Sun, Sep 21, 2008

JESUS, OUR ATONEMENT! LEVITICUS 16:1-34 09/21/08

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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JESUS, OUR ATONEMENT!
LEVITICUS 16:1-34

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Leviticus chapter 16.  In this portion of Scripture the Lord is instructing Moses and the children of Israel on what the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is all about.  Our focus this morning is going to be: Jesus, Our Atonement!  You see, what was being done on the Day of Atonement was a picture of what Jesus was to do and has done for us.  The blood was shed! The sacrifice was made!

            Allen P. Ross, in his book, Holiness to the LORD, gives to us this perspective. He wrote:

            The only way of access into the presence of the LORD is by the application of the atoning blood on the mercy seat and the removal of the sins of the penitent by placing them on a scapegoat.

- Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the LORD, p. 323

            That truly is a summary of Leviticus chapter 16, the blood upon the mercy seat, which covered the Ark of the Covenant that had the Law of God, which they broke, inside. And thus, when God looked down He saw the blood upon the mercy seat and did not judge man by the Law. The sins that were placed upon the scapegoat is a picture of our sins being cast as far as the east is from the west to be remembered no more!  And as we will see this morning, it all points us to Jesus and the work He has done for us!

            Before we get to our text this morning, let me share with you this true story that will help set the stage for what we will be studying. We are told:

            A distressed father sat at the bedside of his comatose son, hurt playing basketball. At a crucial point in the game, the 16-yaer-old lunged for an errant pass going out of bounds. As he toppled over a spectator’s chair, one of its legs caught him in the stomach and damaged vital organs. Because he felt little pain, the teen continued to play the game’s final minutes while he hemorrhaged internally. By the time the pain grew enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, it was almost too late. The doctors worked frantically to save him, but the outcome was uncertain.

            Though the son eventually recovered, those awful hours of waiting for the slightest signs of recovery forced family members to ask questions they’d never before faced. The father was alone on his bedside shift one evening when the pastor visited. Trembling with emotion, the father asked, “Will God kill my son to punish my sin?”

            “No,” said the young minister, searching for words that would comfort and grant renewed trust in the God this father now so desperately needed. “The Lord’s not punishingyour son for your sin. He couldn’t, because God punished his son for your sin.”

- Bryan Chapell, The Wonder of It All

            May we not forget that fact and that is my prayer as we go through this study, that we would see all that God has done for us, His great love for us, His sacrifice, and fall in love with Him even more.  Not only that, but we would truly realize the gift that God has given to us and that we would share that gift with others! With that said, let’s begin reading in Leviticus chapter 16, starting in verse 1, and see what the Lord has for us as we look at,JESUS OUR ATONEMENT!

LEVITICUS 16:1-34

            The Lord starts out by telling them they cannot approach Him anyway that they want and they just witnessed a vivid illustration of this as Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for approaching God the way they wanted and when they wanted!

            Thus, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, Aaron who was the high priest was to bathe and place upon himself white linen trousers and a tunic. He then would offer a bull as a sacrifice for his sin and he would offer one of the two goats as a sacrifice for the sins of the children of Israel. He would then enter the holy of holies with a censer filled with incense, filling the holy of holies and then he would sprinkle the blood of the bull upon the mercy seat seven times and repeat that with the blood of the goat.

            After this the high priest would place his hand on the live goat, the scapegoat and confess the sins of the people and as those sins were laid upon this animal, it was then sent into the wilderness never to be seen again.  That is a quick review of what took place on the Day of Atonement. And, once again, God permits access into His presence only through His provision of atonement and Nadab and Abihu found that out, as did the nation of Israel, what happens when you don’t obey God!

            With the remainder of our time this morning I would like to focus on three areas that deal with this day and how it was fulfilled in Jesus. We will be looking at: THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS. Then we will look at: THE SHED BLOOD OF JESUS. And lastly we will look at: JESUS THE SCAPEGOAT.

            Before we look at that, listen once again to Allen P. Ross and how he sums this up for us. He wrote:

            The central idea of this passage is God’s gracious provision to provide complete atonement. God made a way to cleanse and sanctify people for every sin and every defilement, so that they might retain their relationship with him. Full atonement means even more than this: it means that God provided access into his presence. In the person of the high priest the people entered the holy of holies. This particular aspect of the day is fraught with significance, not only for Israel’s relationship with God but also for the atoning work of Christ.

            The revelation of the removal of sin and defilement is also clearly presented here in the scapegoat. All the sins of the people were confessed and transferred to the victim, which was then led outside the camp. All sin was completely removed by this substitute.

            The final theological truth found in this passage is that the people were responsible to humble themselves. To receive atonement from God, the people had to show evidence of repentance and genuine spiritual concerns.

- Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the LORD, p. 314

1.  THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS

            These animals that were used for sacrifice had no say in the matter. They were picked and that was that.  The amazing thing to me is that Jesus had a choice to make and He freely gave His life for you and me.  And folks, it was not because we deserved it, we didn’t. We were stiff-necked, rebellious people and yet Jesus died for us.  He wasn’t forced to do it. He freely gave His life so we may live!  In John 10:18 Jesus said, No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.

            Now that is a wonderful truth that God loves me so much, He loves you so much, that He gave His life for us!  And for many today, that is where it ends, and that should not be. Yes, that is what the Lord has done for us and there is no way we can ever repay it nor does God want us to.  But He also tells us to “Go out and do the same!”  (Luke 6:31, Luke 10:37).

            Not that we can sacrifice our lives for the sins of another, but we can show the love of Christ by sacrificing our lives to help others! Is it easy to do? Absolutely not, especially when the Lord calls us to sacrifice for those who may not love us, treat us fairly!  You see, God had every right not to sacrifice His life for us because we did not deserve it and yet He did and He is telling us to do the same!

            Also, Aaron was not to wear his beautiful high priestly garments, but just a white linen tunic and trousers, why? Because it was a sign of humility, that he was no different than the others, he was a sinner separated from God. How does that relate to Christ? Jesus emptied Himself of some of His Godly attributes and clothed Himself in humanity; God became flesh and dwelt among us! Not that He was a sinner, but He did become flesh and blood as I have said. He was no longer clothed in the glory that is due who He is, Almighty God!

            Paul put it like this in Philippians 2:5-8, Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

            Jesus is fully God, not a god but Almighty God. If He wasn’t then He was stealing that which did not belong to Him, but it was not robbery for Him to be equal with God, because He is God! And when God became flesh He emptied Himself of some of His Godly attributes, some of His Godly privileges and was obedient to the Father. He not only came to do the Father’s will, but He fulfilled it as He sacrificed His life on the cross of Calvary for us.

            Paul, in Romans 3:21-26 tells us, But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

            Jesus, by His death, became the substitute sacrifice for us, a propitiation.  When He hung on the cross of Calvary He was judged in our place as the sins of the world were cast upon Him. Thus, the Father could demonstrate His righteousness in judgment against sin while sparing us who deserve His judgment!

            The word propitiation in the Greek is HILASTERION (hil-as-tay’-ree-on) and it is used in the Septuagint for the mercy seat, which was the lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant where the Law of God was kept. And on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of a goat upon the mercy seat to atone for the sins of the people, Leviticus 16:15.  But Jesus has come to be that perfect sacrifice and to take away, not cover our sins.

It is as Isaiah 53:4-6 tells us, Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Clark put it like this as he wrote: “Here we learn that God designed to give the most evident displays of both his justice and mercy.  Of his justice, in requiring a sacrifice, and absolutely refusing to give the salvation to a lost world in any other way; and of his mercy, in providing THE sacrifice which his justice required.”

            Remember when Jesus gave up His Spirit on the cross of Calvary, He died, we are told in Matthew 27:50-51, And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.  In other words, by His sacrifice He opened the way into the holy of holies for us, into the presence of God!  Keep in mind this was the time of the evening sacrifices and the priests were there witnessing that THE sacrifice was now made, that the door was open to God and that door is JESUS! And because of what He has done we can boldly come into the presence of God the Father with our requests, all because of Jesus, our redeeming sacrifice!  Sadly, for many of the religious leaders, instead of receiving Jesus into their lives they tried to sew up the veil, preventing people from entering in. But the door is open and it is only through Jesus, don’t sew it back up again by trying to approach God by the Law!

            As I close this first section, let me do so with this story that will help illustrate what Jesus has done for us. We are told:

            If you travel up I-395 through Washington, D.C., and cross over the Potomac, you will likely cross the Arland D. Williams, Jr., Memorial Bridge. Who was Arland D. Williams, Jr.?

On January 13, 1982, he gave hope to five individuals at the cost of his own life. On that cold January day, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the icy Potomac. Ice on the wings prevented the plane from a successful take-off. Almost all of the passengers perished.

Five different times, a helicopter dropped a rope to save Williams. Five times, Williams passed the rope to other passengers in worse shape than he was. When the rope was extended to Williams the sixth time, he could not take hold, and succumbed to the frigid waters.

His heroism was not rash. Aware that his own strength was fading, he deliberately handed hope to someone else over the space of several minutes.

Jesus did not make a rash decision to give his life for ours. That Jesus would be an atoning sacrifice for us was his destiny from eternity past. We need only take the lifeline handed to us by his sacrificial death on the cross.

- Preaching Today

            That is what Jesus has done for us, He sacrificed His life so what we can live with Him for eternity, so that our fellowship with God the Father could be restored!  THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS!

2.  THE SHED BLOOD OF JESUS

            Aaron took the blood of the bull and goat and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat for his sins and the sins of the nation so that as God, who dwelt above the mercy seat between the cherubim looked down, he would not judge them by the Law, which they broke, but He would see the blood covering the mercy seat and not give them what they deserved for their sin – DEATH!

            Now the problem comes because of the fact that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away your sin, it could only cover it for a time.  That is Paul’s point in Hebrews 9:11-14 as he tells us, But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  But is it even possible that they might take away a persons sin? Not at all, for Paul reminds us in Hebrews 10:4, For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

            What the shed blood of bulls and goats could never do, Jesus has done for us. It is the blood that cleanses us from our sins and as God the Father looks down upon us He sees us as white as snow in a positional sense. Yes, practically speaking we do still sin but God sees the finished product and the work He has begun in us He will complete!

            Johnny Hart in one of his B.C. comic stripes wrote this: “The suffering Prince, by Wiley. “Picture yourself tied to a tree condemned of the sins of eternity.” “Then picture a spear parting the air, seeking your heart to end your despair.” “Suddenly – a knight, in armor of white, stands in the gap betwixt you and its flight.” “And shedding his ‘armor of God’ for you – bears the lance that runs him through.” “His heart has been pierced that yours may beat, and the blood of his corpse washes your feet.”  “Picture yourself in raiment white, cleansed by the blood of the lifeless knight.” “Never to mourn the prince who was downed.” “For he is not lost! It is you who are found.”  That is it, He took our place, paid for our sin and it is His righteousness that has been imputed into our lives by faith, the blood of Jesus cleanses us!

            For Aaron, he too was a sinner and he needed to sacrifice a bull and sprinkle the blood upon the mercy seat for his own sins. But not Jesus, He was without sin, completely, absolutely or He couldn’t be that perfect sacrifice.  We are told in I Peter 1:18-21, knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Paul, in Hebrews 4:15 also makes this point that Jesus is without sin as he wrote, For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Could Jesus sin? I guess it was possible or this verse would make no sense. Did Jesus sin? Absolutely not!  Think of it like this. If I took a bee-bee gun and shot at a battleship, could I sink it?  It may be possible but highly unlikely. Jesus could sin but He walked in the Spirit, He did not succumb to the lusts of the flesh, He did not sin, NEVER! And I think the lesson He has for us is that if we walk in the Spirit, as Paul said in Galatians, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh! Yes, it is a daily battle, but God wants us to walk in obedience to Him and not the flesh!

Another problem for Aaron and the children of Israel was that this ritual had to be practiced every year, it was only temporary provision for sin, besides the daily sacrifices and all the other sacrifices that took place. But when Jesus came and sacrificed His life, shed His blood for our sin, it was a once and for all sacrifice!

Paul tells us in Hebrews chapter 9, starting in verse 6, “Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience — concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. . . . For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another — He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. Hebrews 9:6-10, 24-28.

You see, the sacrifice was made, it is finished, and Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father because the work was completed.  Today some feel that Jesus did His part and we need to do ours by doing good works to get into heaven. No, good works don’t save you; they are the fruit that is born in your life because you are saved!

            And lastly, Aaron, through these sacrifices was securing for the people to continue their fellowship and worship of God because sin broke that fellowship. But Christ not only established our fellowship and worship of God but He secured our eternal forgiveness, not a temporary forgiveness!

            Paul, in Hebrews 10:1-18 put it like this, For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come — In the volume of the book it is written of Me — To do Your will, O God.”’  Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them"(which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

            You see, if our sins have been forgiven, why do you need more sacrifices? You don’t and thus, as Paul said, Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:18.  Thus, the work is done; we have been forgiven, cleansed by THE SHED BLOOD OF JESUS!

3.  JESUS THE SCAPEGOAT

            As we have seen, Aaron would place his hand upon the scapegoat and confess the sins of the nation and then this goat would be sent into the wilderness never to be seen again. Now, Jewish tradition tells us that they would tie a scarlet cloth on the head of this goat and if it turned white as he was lead into the wilderness, then their sins were forgiven. If it didn’t, then their sins were not forgiven and they would mourn for that year.  Later on tradition tells us that this goat was lead to the top of a mountain called Azazel, which was the name for this goat, and cast off this mountain. If the red thread turned white, then their sin was forgiven and once again, if it didn’t, then their sin was not forgiven and they would mourn for that year.

            Interestingly enough, about 40 years before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, around the time of Christ’s death, we are told that the red string never turned white again! But why did it not turn white again?  When the beaten, bloodied body of Jesus rose from the dead He was clothed in white garments, showing us that our sins have been cleansed as white as snow, we are forgiven in Christ, that atonement has been completed at the cross by the shed blood of Jesus!

            You see, Jesus took our sins upon Himself and He gave to us His righteousness, which enables us to come before God.  In Isaiah 53:5-6 we are told, But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Peter tells us in I Peter 2:24, who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.  Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:13, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’). And in

II Corinthians 5:21 Paul tells us, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And I really like the way The Living Bible puts this verse, For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God's goodness into us!

            The sins that were ours were transferred to Him, the scapegoat, cast as far as the east is from the west to be remembered no more, and thus, there is no need for any ritual, the work is done, our sins are forgiven!  These things were only a shadow of what was to come. You see, THE SUBSTANCE IS JESUS!

            Look at I John 2:1-2 for a minute and listen to what John has to say as he wrote, My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Yes, God requires perfection from us but the reality is, we are not perfect in a practical sense, we do sin. And because we have been adopted into the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we are perfect in a positional sense. As the Father looks upon us the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all our sins, we are as white as snow! And when we do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, a defense attorney, Jesus Christ!  The Greek word foradvocate is PARAKLETOS, which means “one who speaks . . . in our defense.”

Now when I think of a defense attorney I see someone who manipulates the truth to get his client freedom.  But if Jesus did that, He would not be righteous. Then how does Jesus defend us, how does He refute the accusations that Satan brings against us?  (Revelation 12:10).  Because our advocate has become our propitiation or atonement for our sins.

            You see, God became sin for us; He paid in full the penalty for our sins, enduring the wrath of God that was due us!  Thus, Jesus does not defend us by manipulating the evidence because we are guilty before God. What He does do is say that our penalty was paid in full by Him, and He can show the scares to prove it, case closed! 

            In regards to this word propitiation,” Alford tells us: “The word implies that Christ has, as our sin-offering, reconciled God and us by nothing else but by His voluntary death as a sacrifice: has by this averted God’s wrath from us.” It is as Peter said, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. I Peter 3:18.  You see, sin is no longer a barrier between God and man, if you receive Jesus as your propitiation for your sins! Yes, sin can hinder our fellowship with God, but our salvation is secure in Him!

            Thus, the New Covenant no longer has a need for any annual Day of Atonement. That Day has come and gone with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary! And now, every believer has the right to enter into the holy of holies, the presence of God based on the finished work of Jesus, that our sins are paid for, they are never to be seen again!  You see, it was the scapegoat or Jesus, the shed blood of Jesus that has allowed us to come before Almighty God.  Thus, as we have seen, JESUS THE SCAPEGOAT!

            Let me close with this story. We are told:

            Alila stood on the beach holding her tiny infant son close to her heart. Tears welled in her eyes as she began slowly walking toward the river’s edge. She stepped into the water, silently making her way out until she was waist deep, the water gently lapping at the sleeping baby’s feet. She stood there for a long time holding the child tightly as she stared out across the river. Then all of a sudden in one quick movement she threw the six-month-old baby to his watery death.

            Native missionary M. V. Varghese often witnesses among the crowds who gather at the Ganges. It was he who came upon Alila that day kneeling in the sand crying uncontrollably and beating her breast. With compassion he knelt down next to her and asked her what was wrong.

            Through her sobs she told him, ‘The problems in my home are too many and my sins are heavy on my heart, so I offered the best I have to the goddess Ganges, my first born son.” Brother Varghese’s heart ached for the desperate woman.  As she wept he gently began to tell her about the love of Jesus and that through Him her sins could be forgiven. She looked at him strangely. “I have never heard that before,” she replied through her tears. “Why couldn’t you have come thirty minutes earlier? If you did, my child would not have had to die.”

            Each year millions of people come to the holy Indian city of Hardwar to bathe in the River Ganges. These multitudes come believing this Hindu ritual will wash their sins away. . . .

- Christianity Today, 1993

            What a tragic story that is and thus, as I close this morning my prayer is that you are not only more in love with Jesus as you have seen all He has done for you, but may you also have a passion to share your faith, to give to others the forgiveness of sin that is only found in Jesus, that you bring them to Jesus and you bring Jesus to them! You see, there is a world of people that are hurting and they may not even realize that it is their sin that is affecting them. Thus, may we bring them the love of Jesus, may we show them that He has died for their sins. May we give them: JESUS OUR ATONEMENT!

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