February 10, 2015

Leviticus 16-17 -  After the death of Aaron’s two sons…God spoke to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to enter into the Holy of Holies, barging inside the curtain that’s before the Atonement-Cover on the Chest whenever he feels like it, lest he die, because I am present in the Cloud over the Atonement-Cover.

This is the procedure for Aaron when he enters the Holy Place: He will bring a young bull for an Absolution-Offering and a ram for a Whole-Burnt-Offering;…Then from the Israelite community he will bring two male goats for an Absolution-Offering and a Whole-Burnt-Offering….

In this way he will make atonement for the Holy of Holies because of the uncleannesses of the Israelites, their acts of rebellion, and all their other sins. He will do the same thing for the Tent of Meeting which dwells among the people in the midst of their uncleanness. There is to be no one in the Tent of Meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Holy of Holies until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household, and the whole community of Israel…

When Aaron finishes making atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tent of Meeting, and the Altar, he will bring up the live goat, lay both hands on the live goat’s head, and confess all the iniquities of the People of Israel, all their acts of rebellion, all their sins. He will put all the sins on the goat’s head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready. The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness.

Finally, Aaron will come into the Tent of Meeting and take off the linen clothes in which he dressed to enter the Holy of Holies and leave them there. He will bathe in water in a Holy Place, put on his priestly vestments, offer the Whole-Burnt-Offering for himself and the Whole-Burnt-Offering for the people, making atonement for himself and the people, and burn the fat of the Absolution-Offering on the Altar….

This is standard practice for you, a perpetual ordinance. On the tenth day of the seventh month, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you are to enter into a solemn fast and refrain from all work, because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. In the presence of God you will be made clean of all your sins. It is a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. You must fast. It is a perpetual ordinance….
This is a perpetual ordinance for you: Once a year atonement is to be made for all the sins of the People of Israel.  And Aaron did it, just as God commanded Moses.

God spoke to Moses: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the Israelites. Tell them, This is what God commands: Any and every man who slaughters an ox or lamb or goat inside or outside the camp instead of bringing it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to offer it to God in front of The Dwelling of God—that man is considered guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood and must be cut off from his people… They must bring them to God and the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as Peace-Offerings to God…They must no longer offer their sacrifices to goat-demons—a kind of religious orgy. This is a perpetual decree down through the generations.

Tell them, Any Israelite or foreigner living among them who offers a Whole-Burnt-Offering or Peace-Offering but doesn’t bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to sacrifice it to God, that person must be cut off from his people.  If any Israelite or foreigner living among them eats blood, I will disown that person and cut him off from his people, for the life of an animal is in the blood…

Hebrews 9 -  That first plan contained directions for worship and a specifically designed place of worship...

This was the Holy Spirit’s way of showing with a visible parable that as long as the large tent stands, people just can’t walk in on God.  Under this system, the gifts and the sacrifices can’t really get to the heart of the matter, can’t assuage the conscience of the people but are limited to matters of ritual and behavior.  It’s essentially a temporary arrangement until a complex overhaul could be made.

But when the Messiah arrived...he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s tent -- the true Holy Place--once and for all.  He also bypassed the sacrifices of animals, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all.  

If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain  matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood  of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out.

Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus’ death.  His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, canceling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning the heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them.  

Jesus brought together God and his people in this new way... Practically everything in a will hinges on death.  That’s why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding the forgiveness of sins...

For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place;  he entered the Place itself, and offered himself to God as  the sacrifice for our sins.  ...he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin.  

Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences.  Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but  it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever.  And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.