At our Bible study in Edna on Sunday evenings we are going through the same basic curriculum that we studied in our own Sunday School in years past, all the historical and narratives portions of the scriptures. We are presently in the book of Leviticus which is rather tedious and filled with instructions for OT sacrifices etc. and which I therefore largely passed over the first time through. But I have discovered there is a reason for the book of L. and there is info here God wants us to know. So this morning I will cover a lesson with you that we briefly considered at our study last week in Edna (with some new info to boot!).
In Hebrews 10:1 the NT writer tells us that the law was a shadow of good things to come and not the very reality themselves. In Galatians 3:24 Paul informs us that the Mosaic law was our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. There is much in the old law of Moses that was really intended as a symbol and calculated to be a picture of a deeper reality and which prepared us for Jesus Christ.
For example, there were laws concerning foods both clean and unclean. Basically speaking, if there was something about some food that symbolized moral corruption and sin, then God labelled it unclean and therefore not to be eaten. Everyday, the Israelites, as they ate their meals, were reminded by what they ate and what they didn't eat that there was such a thing as moral distinctions. There was such a thing as sin and there was such a thing as righteousness. There was a category of behaviors that were clean and there was a category of behaviors unclean.
Of course, it wasn't that there was something inherently unclean about any food. Jesus later said that it isn't what goes into a man's mouth that really makes him unclean. And God, of course, told Peter under the NT system that God no longer recognized the distinction between foods clean and unclean. Those laws belonged to the law of Moses, the temporary system of types and shadows that pictured deeper realities.
There was also the tabernacle built in the midst of the camp/people which tabernacle was built according to the perfect pattern God showed Moses on the mountain. Apparently, this OT tabernacle was a picture and pattern of heaven itself and a foreshadowing of the way things would be under Jesus when God would tabernacle/live within the bodies of his people.
There were also all the sacrifices that God instructed the Israelites to offer. There were the sinofferings and the burnt offerings, the fellowship offerings, the grain offerings which were also all a picture or shadow of the true and perfect sacrifice to come in Jesus. All year long they offered these sacrifices ..., but even all these daily sacrifices were not sufficient to complete the reconciliation between Israel and holy God Jehovah. Even with the most scrupulous observance of all these offerings many sins would remain unknown and unacknowledged and would necessarily produce in the people a feeling of separation from God. This problem was intended to be rectified by the appointment of a yearly general expiation of all the sins that remained unatoned for and uncleansed in the course of the year. In this respect the laws of sacrifice were completed by the institution of the Day of Atonement which provided for the congregation of Israel the highest and most comprehensive expiation possible under the OT. We read about this in L. 16.
When Nadab and Abihu tried to enter the MHP with strange fire, not according to the instructions of the Lord, God in his righteous anger slew them. Not only could no unclean man go before the holy God, but even the anointed and sanctified high priest, if he went in at his own pleasure and without the atoning blood sacrifice, would expose himself to certain death. We know then, that it is not possible to come to God and to approach God in our own way or according to my own will. One can only approach God in his way and according to his will.
Further, we can see that in OT times free access to God was not possible. It was only Aaron who could come into the MHP and he only once a year. No one could have said in those days, "Let us come boldy before the throne of grace..." Till sin was abolished by the complete atonement of Jesus Christ, the holy God was to remain to mortal and sinful men a consuming fire before whom no one could stand.
God was teaching them an object lesson: No one can come into the presence of God without a sacrifice. "I'll go to heaven as quick as those Christians will." Not without a sacrifice for your sins you won't. No way.
Object lesson? No one can approach the holy God with impurity and without washing his uncleaness away. Brings to mind NT baptism. "... arise and be baptized and wash thy sins away."
These two goats really represented one sacrifice for the people. Two goats were offered because it was impossible for one goat to fully symbolize the divine plan by which sin would be forgiven. One goat was to die and the other was to bear away the sin of the people. One goat showed how sin was paid for and the other goat showed how sin was carried far away.
Lesson? Sin must be dealt with by the sacrifice of a substitute, by a sacrifice of death and by the sacrifice of slaughter or by the shedding of blood. This is God's way of dealing with sin. It has been this way since Cain and Abel.
The atonement cover is also called the mercy seat. Here is where God promised to meet his people. Read Ex. 25:21-22. The spot where we meet God is the place where the blood has been sprinkled! That is why it can be called the mercy seat. Only because of the blood can we meet with God and can he offer his mercy to us.
If God is to dwell in the tabernacle in the middle of the camp and if he is to dwell in the midst of sinners, it can only be through the blood of the atonement. The dwelling place in which God tabernacles must first be cleansed with the atoning blood.
In order not to defile the tabernacle with sin. Historians tell us that the Israelites reverently and watchfully waited for the high priest to come out of the MHP, in the hopes that his sacrifice would be accepted and he would not be consumed.
Notice the word "all" in verse 21. This was the second part of the atonement showing, not sacrifice, but the effect of sacrifice, and explaining what becomes of sin after the sacrifice has been made and accepted and the blood has been presented in the veil. The people watched as the goat was led to spot far away - a striking portrayal of God's promise to remove their sins from them. All our sins are taken away, and taken far away. Read 1 Jn. 1:7.
The fat of the sin offering could be burned on the alter, but only the fat (which represented the best of the offering) because sinofferings were considered as being filled with impurity because of the sin which they brought to mind. For this reason the sinofferings had to be taken out and burned outside the camp!
The whole sin offering had to be burned including the offal or dung which more strikingly set forth the impurity of the sin connected with the sin offering. Sin is like manure to be burned up.
Throughout history most men have a certain motivation to work, especially for food or for money. But in the OT God told them sometimes not to work, to stop their work. He was saying there is one thing even more important than work. God is more important than work. And our relationship with God. And our friendship with God. And our walk with God and our worship of God. What a lesson for the American church and for believers in our culture who tend to become like the people around us living for the Almighty dollar with less and less time for God and for worship and for the NT tabernacle, the church. There is a time and a reason for us also to not do any work and to stop our work.
Long enough to think of God and to worship God and to honor our great atoning sacrifice which is what Jesus intends for us to do each Sunday with the Lord's Supper.
Now let us briefly turn to Hebrews and see how the author spiritualizes the services of the Mosaic dispensation.
With the first tabernacle, free access to God had not yet been revealed and opened to men because the gifts and sacrifices offered then were simply not able to clear the conscience of the people. There was something about those sacrifices that still left God's people with a guilty conscience.
When Jesus came as our high priest, he entered the real MHP, heaven itself, not with the blood of animals but with his own blood which provided not just a temporary or yearly forgiveness but which provided an eternal redemption instead and through which we have a full and complete cleansing of the conscience. A bad conscience is an awful thing but there is one way to get rid of it
and that is through the blood of our high priest Jesus.
It is only through Jesus that the people who lived under the first covenant can be forgiven of their sins.
Sacrifices were necessary to cleanse the OT tabernacle so that the people could come to God and so he could live in their midst. But that OT tabernacle was only a copy of the true one, the true dwelling place of God A greater and more perfect sacrifice is needed for us to enter this tabernacle. Jesus has provided this sacrifice, a sacrifice of himself once and for all time and effective for all sin. And now through this great high priest and by virtue of his blood which he sacrificed we can actually come ourselves at any time to the very throne of God and he can live in us.
Jesus is in the tabernacle now at this very moment (with his blood) and we are waiting for him to come out of the MHP to bring final and full salvation to us who are waiting for him.
The sacrifices of bulls and goats cannot pay for a man's sin. These sacrifices did not give full and uninteruppupted access to God. All they did was remind the people of their sin. And the very repetition of those sacrifices illustrates their inability to really deal effectively with sin and to deliver people from the feelings of guilt for their sin.
The sacrifices of bulls and goats wouldn't do. Instead Jesus offered his own body and through this sacrifice we have been made truly holy and forgiven.
OT priests stood to offer their sacrifices again and again. Jesus offered his sacrifice and sat down.
Where sins have been forgiven, there is no further need for another sacrifice.