable the sinful people to approach and live with a holy God. Today and tomorrow, we're going to think about the most important day in the Israelite calendar - the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, as described in Leviticus 16.

As part of the ceremonial on that day, two goats were used. A bull is sacrificed as a sin offering, and part of the blood sprinkled on the 'mercy seat' (the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies, in the Tabernacle). Then the two goats have lots cast for them - today we'll focus on the goat used at the tabernacle. It is also a sin offering, its blood brought within the veil (the very presence of God), and sprinkled over the mercy seat. The Holy Place has been atoned for - 'at-one' being to be reconciled, for sins to have been covered and forgiven.

This Day of Atonement ceremony only happened on one day each year, and only was performed by the high priest - Aaron and his sons. It signifies the separation that sin brings between God and people, and the need for the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins. And ultimately, the blood of the bull and the goat point forward to the one full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for sins on the cross of Calvary, and the entry of our great high priest into the true tabernacle, heaven to secure 'an eternal redemption.' (Heb 9:12)

As the writer to the Hebrews continues, Jesus' death fulfills the purpose and prophecy of the Law, and grants us the incredible and wonderful benefits of all God's people:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water... (Hebrews 10:19-22)

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