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Lesson 6: The Day of Atonement *

Introduction: If you had to pick the most important day of the year, for God's people in the Old Testament that would be the Day of Atonement. Today, the Day of Atonement might bring a big yawn for God's people. Since the sanctuary teaches us important lessons for today, I believe that is also true for the Day of Atonement. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible to take away that yawn and see what we can learn!

  1. Approaching God: the Preparation

    1. Read Leviticus 16:1-2. Would you take this instruction seriously? (Yes! Two people have already died. Death is the penalty for getting this wrong.)

      1. What is the danger zone? (The sanctuary had two compartments, a Holy and Most Holy place. A curtain separated the two. The ark of the covenant was in the Most Holy place and above it is where God would appear in a cloud. These verses tell us that the Most Holy place is the danger zone.)

      2. Why is the Most Holy place dangerous? (God is there.)

      3. Why is God dangerous to humans - even those doing His work?

    2. Read Leviticus 16:3-4. Does this modify the text that we previously read? (It expands the instructions. This deals with the sanctuary area generally, not just the Most Holy place.)

      1. How must Aaron prepare? (He has to bathe and put on special garments. He also has to bring offerings.)

    3. Read Leviticus 16:5-6. What groups are covered by these offerings? (Aaron's family and Aaron himself. Later, we will see that the entire Israelite community is also included.)

      1. Why did Aaron's sons die if Aaron could make atonement for them? (God is in the sin forgiveness business, but we must not take Him lightly simply because He forgives sin. A healthy fear of God is appropriate.)

    4. Read Leviticus 16:7-10. One goat dies and the other goal lives. Why? (We discussed this last week. The one goat symbolically died to transfer the sins of the people to the sanctuary. The second goat symbolically took the sins from the priest and the sanctuary and disappeared into the desert with them.)

  2. Approaching God

    1. Read Leviticus 16:11-12. What is the most interesting part of this instruction? (This is where Aaron goes into the Most Holy place. Behind the curtain means the Most Holy place, and this is the place where Aaron would die if he went uninvited.)

    2. When did this happen? What date? When you have something as dangerous as this, you want to carefully read the invitation! (Read Leviticus 16:29-30. We are given a specific date, and it is called the Day of Atonement.)

      1. What is the purpose of the Day of Atonement? We already have some clues about this? ("The Lord ... will ... clean [them] from all of [their] sins.")

      2. I thought we learned that the sacrifice of an animal in the sanctuary took away all a person's sins? What role does the Day of Atonement play in this?(This deals with the transfer that we have been studying in the past. The animal died instead of the person. But, the person's sins transferred (through the blood of the animal) to the sanctuary. The Day of Atonement was the day that the sanctuary was cleaned up from all of the sins. What we are studying is the process for that clean up.)

      3. Why would you need such a clean up? As long as the sin transferred away from the sinner, what does it matter about the building? (The symbolic point is that sin will end. In addition, why would God want sin where He lives?)

    3. Read Leviticus 16:13-14. What is the purpose of the smoke? (To conceal God from the High Priest - so that the High Priest would not die.)

      1. If the atonement cover of the ark represents the presence of God, where is the blood going? (The point seems to be that the sin (this time the sin of the High Priest) is transferred to God.)

    4. Read Leviticus 16:15-17. Whose sins are atoned for on the Day of Atonement? (The High Priest, his household, all the people, the Tent of Meeting and the sanctuary.)

    5. Let's skip forward to Leviticus 16:20-22. Where are all of the sins transferred on the Day of Atonement? (To the goat which is released into the desert.)

    6. As you think about this method of getting rid of sin, what does this suggest about the relationship between God and the people? (The people approached God through the priests. On the Day of Atonement, it was through the High Priest that sins were permanently transferred to the desert. The High Priest had to take this very seriously, because otherwise he would die. The people did not directly deal with God.)

      1. Does the relationship between humans and God seem to be fear based ?

      2. If you say, "yes," then how do you explain that all of this fearsome activity is illustrating God's death for the sins of His people?

    7. Read Romans 5:9-11. What has Jesus done for us? (Justified us by His blood so that we are not only saved from "God's wrath," but we are no longer God's enemies.)

      1. If we believe in the Trinity, then how do you explain that God was our enemy? He was angry with us? Yet, He was willing to die for us so He would not be angry any more? (This is a difficult thing for me to understand, but I believe it has a lot to do with the nature of sin. God is the enemy of sin. God hates sin. When we were sinners we were God's enemy.)

      2. Read Matthew 11:19. Before the cross, Jesus is a friend of sinners. How do you explain that? (Romans 5:9-11 explains that Jesus reconciled us to God. This helps to isolate the problem. People are the same sinful beings they have always been, it is the sin problem that Jesus fixed. Therefore, God is not angry with the people. He was angry over sin.)

        1. Since Jesus has done everything for us, what does this suggest to us about the way we should live? (Sin is no small matter. Our gratitude for what Jesus has done should cause us to avoid sin.)

  3. Approaching God Today

    1. Read Mark 15:37-39. The curtain separating the Holy from the Most Holy place in the sanctuary was torn upon Jesus' death. What do you think that means? (It means at least that the sanctuary service culminating in the Day of Atonement is finished in the temple on earth.)

      1. What do you think it means about approaching God? Recall that if the High Priest passed through the curtain "whenever he chooses" ( Leviticus 16:2) he would die because God was there. (It means a new day for approaching God.)

    2. Read John 16:7-11. Who convicts the world of sin? (The Holy Spirit.)

    3. Read Romans 8:9. What is our new relationship to God? (This text says that the "Spirit" is the Spirit of Jesus and of God." God's Spirit lives in us.)

    4. Notice the huge change in our relationship to God, the huge change in approaching God. We came from having a human priest represent us, a priest who could die if he failed to follow instructions when approaching God. Now, because of what Jesus has done for us, God's spirit lives in us! As a result, we have become temples for God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. What should be our reaction to all of this?

    5. Is all of this temple stuff just a somewhat frightening memory from the past? We are now all temples, we can all approach God, so is the priest-temple thing is gone?

      1. Read Hebrews 8:1-2 and Hebrews 7:23-25. What does this suggest about the present-day temple and High Priest? (Jesus "always lives to intercede" for us! The temple, the sanctuary service, the Day of Atonement teach us lessons about what Jesus is doing right now on our behalf in heaven!)

    6. Read Hebrews 7:26. "Our need." What need do we have that makes what is going on in heaven relevant to us today? (Our need is to have our sins removed. Since sin is an ongoing problem in my life, I have an ongoing need for a High Priest in heaven.)

    7. Friend, do you want to face the wrath of God? I surely do not! Why not today accept Jesus as your Savior so that you are reconciled to God. Why not ask God to send His Spirit into your temple to guide your ways? Why not have Jesus intercede on your behalf in heaven?

  4. Next week: Christ, Our Sacrifice.
* Copr. 2013, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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