Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
In the beginning God created everything! And “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3 NLT) God creates all there is in this universe and sets man down in the Garden of Eden as the pinnacle of His creation! Man, and man alone, is created in the image of God! What does that mean? We are created in the image and glory of The Almighty God! We have eternal souls, we have spirits and we have physical bodies. I'm not 100% positive that I am right on this because I have never read or heard this, but something occurred to me as I was studying this and talking about it with Angie. In fact, we’re created to be the reflection of the Holy Trinity!!! The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit! Our souls, our physical bodies and our spirit are the reflection of the Trinity. The Father who breathed life into us, made us living souls, the Son who created us from the dust of the Earth, and the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and makes our spirit alive with new life. WOW! Think about that!
When Adam and Eve found themselves naked in the garden, something had changed. Sin had caused them to lose the reflection of the glory of God. (See: 1 Corinthians 11:17.) But the good news is, that Jesus came and gave Himself for us to restore that which was lost through the Holy Spirit! “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Moses is called by God to stand in God’s presence! The Glory of God shines from the face of Moses as he returns to the camp! (A reflection of a more permanent glory that will one day shine from us!
When we receive the Holy Spirit we are in the presence of God continually. That gives us a glory that will never fade! And that is only possible because of the atonement made through the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. See: 2 Corinthians 3 and 4.) Moses stands in the presence of God and God tells Moses what to write. The Book of Leviticus is about the Holiness of God. Holiness is mentioned 152 times in the Book of Leviticus. Leviticus was given as a guide and command to His people on how to live holy lives before a Holy God. “‘Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’” (Leviticus 19:2 NLT) God gives guidance and laws concerning everything from sexual conduct, worship, moral behavior, religious celebrations, handling of food and even how to deal with disease and how to stay healthy in Leviticus.
God has a purpose in teaching us His word, even in the books of the law. God's purpose is to reveal to us the great lengths that He has gone to to make a way for you and I to spend eternity with Him. He has gone to great lengths to make atonement for your sins. As you read through Leviticus, read with an eye on the future. Look for God's Grace as you read. Leviticus is still applicable today. May God use this book to change your life!
Pictures of Christ are everywhere in the Book of Leviticus! And if you look, I bet you will even find a picture of yourself here and there...
Lesson Objective: Connecting the Law and Grace
This lesson will help us see the need to understand that God is Holy. That we are made to be the reflection of His glory! But, sin darkens that glory. We will use the Day of Atonement in order to teach the atonement given through Jesus Christ by the Grace of God. Because of atonement through the Blood of Christ, we may enter the Holy Place and have no fear of dying in the presence of God.
I don't believe I have ever heard anyone say, “Leviticus is my favorite book in the Bible!” Leviticus is not an easy book to understand, but knowing a little more about the book and some of what God's purpose in giving it to us will make reading it much more enjoyable and easier to apply since “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV). Leviticus does not contain the exciting characters of Noah, Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. The edge of your seat account of Joseph’s life is not there to hold our attention. There are no babies floating in the Nile, no epic miracles of plagues or parting the sea! Things that make for such good special effects as we watch Charlton Heston lead the people across the Red Sea while Yul Brynner stands defiantly on top of a rock! (The Ten Commandments, 1956)
All the way through Leviticus the people are camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Fire on the Mountain, the glory on Moses’ face, the building of the Tabernacle and God descending into the Holy of Holies are all happening there at the foot of Mount Sinai. It was not difficult for God to bring the people out of Egypt ,but it seems to be very difficult to get to Egypt out of the people. Everything does not go well…
The first sacrifices occur in the newly built Tabernacle in Leviticus 9:22-24: “...Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them. Then, after presenting the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering, he stepped down from the altar. Then Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle, and when they came back out, they blessed the people again, and the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community. Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.” (NLT) At the time of the first sacrifices, God would send His holy fire to consume the sacrifices as a sign to the people that He was present with them and that the sacrifices were being done according to His will. The fire blazed from the Lord's presence. A holy fire that consumed the sacrifice. The people fell to the ground. We are told they shouted with joy, but I would guess there was some reverent fear involved as well.
But maybe it wasn't reverent fear for everyone. Nadab and Abihu were the oldest two sons of Aaron (a Levite) by his marriage to Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab from the tribe of Judah. They were part of an event that must have been absolutely amazing! “Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!” (Exodus 24:9-11 NLT).
This experience must have had a profound effect on them. Just a few months before they had never seen a miracle! They were as ignorant of who God was as they could be! But now! They not only knew who God was but they actually saw Him and ate with Him! From what happens next, it seems likely that they thought a little too much of themselves. The men who went onto the mountain were older men. Moses was over eighty. Aaron was not far behind. The seventy elders could not hold that position unless they were older leaders of their nation and then you have the two younger men! Did they feel special? No one else as young as they were had been invited by the Lord! Their father was the High Priest! One day, one or both of them would be High Priest! They would lead the nation of Israel after Moses and Aaron were gone! Seems like a typical case of young men thinking they know better than all of the generations before them! That still happens a lot today.
But then… “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10:1-2 NLT)
So, why did God kill Aaron's sons? Again, it seems that we have the original sin of pride! God is holy and He gave the commands to be obeyed concerning worship and how to approach Him. The Lord will be worshiped the way that God desires to be worshiped! God set up the sacrificial system and at this time God Himself lit the fires! God Himself consumed the sacrifices! Anyone who would assume the position of altering the process would be raising himself up to take the place of God! That is exactly what Nadab and Abihu did!
They lit the fires themselves! It does not say that they took coals from the Altar where God had burned the sacrifices, so we can assume that they used coals from a fire they lit themselves. Then they threw incense on the fires that were lit by human hands against God’s commands! Later, God would give rules and laws concerning the lighting of the fires, but Nadab and Abihu took matters into their own hands. They were serving and worshiping out of the flesh! Through their power! Maybe, because of the “dinner with God” experience, they thought they could do as they pleased. We can’t be sure of their motivations but either way they were consumed by the Fire of God! Instead of the sacrifice making atonement for them, they paid the price themselves for their own sin.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
2. Connecting The Day of Atonement and the Scapegoat
The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-28), also known as Yom Kippur, is considered to be the holiest day of the year for the Israelites. The Lord institutes this yearly day of sacrifice in Leviticus 16:1-2, “The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died after they entered the Lord’s presence and burned the wrong kind of fire before him. The Lord said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover.” (NLT) It was then that the Lord set aside one day a year to remove the sins of the people through an atonement sacrifice.
As we read through the the scriptures, there are some important things to notice that will make it easier to understand the rest of the Word of God. On this day, Aaron would offer a sacrifice of a bull for himself and his family so that they would be holy as they served before the Lord in the tent of meeting, also called the Tabernacle. Aaron would then sprinkle the blood of the bull onto the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. (More about this process in a later lesson.) This was important because no one with sin in their own lives could offer the sacrifice for atonement. So, Aaron must be sure that his sin is forgiven before he begins to minister before the Lord to offer the sacrifice of atonement for the people. After the bull was sacrificed Aaron would bring two goats into the enclosure of the Tabernacle.Then, sacrifice one of the goats “because of the defiling sin and rebellion of the Israelites.” (verse 16 NLT) and its blood was sprinkled on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The lid is literally called the place of Atonement in verse 13 in the Hebrew and it is called the atonement cover in verse 15. This is all very important for some of our later
The other goat was used as a scapegoat. Aaron placed his hands on its head, confessed the rebellion and sins of the Israelites over its head. Then, the goat was taken out of the Tabernacle enclosure and into the wilderness to be released by a man that had been appointed for the task (verse 21). The goat carried on itself all the sins of the people, which were forgiven for another year (verse 30). The picture of Christ being our scapegoat as well as the sacrificial goat is obvious. The scapegoat was released into the wilderness where it was assumed that it would be killed and torn to pieces by wild animals. The other goat’s blood was placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant which contain the broken law. But when God would look down from His throne at the broken law, He would see the blood of the atonement sacrifice instead. All of this is a picture of the true Day of Atonement.
3. Connecting The Day of Atonement and The Actual Day of Atonement
So, what do we mean by the true Day of Atonement? The Tabernacle that was built here on Earth is just that, built here on Earth by human hands, but it is a copy of the true Tabernacle which is in Heaven. God tells Moses how to build the Tabernacle as an Earthly picture of a Heavenly truth. There is a Heavenly Tabernacle literally where God's Throne is! There is a literal real Ark of the Covenant. The one that the Israelites made is a copy or a picture of the real one. Where is the proof of all of this? Scattered throughout God's word, but mostly in the book of Hebrews.
Deacon Stephen spoke of it this way in Acts 7:44, “‘Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.’” I think Moses was actually shown the real Tabernacle and the real Ark with its Atonement cover, possibly covered by the wings of actual angels! Moses then has the workmen reproduce what he saw. Then Aaron became the High Priest and made temporary atonement for the people. There was a problem! Aaron was a sinner! He had to regularly make atonement for himself and then for the people.
So why was it only a temporary yearly thing? Because these sacrifices COVERED their sins! Covering sins was not what was needed! Sin cannot just be covered up forever. God allowed that for a time, but there would have to be a time when sin would be REMOVED! Then, and only then, could salvation come! The difference is - the old sacrifices covered sin! Jesus’ blood removes sin! We are washed clean! Justified! Sin removed as if we had never even sinned at all!
“Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” (Hebrews 8:1-2)
Jesus bore our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24) and tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). In doing so, He offered a better sacrifice than those of Yom Kippur—better because Christ’s sacrifice was permanent, was voluntary, and did not just cover sin, but removed it altogether. “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14).
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was a foreshadowing of that day to come when Christ enters Heaven after His crucifixion, burial and resurrection! Aaron and the other High Priest, “‘who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.’” (Hebrews 8:5) And, “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.” (Hebrews 10:1)
Think about it. It must have been awesome on that day when Jesus entered into Heaven where the Father dwells and Jesus makes His way to the Heavenly Tabernacle. Through the gates, He enters as the sacrifice. No need for bulls or goats, Jesus walks right past the Altar and into the Tabernacle itself. Walking straight into the Holy of Holies, Jesus approaches the true Ark of the Covenant. The box that contains the broken law that wood seal man's fate to a fiery second death. And He Himself sprinkles the blood of his own body up on the cover that sits between God's throne and the broken law underneath. And the blood of the sacrifice of the Son of God is applied to the lid and does not just cover the broken law for a year, but for all time, removes the broken law from even the memory of God who chooses to remember it no more! (Hebrews 8:12) What a day that must have been! I wish I could have been there to see that!
When was the true Day of Atonement? I am not sure. But, in the garden just after His resurrection, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” (John 20:17) It sounds like it was very soon after the resurrection, but there is some debate over that. Some believe that He did not go into the Heavenly Tabernacle until he ascended forty days later. Either way, the Atonement of the Blood of Jesus Christ has been made for you and I! Thank the Lord our sin has been removed!
There is more to this study than we can even imagine! For instance, those who died in the Lord during Old Testament times did not ascend to Heaven. According to many scriptures, they descended into the grave, which according to the Lord's account of the rich man and Lazarus, is divided into two parts separated by a gulf in the middle. A great gulf! Not in size, but in power. If it were of great size, the rich man could not have shouted across to Abraham. The power is to keep those in the bosom of Abraham separated from those burning in a fiery prison awaiting judgement. Why couldn't Old Testament believers go straight into the presence of the Father? Because true atonement in the true Tabernacle had not been made yet. Their sins had been covered by the blood of bulls and goats. But upon Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and His entrance into the true Tabernacle, their sins were forgiven and forgotten.
There is so much more to consider in this. My thoughts begin to spin as I think about the connections to Jesus ascending to Heaven after seeing Mary and making the official atonement at the Heavenly Tabernacle? And then, the statements the scriptures give us about Jesus leading captives free in His train. See: 1 Peter 3:18-20 and Matthew 27:51-53. He emptied half of the grave out when He left and resurrected on that first Resurrection Day. To be absent from the body now? Isn't that to be present with Christ? Some try to say that it is out of context to use this passage for the emptying out of paradise or the bosom of Abraham. They say that it does not apply in that way because leading captives free would have been a concept from the Roman army of leading those who have been conquered back to Rome. They claim that captives implies that they were enemies. But this is exactly right! They were enemies as were we before Christ purchased us all with His blood. Buying us back and saving that which was lost. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10)
So what does all of this mean? On that day! The true Day of Atonement, our High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies in Heaven and made atonement for us once and for all. Never again will any High Priests have to enter and offer the blood of bulls and goats! Our High Priest did not even have to make atonement for Himself as did every other High Priest in the Earthly Tabernacle. Our High Priest is now seated at the right hand of the Father waiting for the moment that He is given the order to come and gather up His bride and spend eternity with us! What a day that will be! And we do get to be there for that one!
The connections just keep on coming and I look forward to studying through the Word of God again and again, growing deeper in understanding every time!
Application - What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Grace?
The power of God's word is overwhelming. The central theme of the Scriptures is found in this… It is only by the grace of God through faith that we are saved! (Ephesians 2:8-9) Understanding more about what Christ has done for us and the great pains taken to teach mankind of his need for a Redeemer will help us as we grow in Christ. Gaining deeper understanding of God's word causes us to love God more. Thus we are able to keep the first and greatest command better in our lives. When we do this, we keep the second commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Then, we also find ourselves keeping the rest of God's commands as well. Which means, I am reading, learning, and living out the Word of God daily! Read your Bible everyday and the same thing will happen for you! It is amazing how that works!
The more real God's grace becomes in your life, the easier it is to serve the God that you are growing to love more each day. That makes it easier to love yourself like He loves you! Then you can love others just like that! When you truly love, you want to do good for them! You want them to be pleased with you! You want them to love you like you love them. That is exactly how our relationship with God works. The more we love God, the more we do not want to sin. The more we love God the more we find ourselves repenting and turning away from the sins we do commit! The more we love God, the more we give of ourselves to Him and to others. The more we love God, the more we worship God! Worship is about relationships. Both with God and people! But that is for another lesson.
God speaks through Moses and gives the design for the Tabernacle and God's plan for atonement.
God acts by making His Holiness known through Holy Fire by consuming the sin sacrifice and allowing the sprinkling of the blood to cover the sins of the people
God reveals His grace by giving the Israelites the opportunity to receive the forgiveness of sins and to serve Him in spite of their rebellion and wickedness that they so easily fall into over and over.
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