Starting with Adam and Eve, the central problem the Bible addresses is this: “How can a holy God dwell with a sinful people?” This almost led to the destruction of Israel after they sinned by creating and worshiping a Golden Calf (see Ex. 32–34).
Today’s reading describes the Day of Atonement, the most theologically significant passage in Leviticus and perhaps in the entire Old Testament. It is important for every believer to understand the significance of this ceremony. After Aaron’s sons approached the Lord in the wrong way and were killed, God provided instructions for how Aaron could rightly enter the Holy of Holies to offer an atoning sacrifice for the nation (Lev. 16:1–2).
Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron was to offer a sin offering for himself and for the nation (vv. 3–5). This was a holy and solemn affair. It was the only day of the year that the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. After offering the appropriate sacrifices, Aaron would enter the Holy of Holies, burn incense before the Ark of the Covenant, and sprinkle blood on the cover of the Ark, often called the Mercy Seat (vv. 11–14).
After performing this ritual, he was to take the scapegoat, lay his hands on its head, and confess the sins of Israel (v. 21). The goat was then to be led out of the camp into the wilderness, thus symbolically removing Israel’s sin from the camp (vv. 21–22). On that day, all Israel was to cease from work and mourn (v. 29).
>> It was for our sin that Jesus died on the cross. His shed blood made the Day of Atonement ceremony no longer necessary. The curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn in two (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38) and all believers were given direct access to the Father. Jesus served as the ultimate scapegoat, taking upon Himself the sin of the world (1 Peter 2:24; Heb. 9:28).
You alone know the true weight of sin, the real sting of death, and the desolation of being separated from Your Father. Yet You willingly endured all to free us from these things—and now we worship in Your presence!