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Vayikra/Leviticus 16:6 And Aharon shall bring near the bull, the sin offering that is for him
Since we have already been told that Aharon is to enter the Holy Place with a young bull as a sin offering just a few verses earlier (v. 3), and this exact phrase is repeated at the beginning of verse 11, what is the Torah trying to tell us?Rashi offers the explanation: "to teach you that it comes from his own and not from that of the public"; that is to say that not only does he perform the sacrifice, after confessing his own sins and those of his household, but that the bull must be purchased with his own money and not simply be provided for him from the public purse, the community funds. Although all of Aharon's apparel - the robe of blue, the ephod, the breastplate, even down to the linen shorts - were provided by the community as his official uniform when he is representing the community before G-d, the Cohen Gadol had to provide himself the sacrifice for his own sins.
King David understood this principle well. Towards the end of his life he ordered a census to be taken of all Israel, in spite of his military advisers who warned him that this would not pleaseAdonai. Adonai sent a plague upon the people and told David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Aravnah the Y'vusi. When he arrived there, Aravnah offered to give David his oxen and wooden farm implements to make the sacrifice, but David would not accept them. "But the king said to Aravnah, 'No, I insist on buying it from you at a price. I refuse to offer to Adonai my G-d burnt offerings that cost me nothing.' So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for one and a quarter pounds of silver shekels" (2 Samuel 24:24, CJB). David needed to invest his own money in the material to be sacrificed otherwise it would not be a sacrifice.
There can be a tendency in some circles for believers to think that sacrifice is not longer required for sin, that there is no need for atonement once someone has made that initial transaction to become a follower of Yeshua; consequently the very great seriousness of sin and its huge cost tend to be played down or underrated. This often based on an incorrect understanding and application of verses like: "But this [priest, meaning Yeshua], after He had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, sat down at the right hand of G-d ... for by a single offering He has brought to the goal for all time those who are being set apart for G-d and made holy" (Hebrews 10:12,14, CJB). Clearly, these verses tell us that Yeshua offered in His body on the cross the sacrifice for all time, that His sacrifice is complete and finished, that He is no longer on the cross and that He never has to repeat that sacrifice in response to any more sin committed after that point in time. Those verses, however, do not in anyway dispense with the need for sacrifice or atonement for sin, for the restoration of our relationship with G-d when we have sinned and need to put things right with Him.
Sin separates us from G-d, whether as believers or unbelievers; it causes a breakdown in our relationship with Him that must be rectified before anything else can happen. "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood" (Isaiah 1:15, NASB). "Then they will cry out to the L-rd, but He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time, because they have practiced evil deeds" (Micah 3:4, NASB). The remedy for sin is a blood sacrifice: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Vayikra 17:11, NASB). This is confirmed by the writer to the Hebrews: "Indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22, CJB). The chapter of Vayikra which is read on Yom Kippur repeats several times "And this shall be a permanent statute" (Vayikra 16:29ff, NASB).
So should we be slaughtering lambs for our sins today, and how would we do this as there is no temple standing in Jerusalem? Let's come back to the text; Yeshua is "the Lamb of G-d that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29); His once-for-all perfect sacrifice at Calvary is sufficient to atone for all sin - past, present and future - of those who trust in Him. As Avraham replied to Yitz'chak when asked where was the lamb for the burnt offering: "G-d will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son" (B'resheet 22:8, NASB). That doesn't mean that sacrifice and atonement are no longer required, but that the mechanism has been changed. When we sin, we still need to repent, to confess out sin before G-d and say "sorry"; we still need to offer a sacrifice and ask for His forgiveness, but instead of bringing a lamb as a burnt offering, we point to Yeshua and the cross and ask G-d to apply Yeshua's sacrifice in our place. By faith, we claim forgiveness trusting in G-d's mercy and faithfulness (1 John 1:9) and He applies the blood of Yeshua to our case, so that we can become clean before Him. This is exactly the same idea as rabbinic Judaism which teaches that G-d regards the study of the sacrifices as if they had been offered, only correctly focussed in the person of Yeshua rather than incorrectly in study alone.
Is this the "cheap grace" against which Deitrich Bonhoffer warned? Only if we trivialise it and ignore the incredible cost. Never let us forget that it is our sin that made up that cost; Yeshua died for us, because of us and in our place; He became our atonement, doing what we could never do because of our sin, making a way for our sin to be forgiven. The nails in His palms are the price of our sin; the flogging and the crown of thorns met the cost of our words and attitudes: "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the L-rd has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isaiah 53:5-6, NASB) and praise G-d for that!
Further Study: Malachi 1:13-14; Micah 6:6-8
Application: Are you weighed down under the burden of sin in your life? Do you feel it pressing in upon you day by day? Know that G-d has provided the full and perfect sacrifice for you in Messiah Yeshua. Turn to Him and claim that peace and forgiveness that He purchased for you with His own blood and trust Him for ever.
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
20Sep07 07:32 David: I am deeply touched!
02Apr08 06:21 Ted: Although I try to keep a short account of sins, I have never used Yeshua's name in my confession. In future I will remember just how important it is that I correctly focus on Yeshua as my sacrifice and my Lord. Thank you for pointing out the importance of this interpretation which we so easily take for granted.
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