Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 16

“This is the procedure for Aaron when he enters the Holy Place:” Leviticus 16:3 (MSG)

Okay, just so I get this straight, I’ve listed below the procedure for the high-priest to enter God’s presence and make atonement for the sins of the people:

  1. Take a bath.
  2. Put on the appropriate attire (the scared underwear, tunic, and sash). [You look MAHVELOUS!]
  3. Bring a bull, a ram and two goats to God’s tent.
  4. Offer the bull as a personal atonement for your sin.
  5. Draw straws over the two goats. Designate one for slaughter.
  6. Slaughter the bull.
  7. Bring hot coals and incense inside the tent and burn them by the ark of the covenant [cue: Indiana Jones Theme].
  8. Sprinkle blood from the bull over the ark (or Atonement Cover).
  9. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  10. Repeat the springling of blood.
  11. Repeat the springling of blood.
  12. Repeat the springling of blood.
  13. Repeat the springling of blood.
  14. Repeat the springling of blood.
  15. Repeat the springling of blood.
  16. Slaughter the goat and sprinkle the blood on or before the ark.
  17. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  18. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  19. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  20. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  21. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  22. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  23. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  24. Sprinkle blood from the bull and goat on the altar outside God’d tent.
  25. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  26. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  27. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  28. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  29. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  30. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  31. Repeat the sprinkling of blood.
  32. Take the goat that won the lottery, lay hands on it and confess all the sins of the people over it.
  33. Give the goat to a man standing by who will lead it into the wilderness(e.g. the scapegoat), metaphorically sending the sins of the people into the wasteland.
  34. Go into God’s tent, take off the sacred clothes, and bathe.
  35. Put on the priests uniform.
  36. Offer a whole burnt offering for yourself.
  37. Offer a whole burnt offering for the people.
  38. Burn the fat from the offering on the altar.
  39. Have the man who led the scapegoat into the wilderness take off his clothes and take a bath.
  40. Take the leftovers of the bull sacrifice and the goat sacrifice outside the camp and burn them.
  41. The man who burns the leftovers must wash his clothes and bathe.

Yikes. The crazy machinations of the sacrificial system became a living metaphor to help people understand how difficult [read: impossible] it is for a person to earn God’s forgiveness and favor. That’s why God sent His son, Jesus, as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins:

That’s why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding forgiveness of sins.

That accounts for the prominence of blood and death in all these secondary practices that point to the realities of heaven. It also accounts for why, when the real thing takes place, these animal sacrifices aren’t needed anymore, having served their purpose. For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin.

Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation. Hebrews 9:22-28 (MSG)

Today, I’m grateful for Jesus making a sacrifice once and for all for my sins. I’m thankful that I don’t have to go through an impossible 41 point checklist to try and have my sins forgiven.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and andy2580

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