This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of
for all their sins, once a year.” ( Israel Leviticus 16:34a)
Yom Kippur—it is the Hebrew term for the Day of Atonement. The root of the word, “atonement,” is “to cover,” and is first found in Scripture when Noah was told to build the ark of gopherwood, and place “pitch” inside and out (
Gen.6:14). No matter how well Noah tried to fit the wood
together, there would be some holes through which water would come—and that
would prove deadly. The pitch
waterproofed the vessel, covering the holes.
We all have flaws in our character—holes in our conduct—and are subject
to sink in sin and experience God’s just condemnation. We may try to put our life together, but are sunk
unless a covering—an atonement—is made. Thank
God, this is what He has done through the work of His Son! Christ has accomplished the atonement for us
by His cross. Someone has described
atonement this way: “at-one-ment,” that is, we who were separated from Holy God
by our sin have been made, “at one,” with Him though Christ!
The events of Yom Kippur serve as a divine demonstration of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Yom Kippur is set in the context of the wrath of God that had been poured out on Nadab and Abihu (16:1). They had polluted the priesthood and perished as God’s punishment. Aaron would suffer the same fate should he dare to enter behind the veil of the tabernacle, into the Holy of holies, sinner that he was. The glory of God was there in the cloud above the mercy seat, and any sinner would wither before such purity. The mercy seat would be that in name only unless someone brought the blood to sprinkle it there and make atonement for the nation’s sins! The choice was to experience that place as a judgment throne or a mercy seat—and the difference would be the blood! God established the terms by which He might be approached and still does.
This is what Jesus did for us through His atoning blood, shed on Skull Hill! According to God’s decree this is the only way to enter His glory and be accepted by Him. Whereas the blood of the sin offering in the Old Testament dispensation could only secure a once a year entrance by only one man—and he must offer sacrifice for his own sin—the blood of Christ is so potent as to give us continual access—that blood of the New Testament offered by One who was Himself without sin. The sin offering was not needful for Him; it was essential for us. It is enough—gloriously sufficient for all people of all time who receive that precious gift by faith. The throne of judgment is transformed into the mercy seat by the blood of Christ. This was signified when Christ finished His sacrifice on the cross, and God reached down from heaven, took that massive
veil in His hands and ripped it from
top to bottom. The Holy of holies was
opened once for all. Atonement was
made! Sinners can come to Holy God
without fear (see Temple Matt.27:50-51;
Heb.9:1-28). So we celebrate such amazing grace and
plenteous mercy as we sing:
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain—
He washed it white as snow.