There is a word that has been present in the scriptures we’ve been reading since God began instructing the Israelites on how to build the Tabernacle back in Exodus 25. The word is atonement. For much of Exodus, it appears as a descriptive word to describe the atonement seat/cover. But on a couple of occasions mention is made of “making atonement” for the people (Exodus 30:10 is an example). In Leviticus, we have the inauguration of the official “Day of Atonement”. This was a day that was to happen once/year when Aaron and the Priests that followed after him, would enter into the Holy of Holies, reconsecrate the Tabernacle and it instruments and then offer sacrifices for Israels “impurities and rebellious acts” (16:16).
Atonement means to make reparation or payment for wrong or injury. Basically the Bible teaches that all sin is against God, wrong in his eyes and painful to him. It is this wrongness that creates the distance between a holy God and a sinful people. Once/year, Aaron was to bring a sacrifice before God that would pay for Israel’s sin. That sacrifice was a live goat who was released into the wilderness, symbolically carrying Israel’s sin out of the camp and far away from them.
Part of the process of sending the goat out of the camp was confession. “Aaron will lay both is hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the Israelites’ wrongdoings and rebellious acts – all their sins” (16:21). Confession is an uncomfortable topic in church. I don’t know about you, but when I have heard of people talking about confessing sin, my natural reaction is to pull back. The explanation for this is pretty simple really. Jesus said: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21) The deeds that we don’t do in the sight of God, that we don’t want exposed to the light, are the sinful/rebellious deeds that Aaron was to confess on behalf of the people.
We don’t want people to see our sin and that is why confession is so difficult. We think people will judge us. We are ashamed to admit to what we’ve done, and so we hold it in. The problem is, atonement can’t be made until the wrong or the injury or the pain (all sin) is confessed. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus made atonement for all of us on the cross, and he made that payment regardless of our admittance to sin. But getting right with God, accepting that atoning sacrifice requires to admit our “wrongdoings and rebellious acts – all our sin.”
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 19-21