February 20 – Making Atonement


  • Ex. 23:14-17
  • Deut. 16:16-17
  • Ex. 34:24
  • Deut. 16:1-7
  • Num. 9:13-14
  • Lev. 23:4-8
  • Num. 28:18-25
  • Deut. 16:9-12
  • Lev. 23:9-21
  • Num. 28:26-31; 29:1-6
  • Lev. 16:1-34; 23:26-32
  • Num. 29:7-11
  • Lev. 23:33-36, 39-43
  • Num. 29:12-38
  • Deut. 16:13-15
  • Lev. 23:37-38, 44


Under the old covenant the Israelites had to kill animals as sacrifices in order for GOD to consider their sins forgiven. As we have seen in our daily reading, there were a multitude of these sacrifices, each for a different purpose, and GOD was very specific about how the sacrifices were to be offered.

There were a number of lessons that GOD was teaching the Israelites through these sacrifices. The animal was completely innocent, having done nothing deserving of death. The Israelite, however, was guilty before GOD and deserved to die. The Israelite had to bring the best animals of their flock for the sacrifice. GOD wouldn’t accept less than the best. The animal couldn’t have spots or defects—in other words, nothing could be wrong with it. The point of sacrifice is that it hurts—it’s giving up something you would rather keep.

Additionally, killing the animal was bloody, messy and seems cruel. It probably made the person giving it up to die and the person killing it very sad. But it was necessary. What GOD was doing was transferring the guilt of the person, because of their sin, over to the innocent animal. Similarly, the innocence of the animal was transferred to the guilty person.

When GOD set up the tabernacle, He had Moses hang a veil to separate the holy place from the most holy. GOD is most holy and His presence would dwell in the most holy place. GOD was sending the message that He was separate from the Israelites. Isa. 59:2 teaches us that it is our sins that create this separation between us and GOD. GOD wanted the people to understand that, while He was their GOD and He was with them, yet He was still very much separated from them because they were sinful.

The Israelites couldn’t simply approach GOD whenever they wanted to. GOD setup one day per year, called the Day of Atonement, during which the high priest would enter the most holy place behind the veil and GOD would meet him there. The high priest had to make a number of sacrifices for himself, the priests, and all the people prior to entering the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement. Properly observing this Day of Atonement would cleanse the Israelites of the sins they had committed that year. This was a very special day and it continued to carry this significance each year until Jesus rose from the grave.

The problem was that the blood of animals could not take away sins (Heb. 10:4). That’s why Jesus came—to take away sins by offering Himself as the perfect human sacrifice, a sinless human, which was the only thing that could take away the sins of the world. Today, as Christians, Jesus is our High Priest. We still need atonement just like the Israelites needed it, because we sin just as they sinned. As the book of Hebrews says:

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
(Heb. 9:24-28 NKJV)


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