The Day of Atonement

Costume of the High Priest
James Tissot

John 1: 29  “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The Old Testament gives vivid, detailed instructions about the offering of a sacrifice in atonement for sin.  Since Jesus was the sacrifice for your sins and mine, we do not offer blood sacrifices on this side of the cross.  And because our culture is so different from God’s people in the Old Testament, we often do not fully understand the significance of its meaning.

Because sin had entered the world through Adam and Eve, man could no longer come into the presences of Holy God without redemption. Our all knowing God designed His divine plan for redeeming fallen man even before creation and before man sinned.   It would require the shedding of blood.  A sacrifice had to be made.

In order for man to understand His plan, God designed the system of blood sacrifices in the Old Testament to give man a preview and understanding of the meaning of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sin.  In Numbers 28-29, God called for thousands of public sacrifices a year-each morning and evening, each Sabbath, the first day of each month and during the special feasts days of assembly and celebration.  In addition to the public sacrifices, there would also be individual sacrifices.  Blood flowed freely from the altar.

One day a year was celebrated as the Day of Atonement.  On this day the High Priest would offer a sacrifice for the sins of the nation.  These sins were symbolically transferred to the spotless, blameless lamb dying in the place of the people and became the sin substitute for the collective sins of the nation.

The High Priest had to follow very detailed instructions given by God in order to offer this sacrifice. Every detail had to be followed including the clothing the High Priest would wear.  Step by step procedures, a humble and contrite heart were required as he offered the sacrifice.  Consequences for not following exactly as instructed resulted in death.

The High Priest would first offer an animal sacrifice for his own sins. The offering had to be a spotless lamb with no defects or blemishes.

Clothed in the priestly garments that included bells around the bottom edge of his garment, he would offer the sacrifice of a lamb for his personal sins.  It was now his responsibility to offer a sacrifice for the nation of Israel.  He had to be pure in heart, thought and practice for if he wasn’t and God did not accept this sacrifice for the sins of the nation, he would die.  With a rope tied around his foot, the High Priest would take another chosen lamb, lay it on the altar and slit its throat. As the animal died, the blood was caught in a basin and sprinkled by the priest on the horns of the altar and poured out at the base of the altar where it was collected in order to present the blood of a lamb in the Holy of Holies where God’s presence resided.

The Holy of Holies was separated from the Holy Place by a veil or curtain. Only one person, the High Priest, was allowed behind the veil to present the blood before God. He would take the blood of the lamb into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood on the Ark of the Covenant.  God in turn would either accept or reject this sin offering.  If God rejected the blood offering, the High Priest was struck dead that very moment and had to be pulled out by the rope around his foot.   If God accepted the sacrifice, the High Priest would return to the people and rejoicing would take place for they knew their sins had been forgiven for another year.

Romans 3: 25 “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith.

Jesus was both our High Priest and the Lamb of God.  Because Jesus did not sin, He was the blameless lamb sacrificed for the sins of the nations.  He was also the High Priest who carried His own blood before the Father and presented it as atonement for our sins.  Because of His sacrifice, our sins are forgiven. And we as individuals can boldly come before the throne of God because of the sacrifice of the sinless Lamb of God named Jesus!

1 John 2: 2  “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

1 John 4: 10 “He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”(emphasis mine)

It was God’s great *”hesed” for you that sent Jesus to the cross. His love demands a response.

What will be your response to God’s *”hesed” for you?

Will you live a life for Christ because of the atoning sacrifice He made for you?


*“Hesed” is the consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, furious, loving kindness and everlasting love of our God who shows grace and mercy!

Sandra Hardage