Leviticus 16–18: The Day of Atonement & Jesus Christ

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 29: Monday

This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.
Leviticus 16:29–31

Monday’s Bible reading is Leviticus 16–18. In Leviticus 16, the law for the Day of Atonement is given. Oswald Allis writes:

“…To understand Calvary, and to see it in its tragic glory, we must view it with all the light of the sacred story centred upon it. With Isaiah, the ‘evangelical’ prophet…and with the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we must turn to Leviticus and read of the great Day of Atonement, and of the explanation which is given of it there: ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul’ (Lv. 17:11, AV). Thus we shall see the great drama of redemption unfolding before our eyes….”1

Leviticus 16 instructs Aaron and the high priests who will follow him on making atonement for himself and for the people of Israel. Allis explains:

“The Day of Atonement (23:27f.; 25:9) is the most important of all the holy ordinances with which the book of Leviticus is concerned, for it was the day on which atonement was made for all the sins of all the congregation of Israel….In this respect it stands apart from all other private and public ordinances connected with the worship of Israel. It is also signalized by the fact that it is the only day in the year for which fasting is required….Fasting would be the outward expression of their sorrow and repentance. In this regard the Day of Atonement stands in marked contrast to the annaul [sic] feasts which were times of rejoicing, especially the Feast of Tabernacles (23:40; cf. Dt. 12:7, 12; 16:11, 14).”2

In Hebrews 6 and 7, the writer states that now we have a high priest forever, Jesus Christ, according to the order of Melchizedek, and explains:

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

“For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.”
Hebrews 7:23–28

Jesus Christ has made atonement for those who believe in Him, once for all:

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption….

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…”
Hebrews 9:11–12, 24

I also want to comment on the importance of Leviticus 17 and 18. In chapter 17, God gives specific commands on the slaughter of animals for sacrifices and on their blood. The reason being:

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”
Leviticus 17:11

Chapter 18 begins the section of Leviticus that Allis titles, Sins Against the Moral Law, (18:1–20:27). Chapter 18 contains the laws forbidding all forms of sexual immorality, from incest, fornication and adultery to homosexuality and bestiality. It begins with these words of God:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the LORD your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes,to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God. So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 18:1–5

I’ve spent some time in Leviticus because it is an important book, and I think many are unfamiliar with it. If you would like to learn more, you can go back to my earlier posts on Mondays, Week 24Week 28. In his introduction to Leviticus, Oswald Allis writes:

“The immediate purpose of this book is to set forth those laws and principles by which Israel is to live as the people of God. Their God is a holy God; they are to be a holy people. ‘You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy’ is the emphatic demand. His sanctuary is in their midst; and when they worship there they stand ‘before the Lord’, a phrase which occurs about 60 times in this book. This means separation from uncleanness and sin, and since they are sinful and prone to sin, it necessitates atonement for sin and purification from it and from all uncleanness. Hence the law of sacrifice is placed impressively at the beginning.

“…there is no book in the OT which more clearly sets forth the redemption which is in Christ than does Leviticus. It faces the question of Job, ‘How can a man be just with God?’, and answers it in such words as the following: ‘He shall bring his offering….’ ‘And he shall confess the sin he has committed….’ ‘And he shall slay it…’ ‘And the priest shall sprinkle the blood….’ ‘And he shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.’”3

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1, 2, 3Oswald T. Allis, “Leviticus,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 141–142, 154, 141.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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