Leviticus 16:6-22 (click here)
Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house.
Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.
And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:6, 15, and 21-22)
Grace does not mean that sin is simply swept under the rug. God is holy, righteous, good, and just…by his very nature he must deal with sin…and dealing with sin is always bloody because it deserves death.
So God, in his grace, provides a substitute to take our death for us. This is what the Old Testament Day of Atonement was all about. Aaron, the high priest, had a substitute bull for himself. The people had two substitute goats to stand in their place. One goat was sacrificed, pointing to the reality of what their sin deserved. The other goat was sent away into the desert, showing the reality that their sin had truly been taken away, removed.
God was not obligated to provide these substitutes…the people did not deserve them…they were freely given. This is grace…costly, bloody, beautiful grace.
Yet, can a bull or goat really be a substitute, a representative for a human being? Hebrews 10:4, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” This is why the high priest had to perform this ritual again and again. It was never FINISHED. It was a symbol of what God was promising to do…of what God did do…through Jesus.
Jesus was our perfect high priest who didn’t even need to make a sacrifice for himself… yet he became our sacrifice! As fully human, he could perfectly represent us and be our substitute. As fully God, he could actually save us. And, Christ died in our place, taking what our sin deserved and removing it forever! Of his work he was able to say what the Old Testament high priest never could…it is FINISHED!
Hebrews 10:11-12, “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…”
This is grace…costly, bloody, beautiful grace.
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.