The Day of Atonement (also called Yom Kippur) was a very special day in ancient Israel. Unlike the annual sacred holidays, it was a solemn (very serious) occasion. It was an opportunity for people to remember the wrong things that they had done. And it was a day when people had to be humble in front of God.
Atonement is what God does in order to deal with sin (wrong deeds). On the Day of Atonement, God dealt with his people’s sins when he forgave them. That is why this day was so important.
On this day across Israel, people stopped their usual activities. They did not work, and they did not eat. They wore rough clothes. And they prayed to ask God to forgive them.
At the same time in Jerusalem, the chief priest carried out his most important duty of the year. On this day only, he entered the Holy of Holies, that is, the most holy place in the temple (God’s house). The instructions for the ceremony are in Leviticus chapter 16. He entered that room twice. The first time was so that God would forgive his own (the chief priest’s) sins. The second time was for God to forgive the sins of the people in Israel.
Each time, the chief priest brought the blood of a sacrifice into the Holy of Holies. These sacrifices were animals that he had killed as gifts to God. The cost of atonement was the life of these animals. In the Bible, the ‘blood’ stands for (means) the life (Leviticus 17:11).
All the sacrifices and ceremonies in the Book of Leviticus can teach us about Jesus. But nothing describes his work better than the Day of Atonement. His work was atonement, so that God could forgive our sins. And his own blood (that is, his life) was the cost of atonement (Hebrews 9:12). As our chief priest, he offered his own blood to God in the most holy place in heaven. And that is why God can forgive us.
Next part: The way into the holiest place (Hebrews 9:8)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.