Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The Lamb of Atonement - Mid Week 4 - March 26, 2014 - Text: Lev. 16:1-10
1The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, 2and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. 5And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. 11“Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. 15“Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. So far we have talked about the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We have talked about God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We watched as God tested Abram in asking him to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac. And we watched as the lambs were sacrificed and the blood of the lambs was put on the doorpost and the lintels so the angel of death would pass over the homes of those with the doors marked in Egypt and how Jesus took this Passover Seder and out of it He has given us a new sacrament, His Holy Supper so that as we participate in His life, suffering, death and resurrection through our eating His body and drinking His blood, the angel of eternal spiritual death will pass over us so that we will have eternal life. This evening we have before us the giving of the lamb of the atonement.
As always, it is good to begin at the beginning. If we do not know or understand Genesis and the need for a Savior then how can we understand the Gospels and Jesus as our Savior? So, we need this continual reminder that in the beginning God created a perfect world. He created a perfect man and a perfect woman and He placed them into the perfect garden which He created. And He gave them only one command, perhaps as a way for them to give something back to Him, that is they were to obey Him by not eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The threat was that the day they would eat of that fruit they would begin to dye a physical death and apart from the Savior the Lord would send, they would die an eternal spiritual death.
Satan, a fallen angel, took on the flesh of a serpent, tempted Eve and Adam who subsequently disobeyed God, ate for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and with that disobedience sin entered into the world. And with sin, came punishment in particular the world became cursed. And yet, the price for sin had to be paid.
Because God knew that Adam and Eve would not be able to pay the price for their sin of disobedience, because they could no longer be perfect as He is perfect, He immediately stepped in and promised to take care of their sin and He would do that by sending a Savior, a Redeemer, a substitute who would take their sin upon Himself and pay the price for sin, death.
Throughout history the problem of humankind is the problem of imperfection which is sin. From the very beginning God’s demand is perfection. We are to be perfect as God the Father is perfect. Yet, as we know and have just reviewed from our history, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought sin and imperfection into the world.
Not only is the world cursed, but because of their sin, Adam and Eve were punished and cursed as well. Adam and Eve were no longer perfect as they were originally created by God. So now, at the moment of conception, all humanity is conceived and born in sin, in imperfection. Imperfection cannot beget perfection. Our nature, now post fall into sin, is that we are conceived and born in sin. What free will Adam and Eve had at the beginning has now been tainted so our free will is truly a bound will, bound to sin and evil. Certainly within the civil realm we have some free will, but in the spiritual realm our every inclination is to sin. Our problem continues to be that man is not right with God, we are not at one with God.
Which brings us to this thing we call atonement. In our text we read God telling Moses, “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house” (v. 11). Aaron was a sinner and his sin separated him from God. In his sinful state he could not serve before the Lord in His house. Aaron had to be brought back into a right relationship with God before he could serve before the Lord in His house. And Aaron could not make himself right before God. It is God who had to make Aaron right. God’s solution was for Aaron to offer a sacrifice as a sin offering in order to make atonement, in order to be made at one with God again so that he might continue in service in the Lord’s house. Now, please understand, this sacrifice truly did not bring forgiveness in and of itself, but pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice that was promised in the Garden of Eden and reiterated continually through Israelite history.
In the same way, humanity cannot make itself right with God. We cannot make ourselves right with God. No amount of any sacrifice, be it a bloody or unbloody sacrifice can make us right with God. It is God who makes man right with Himself. Just as when we owe someone and have no way of paying what we owe, even more is this the way it is with God. We owe everything. We owe our very lives. We owe our blood. We owe our eternal well-being. And there is nothing we have or could do to ever earn or repay what we owe. It has to come from outside of us. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time. Out of our heart proceeds all kinds of evil. Our atonement must come from outside of us. In accounting terms, our account is that man owes blood and life. The price for sin is death. The wages of sin is death. What sin costs is death and blood.
The price for sin is death and the price for sin had to be paid. In the Old Testament, during the days of the Children of Israel, as the Lord chose the nation of Israel to be His people through which He would send the Savior of the world, in order for them, and us, to understand our sin and the seriousness of our sin, God instituted the sacrificial system which was meant to show the seriousness of sin, the price for sin, and ultimately to point to Jesus who would take care of our sin.
The sacrificial system was set up so that animals were slaughter, on a daily basis. Daily blood was shed as a reminder that the price for sin was death. Blood was shed in order to remind the people and us that God is serious about sin and that sin is a serious breach between God and humanity. We are separate from God and we cannot draw ourselves to Him. We are not at one with Him and we cannot make ourselves one with Him. We cannot atone for ourselves.
The sacrificial system include the sacrifice of animals including and especially lambs. Lambs were chosen to be sacrificed because of their mild nature, that is because, as Jesus tells us, they are like weak, needy human beings. All we like sheep have gone astray. We need a shepherd. We need someone to care for us. Just as sheep cannot care for themselves, neither can we care for ourselves and especially neither can we spiritually care for ourselves. Lambs were chosen for slaughter pointing to Jesus the Lamb of God.
Jesus was born as one of us, except that He was born without sin. He was not born separate from God but as one with God, being God Himself in human flesh. Jesus was able to shed His blood as a payment, a once and for all payment for our sins and for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. Jesus sacrifice was enough. To declare that we need to add anything to Jesus sacrifice of Himself is to deny His atonement sacrifice for us.
We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time. Sin separates us from God and we cannot gap that separation. In order to be brought back into an at one with God relationship, in order to be atoned with God we look outside ourselves. We look to Jesus who is the One who gave His life as a substitute for our life to bring us back into that right relationship with Himself and God the Father. We rejoice in His sacrifice for us because we know that His sacrifice was and is enough and we say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.