NT Connect: Romans 3:21-26
Weekly Reading: Leviticus 16-19, 23
Day of Atonement
In Old Testament times, the “Day of Atonement” was the holiest and most solemn day of the year. This was the one day of the year when the High Priest of Israel was permitted to enter into the holy of holies to atone for the sins of the people. The holy of holies was the most sacred place in the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) because it was where the Lord would appear. Therefore, it was separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a veil. God, being absolutely holy and utterly intolerant of sin, only permitted the High Priest to enter through the veil into the holy of holies once a year after an extensive purification regimen. Without this purification, he would die because of his sin in God’s presence. The serious nature of the Day of Atonement, including all of its detailed rituals, highlighted the barrier between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of mankind. So the Day of Atonement was God’s prescribed means of annually “justifying” Israel, or, in other words, making Israel “right with God.”
Though while the Day of Atonement was God’s prescribed means of annually atoning for the sins of Israel, it was only a shadow of the things to come. The blood of bulls and goats could not ultimately remove or pay the full penalty of sin, but God was using this day as a signpost pointing forward to what He would accomplish on man’s behalf through his Son, Jesus Christ. In our NT Connection this week, Paul says that now the means through which God makes man right with Himself “has been manifested apart from works of the law. . . . through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22). Through the annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, God was pointing forward to the once and for all sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). Animal sacrifices could not suffice to pay the full penalty of sin but, through the sacrifice of His Son, God showed himself to be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
Jesus was put forward as the atoning sacrifice not only for the sins of Israel but also for the sins of the entire world. Paul explains, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23). Only through faith in Christ can anyone be made right with God. Jesus is the once and for all sacrifice for our sin; past, present and future. In Christ, the veil which separated us from the presence of God is now removed and “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). Take a few moments to pause and praise God for sending His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for your sin. Today, choose to think, speak, and act in light of this amazing truth.