google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Sermon - A God of Joy and His people - Part 1
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A God of Joy and His people

Part 1

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Introduction

Four weeks ago we looked together at Psalm 66 and discovered that true joy involved praise, testimony and sacrifice.  That only by being serving instruments of God's orchestra of joy, can true joy be experienced! Then last week we looked at a momentous and joyous event followed by a great tragedy as Nadab and Abihu stumbled and incurred God's wrath on their sin.

Book of Leviticus

Tonight, we look again in the book of Leviticus. Some of the words and phrases we commonly use come straight from the book of Leviticus.  Words such as jubilee and scapegoat are commonly used today.  And what husband hasn't offered a form of guilt offering to his wife!

Leviticus does have important things to tell us about sin, obedience and holiness.  Perhaps most importantly it tells of God dwelling with His people. So tonight we delve into Leviticus chapter 16, which is the centre and pinnacle of the book. So please do turn in your bibles to Leviticus 16.

1. Sacrifices & Atonement

Read Leviticus 16v1-10

Day of Atonement

Chapter 16 describes the Day of Atonement! We know that God had chosen Israel to be His people and that they were to be a shining beacon of light and hope to the world!  As part of the covenant made with their leader, Moses, God said that He would be their God and they would be His people! What a contrast to the nations around them that worshipped multiple ‘gods', made of stone and often thirsty for human sacrifice.

The Tabernacle / Tent of Meetings

Most of the activity takes place in the Tabernacle! What did the Tabernacle look like? The Tabernacle or as it is also known as, the Tent of Meeting, was a marquee divided down the middle by a curtain.  There was the ‘public' side and the other side, beyond the curtain, we know as the Holy of Holies, where the Chief Priest could only enter once a year! Inside the Holy of Holies were these items, which all screamed how special this place was!

  • Ark of the Covenant: the object representing God's presence with His people
  • Mercy seat: the removal top of the Ark where the blood was sprinkled by the High Priest
  • Golden censer: High priest used this to make the cloud of incense as he entered the Holy of holies!
  • Golden pot of manna: symbolised how God had supplied the needs of His people.
  • Aaron's rod
  • Stone tablets of the Law: as given to Moses on Mount Sinai

So what was the Day of Atonement all about? It was to be an annual event.  The verses read give a summary but you can read the details in the rest of the chapter.  To atone means to clean, make amends, and to substitute.   Chapter 16 starts by referring back to the incident we looked at last week, with Abihu and Nadab.  Through their death, the Lord states the fundamental principles for priests - only they could mediate for the nation before Him and they had to be spiritually and ceremonially clean.

Lets look very quickly at 5 aspects: Offerings, Blood, Aaron, Scapegoat and the people!

a. The Offerings!

There were 5 offerings performed on the day of Atonement in order to cleanse and re-consecrate the Tabernacle.  All included the death of an animal and therefore involved blood : 2 blood atonement sin offerings; 1 scapegoat sin offering and 2 burnt offerings

b. Blood!

But why was blood used to ‘cleanse'? Why not water? Did God need blood, to quench his thirst for blood? By all means, no! God didn't need blood but blood was used to show that sin had a cost - the cost was blood because life is in blood (read Leviticus 17v11)! The death substitute of an animal, reflected a temporary covering or veneer, which is why it needed to be done over and over again.

c. Aaron!

So that's blood! What about Aaron? During his normal daily duties, he represented God before the people, and was dressed as king! A king with great honour and clothes would draw attention to his office of honour! Here, on this one day of the year, the Day of Atonement, he represented the people before God, he was dressed as a servant.  Before the Lord Almighty, Aaron is stripped of honour and approaches God as a servant. So, to a certain extent, Aaron was a servant King! Before he could go into the most holy place, he had to create an obscuring cloud of incense in the Holy of Holies, to veil the glory of God so he could enter and live.  No doubt the memory of his sons provided an extra incentive to follow God's rules meticulously!

d. Scapegoat

And all this talk of a scapegoat! There were 2 goats to be offered! One goat was sacrificed as a substitutionary sin offering for the people and its blood taken into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled on the mercy seat.  Aaron, laid his hands on the second goat's head, the one kept alive, and symbolically cast the burden of sins of the nation onto the goat.  It was then driven out into the wilderness, far away from the camp and was never to return!

e. The people!

Lastly, what about the people? What were they to do? Just sit there and be bored while this all took place? No! They were not to be passive! But rather, they were to remember this day as an addition to their annual calendar by "humbling their souls" as one translation puts v31.  This involved not doing routine things such as working and feasting. They were to ponder upon the awesomeness of their God who lived amongst them, and to reflect the cost of their sin. They were also trusting that the Chief Priest was being fully obedient to the regulations!

Atonement done!

On this day of Atonement, the one day of the year, Atonement took place between God and His people. God's holy dwelling place and things associated with it were cleansed.  The sins and disobedience of the nation of Israel, over the previous year, had left impurities as stipulated in verse 16.  (Read v 16)  The cleansing blood was to symbolise the great cost of sin.

If the Day of Atonement did not proceed as regulated or was forgotten one year, God could no longer be present with His people, due to the stains of sin and uncleanness of His Tabernacle or dwelling place. Holiness is what separates God from all His creation. For God alone is holy, perfect and full of glory. Exodus 15v2 "Who is like you, O God, glorious in holiness!" Or Isaiah 60v25 "To whom will you liken me, or shall I be equal?" says the Holy One. But if God was holy, how was His nation to act holy?  That's what we will be discussing in the next part after a break!

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Continued in Part 2

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