Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the fast (Acts 27:9), on the tenth day of the seventh month, marked the climax of access to God under the old covenant. It was the most solemn day of the entire year, when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to make annual atonement for the sins of the nation. Hebrews 10 is the New Testament commentary on this chapter, and should be read in conjunction with today's reading. The High Priest made three visits into the Holy of Holies on this day: First, to burn the incense; then with the blood of his own sin offering; and finally, with the blood of the sin offering for the people. Before any blood was taken into the Holy of Holies, the incense was first taken in. Why? Because the burning of the incense before the Mercy Seat symbolized the praise and glory of God.
The Priest had to bring the blood of his offering to the Mercy Seat. The blood shed was not enough; it had to be sprinkled at the Mercy Seat. This atoned for the High Priest and his household, and thus made him a fit person to offer the sin offering for the people. All of this was preparation for the main task of the day, the offering of the sin offering for the nation.
Verse 20 of chapter 16 indicates that the blood of the sin offering "reconciled" the people and the Tabernacle to God (see Hebrews 9:23,24). Having applied the blood, the High Priest then took the live goat, laid his hands on its head and confessed the sins of the people, thus symbolically transferring their guilt to the innocent animal. The word "scapegoat" comes from a Hebrew word which means "to remove." This goat was then sent away into the wilderness, never to be seen again. This illustrated the removal of the nation's sins. Of course, these rituals did not remove sin, since they had to be repeated year after year, but they illustrated what Christ would do when He died ONCE for the sins of the world. The believing Israelite was saved by his faith, just as we are saved by faith.
Chapter 17:11 is a key verse of the Bible, for it emphatically states that the only way of atonement is through the blood. Long before science discovered the marvel of blood, the Bible taught that the life is in the blood. We live in a day when "modernists" reject the doctrine of the blood of Christ. They call it "slaughterhouse religion." It needs to be made clear that the Bible is a book of blood, from Genesis (where God slew animals to clothe Adam and Eve) to Revelation (where John beheld Christ "as a Lamb that was slain"). It is not Christ the Example or Christ the Teacher who saves us; it is Christ the Lamb of God, crucified for the sins of the world.
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