All Roads Lead to Jesus - Leviticus

LEVITICUS – JESUS IS OUR PRIEST AND THE GOAT

The Day of Atonement happened one day a year in Ancient Israel. One day, set apart for repentance, mourning and celebration. It was a national day of celebration for Ancient Israel as one High Priest would intercede for all of the people. One animal would die for all of the people. And one animal would be expelled from the camp for all of the people.

The details of the day can be found in Leviticus 16. For us today, Leviticus has become a strange book that is often taken out of context to prove that the Bible is no longer relevant. But when Leviticus is studied within context of both the Old and New Testament, we begin to see a beautiful and glorious picture of Jesus our High Priest and Scape Goat.

Leviticus 16 tells us that on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. He would sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed goat onto the Mercy Seat which was the lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant. This represented the sins of Israel being covered over by the blood of a pure being and as a result hidden from the wrath of God. The priest would then enter into the more common assembly area and he would sprinkle blood to purify the place from the impurity of all of the people as a national symbol of atonement to cover over all of the sins of every person.

When the Priest returned to the gathered people, he would lay his bloody hands on the head of the remaining living goat. This represented a transference of all of the sins of God’s people onto this animal. Then, the animal would be led out of the camp and into the wilderness. This was to remind God’s people that their sins had been covered, atoned for, and now forgotten and carried away as they were forgiven. A celebration would follow for the people of Israel.

But before the parties would begin, there was something awful that would happen. As the goat was being led away from the midst of the people, they would curse at the goat, spit on the goat and abuse the goat until it was finally removed and left to die in the wilderness on its own. It really is a horrible picture and it doesn’t take too much effort for us to see it as a foreshadowing of what would happen to Jesus on his way to the Cross.  

As wonderful and horrible as these ancient sacrifices and ceremonies may have been, they did not truly atone for the sins of God’s people. They were instead signs and seals pointing forward to the true High Priest and True Goat that would cover over, atone for and remove the sins of God’s people. Romans 3:35 in speaking of Jesus says, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” In other words, on every Day of Atonement before Jesus, God was waiting to deal with the sins of His people through Jesus. How would He do this?

Jesus is both the High Priest on the Day of Atonement and He is the Scape Goat. He was the one who’s blood has been shed, who intercedes, and the one who has been led out to remove the sins of God’s people. He was led through the streets and cursed. He was pierced for our transgressions. He died alone on a Cross we all deserved.

Jesus as our High Priest ended the need for signs and seals concerning God’s forgiveness. That’s why we don’t slaughter animals every time we come together. In the New Testament, there is a book called Hebrews. In that book, we are told that Jesus is the Great High Priest because he ended the need for a sacrificial system that could only inform us of our need to have our sins removed. Jesus is the final sacrifice because as our High Priest He went into the Holy of Holies, the throne room of God, and presented himself as a pure and blameless sacrifice. He was pure and blameless because he obeyed God’s Law perfectly.

Jesus is our scapegoat because our sins were truly transferred to him on the Cross. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that Jesus who was without sin became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God. Our sin for his righteousness. Has there ever been a more uneven exchange in all of history? Has there ever been a more gracious exchange in all of eternity?

This covering over of our sins and the removal of our sins is what we call atonement for our sins. This is why we talk about the blood of Jesus so often in Christian circles. We are not referring to a love of his physical blood, but rather a gratitude for what the shedding of his blood represents. In Leviticus 16 and all throughout the weird details of the book we see the atonement and the worth of Jesus.

That is why the writer of Hebrews in the New Testament would conclude one of his great thoughts along these lines with these words, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Did you hear that? Because Jesus is our Great High Priest, because he has both covered over and removed our sins through his intercession and sacrifice we can now enter into the presence of God. Both while still alive here on this earth and again and for eternity when we enter into the rest Jesus has sealed and delivered for us in the life to come.

I hope that these words will encourage you today no matter what you face. If you have come to faith in Christ, you no longer need to hide from the holiness of God because you have been covered by the holiness and righteousness of Jesus.

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