God sets up the rules for the Day of Atonement. ONE day a year this is to happen. His Holy Place is not a revolving door.
I don’t know if God was changing things since operation began in the Tabernacle or not. From the wording in the first part of our reading it feels like that to me. God didn’t make this “one day a year” arrangement until sometime after Aaron’s sons had been killed for their irreverence. Was Aaron coming into the Holy of Holies whenever he felt the need beforehand? Or was he staying as far away from that curtain as possible because of what happened to his sons? If it was me, and I knew how far from perfect I was (am), I would be walking on eggshells and asking permission before even breathing. But I honestly have no idea how Aaron would have been acting.
I’m glad God doesn’t limit us to one time a year coming to Him with our sins. I don’t think there would be a wheelbarrow big enough to haul all mine in if I had to wait a full year. I also would feel MIGHTY sorry for the goat that had to carry my load out into the wilderness. The priest would probably be reciting all night just to finish my list!
I have a feeling that the sins that were recited over the scapegoat were grouped and generalized for the whole congregation. Can you imagine Aaron reciting each and every sin of the people over the head of the goat? Both would age significantly in the time it took to do such a specific task, not to mention that the list would continue to grow with every day that passed.
I wonder why God chose to have this task relegated to one day a year. Was this in preparation for the one SPECIAL day that would have Jesus being our sacrificial lamb? Was it to keep this event extremely special?
Sometimes I think I take forgiveness too lightly. As I was pondering our reading I was reminded of a sin that I engaged in just a few days ago. I knew what I was doing was wrong going into it but that didn’t prevent me from completing the act. I also knew going into it that I was going to want, and need, forgiveness afterwards. Instead of foregoing the sin because the cost of forgiveness was too high, I indulged anyway and later asked God to forgive me. THAT WAS NOT RIGHT! Right now I would give anything to take it all back and make the right decision in the first place. THAT is true repentance, not what I engaged in earlier.
Forgiveness wasn’t and isn’t free. It is paid for in blood. A life has to be lost in the exchange. There were so many offerings and sacrifices being made in the Tabernacle on a daily basis; did the significance of that aspect diminish as it does with me sometimes? Did the children of Israel begin to take for granted that there would always be another goat or pigeon or bull? Did they deliberately sin knowing they could come next week and offer the life of another animal and make amends?
The Day of Atonement in its special place of honor brings to mind the holiday that is fast approaching; Christmas. This is one of my favorite days of the year. So many people that wouldn’t usually even consider taking time out of their day to think about God during the rest of the year make a point of honoring Him or at least acknowledging Him during this season. Church attendance skyrockets. Good will abounds. And hearts all over the world become a little bit lighter because of the holiday season. If Christmas happened every day of the year it would lose its significance.
The Day of Atonement was the same. Its exclusivity gave it a special meaning and something to look forward to. It was the day when the whole load of guilt that had been weighing you down, growing heavier with each day, would be lifted off your shoulders. The day of starting over again, fresh and new. The day when you could breathe again. And the day you vowed to come to the next year’s celebration with a bit smaller load.
Aaron, an all the other high priests who would follow him, had to be cleansed from their sins first. This was not just for the people but for the WHOLE nation from the top to the bottom. The priest couldn’t approach God and ask for forgiveness for the people until he first set his own house in order and brought his sins to God for cleansing. His life depended on tending to his own sins first. He would be struck dead if he waited even one moment too long or carried one sin as too precious to repent of and turn away from. He needed forgiveness as much as the lowest man in the nation!
Back to the price of forgiveness. Like I stated before, forgiveness costs a life. Jesus paid that price for us. He now stands as High Priest and brings my sins before the Father to be washed away. But He doesn’t have to restrict His access to one day a year. He stands before the Father continually making intercession for us. He can do this because He has no sin of His own that He needs cleansed from. His heart is ALWAYS right. He has NEVER engaged in deliberate sin, or any other form of sin for that matter.
But He also wears the scars of carrying my sin. I believe they are there as a reminder to us of the price He paid. God could easily have raised Him from the dead without a single mark on Him but He left the scars as evidence. Evidence Thomas could put his finger into for confirmation. Evidence that I can point to today and say, “I did that to Him.” Evidence to remind me of the price of my forgiveness. Evidence of the pain He endured WILLINGLY for me. Evidence of the lengths the Father was willing to go for a real relationship with me, His child.
Father God, forgive me for taking Your forgiveness for granted. It cost You EVERYTHING! It cost You the agony of watching Your Son in agony. It cost You the complete separation from Your Son. Even knowing the outcome didn’t eliminate the pain You had to endure.
Lord Jesus, there is NO WAY I can ever thank You enough or repay You for all You did and still do for me! With ALL MY HEART I want to say I’m sorry for taking the precious gift You bought for me for granted. What You have provided is worth more than anything in this world and I NEED to treat it as so.
Holy Spirit, thank You for bringing to my mind and heart the truth of how I have been behaving. I’m TRULY sorry for “plugging my ears” the other day. Thank You for not giving up on me. Watch over me tomorrow. You know the circumstances I’m facing and the results I’m praying for. Please watch over my heart throughout all of it. I don’t want to use the “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than get permission” attitude. I want to walk in integrity and shrewdness tomorrow.