The biblical storyline unfolds in the book of Leviticus with vibrant hues of magnificent color and displays of God’s unrelenting grace on the canvas of the biblical storyline. Here the people of God were…freed from slavery, given the Law in order to walk in fellowship with God, but nevertheless in the wilderness of Sinai for almost a year, tired, hungry, and in the mood for constructing a calf-idol to worship instead of their benevolent God. However, God’s grace remained, and they were given the oracles of God to follow as they built the temporary dwelling place of God on earth (the Tabernacle). Upon completion, God’s presence filled the most holy place, and God’s people were now in a position to offer sacrifices for their sin. The ritual of atonement was given, and God’s people were set to serve as a kingdom of priests to the nations–as was their calling and responsibility.
However, the time had come for them to leave Mt. Sinai, and to travel to the land God had promised to give them–the land of Canaan. And so…
“…the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying…”
In the opening of the book of Numbers, we see that God is speaking to Moses in the Tabernacle (as opposed to from the Tabernacle as in Leviticus 1:1).
What happened? How was Moses allowed into God’s presence? Atonement.
God made a way for a sinful people to be reconciled with Him through the sacrifice of another on their behalf. In this case, the goat was killed to receive the penalty for the sin of the people instead of them. Life was poured out for the life of another. The Creator-God made a way for fellowship where there was otherwise no way.
How does this apply to us today?
According to the Law, the way to having fellowship with God was through a sin sacrifice that served as a substitute for the people to pay the penalty for their sin–for that year. They didn’t make themselves ready, they didn’t become atone-able. No, no, God accepted a sin offering on their behalf irregardless of their works. Why? Because they were already guilty, and God has to deal with the penalty of their guilt. There’s no rewind or command z button in life. They simply had to come in faith, and trust that God would accept the goat’s blood on the altar (mercy seat) for their sin. It was simply believing in faith, and then receiving the blessing of restored fellowship with God–for that year.
This act of atonement–the killing of a goat on behalf of the people–was an every year occurrence, because the blood of the goat was insufficient to serve as an eternal sacrificial substitute. Why? Because it was a created thing. Therefore, it could only point to a greater sacrifice from an uncreated Entity–God Himself. Thus, another reason why Christ had to die? The same principle applies, however. Just like the Israelites came to the Day of Atonement in faith that the sacrifice of the goat was sufficient for the removal of their sin and having a right relationship with God for that year, so we too come in our sin to the finished sacrificial work of Christ on our behalf…in faith. We don’t “get” our lives together or “become” save-able by our keeping or not doing certain things. No, no, like the Israelites of old, we come in faith, and simply trust that His work is sufficient to save us.
A new day is dawning…the sun is peaking over the horizon…the fullness of time is approaching, but not yet. The Israelites will now travel to the land promised to them, but it will not be a glorious voyage. No, sin is still in the heart of man; but nevertheless, God has made a way to deal with that sin and to walk in fellowship with Him–they have the Tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices for each year. God is making a way! Glory to our God!