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And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall he holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. 

Exodus 19:1, 2

One of the most beautiful and most expressive of the forms of worship instituted for Israel while encamped in the wilderness was that of the great day of atonement. It was a new institution related directly to the tabernacle in its typical function as the dwelling place of God. It presented one of the clearest revelations of the covenant of grace with the approach of God’s people into the blessing of Jehovah’s presence.

The great day of atonement came at the conclusion of the many laws which God had given concerning the tabernacle and its services. It served to give in fullest detail the meaning and significance of the altar and its sacrifices that were offered daily before the Lord. In terms as clear as could be had in the Old Testament shadows and types, it anticipated and foreshadowed the work of atonement that in the fullness of time would be realized by Christ.

Summoned by Moses, Aaron was called at the opening of the designated day to the tabernacle of God, there to wash himself at the laver in the court of the tabernacle and to dress himself in the holy garments of the high priest. With him were brought four sacrificial animals: a bullock, a ram, and two small he-goats as similar in appearance and size as they could be, to be presented before the Lord. Between the two he-goats a lot was cast to select the one as the scapegoat, or Azazel as it was known by the Hebrews, and the other as the Lord’s.

First in the ceremonies of the day was the atonement which was made for the high priest himself and for his house: It was of utmost importance at all times that the priests of God should be free from all guilt when serving in their office as representatives of the people before God. Thus in the first ceremonial function of the day, the bullock was slain as a sin offering for Aaron the high priest. Once this sacrifice was completed, he could go in his own behalf into the inmost sanctuary of the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, to stand before the mercy seat in the presence of the Lord. Twice he went, once with a tenser filled with burning incense, and once with the blood of the sacrificial bullock to sprinkle it seven times before the mercy seat and also upon the mercy seat itself. The significance of this was evident; it meant that the atonement for the high priest was accepted of God, and he was worthy to serve as the servant of God in the main ceremony of the day.

The principal sacrifice of the great day of atonement centered in the two sacrificial he-goats. These two young kids, as similar in size and appearance as possible, represented one sacrificial offering. They were two in number so that they could represent the two different aspects of blessing that arose from the atoning sacrifices made before God.

Once the ceremony for the high priest was completed, the first of these goats was slain as a sin offering for the people. As in all of the sacrifices, this typically and symbolically manifested the promise of God that He would exact punishment for the sins of believing Israel upon the substitute which was presented upon the altar, typically the goat in this case, in reality Jesus Christ at His coming in the fullness of time. With the blood. of this sacrifice the high priest could once again enter into the inmost sanctuary, the dwelling place of Jehovah, now as the representative of the people of Israel. This blood of Israel’s sacrifice was also sprinkled upon the mercy seat and before it seven times. The symbolism of this was very beautiful. It meant that Israel because of the atoning sacrifice was accepted, representatively in its priest, before the face of Jehovah its God.

When the high priest came forth from the tabernacle again, the second young goat was brought forth. This was the scapegoat or Azazel. Upon the head of the live goat Aaron laid both of his hands and made confession of all of the sins and transgressions of Israel. Thereupon the goat was led out into the wilderness far from Israel’s camp and left free to wander by itself. Symbolically, the sins of Israel were carried away into an uninhabited land, never to return again.

Symbolically, this ceremony gave to the sacrifices of the tabernacle a very rich revelation of meaning. While all of the sacrifices of the tabernacle represented symbolically the promise of God that the Redeemer to come would bear the guilt of Israel’s sins before the wrath of God, this ceremony revealed to them in lucid, although figurative, terms the blessings that would arise from the sacrifice. On the one hand, the true children of Israel would be received with favor into the presence of God, and on the other hand, the guilt of their sins would be carried far away never to return to them again. Israel in that day could not know as clearly as we how this would be realized, but surely from this very beautiful ceremony the believers of Israel came to understand some of the blessedness that would be theirs in the coming of the true Redeemer. Through faith it was for them a source of comfort and peace.

Finally, the ceremonies of the day were brought to a conclusion when Aaron went again into the tabernacle to wash himself in the Holy Place, to put upon himself another change of garments, and to return to offer the ram as a burnt offering to the Lord. The burnt offering too was a sacrifice of atonement, but included in it also the aspect of complete: dedication to the Lord. Standing at the conclusion of the rituals of that great and significant day, it gave expression to the truth that through the means of the atoning sacrifice Israel was presented as a nation dedicated and holy unto the Lord.

As the ceremony of the great day of atonement stood at the end of many lengthy commandments concerning sacrifices and the cleansing from sin, it formed the introduction to many laws that were to follow concerning Israel’s responsibilities as the people who had been brought into communion with God. The gift of this typical gospel by which the believers in Israel received the promise of complete and perfect redemption was purely of grace, but for them it implied great responsibilities. Through atoning grace, they were the people of God, and to them was the command, “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” There followed weeks and months through which the many implications of this were explained. Many religious, civil, and ceremonial laws were given which would guide Israel in its national life so that it might appear as a distinctive nation dedicated in the service of its God.

Among these were many laws which dealt with the relation of the people to their God. Some of them gave specific instructions for the keeping of special festivals and ceremonies through which the nation would conduct its religious worship. Others were enlargements of the first four commandments of the law. The importance of these commandments was brought very forceably to the fore in the instance of a young man who sinned against the fourth commandment of the law. The young man was a son born from the marriage of an Israelitish woman with an Egyptian husband. While fighting with a man of Israel, this young man very determinately gave utterance to an angry and blasphemous harangue against the name of Jehovah. The people were shocked with what they heard, and the judges before whom he was brought were at a loss to know what the punishment should be. Finally the case was brought to Moses, and he in turn laid it before the Lord. In answer the reply was given, “Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all of the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin . . .” It was a warning to Israel that any purposeful transgression of God’s sacred law was a most serious offense, and this principle should be maintained by exacting upon the perpetrator of such the most severe punishment for it. Only in this way would Israel remain a nation holy before the Lord.

Again there were many laws given which had to do with the relation of the Israelite to his neighbor. These were in effect an enlargement upon the second table of the law. They touched upon many different aspects of human life. Extensive legislation was given concerning the holy institute of marriage. The relationship between man and woman was at all times to be kept clean from adultery and fornication. It was to be characterized by continence and faithfulness that marriage might reflect the relationship of love between the Lord and His Church. There were also laws relating to the neighbor in his life and his possessions. The neighbor was at all times to be respected in the position given him by God. No one by his own choosing had any right to harm or terminate the neighbor’s life. No one might deal dishonestly so as to infringe upon the neighbor’s rights of possession. Such actions were to be punished with severity. The neighbor’s very reputation was to be respected in the use of words. Notably these rights extended even to the poor, to slaves, and to strangers. The poor were to be cared for in love. The slaves were to be treated kindly and respected in their rights. All were to be respected as creatures of God. Generally all of these laws followed the principle so often quoted in the New Testament Scriptures, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.”

Finally God prescribed laws governing the relation of the Israelite to the land. This was in itself a promise, for as yet the nation of Israel had never owned a land that it could call its own. But to them was the promise. As the seed of Abraham the land of Canaan would be theirs. The laws given to govern the manner in which the land was to be kept held the clear implication that Israel would not be left an outcast and a wanderer. Israel should be prepared to enter into its promise and to treat it as a land held in stewardship for the service of Jehovah God.

“Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy”; this was Israel’s command. It was a nation that formed the peculiar possession of God. It formed a nation born again unto covenant life in highest liberty before God. It was not a liberty of the flesh to live according to the whims of the sinful flesh. Rather the flesh in its sin was to be bound that wickedness might not bring forth the fruits of confusion and death. The liberty of Israel was a liberty of the heart which lived in peace and love before the blessings of its God.

But Israel as a nation was God’s chosen people only in type. There were many in its midst who would not submit to the binding of the flesh. To them the law was but a scourge that drove them deeper into sin. And even for the faithful, the law was only a schoolmaster that taught them of the terribleness of their sins and brought them to cry the louder to God for the full realization of the promise through which the law would be written with love in the heart.

—B.W.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall he holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. 

Exodus 19:1, 2

One of the most beautiful and most expressive of the forms of worship instituted for Israel while encamped in the wilderness was that of the great day of atonement. It was a new institution related directly to the tabernacle in its typical function as the dwelling place of God. It presented one of the clearest revelations of the covenant of grace with the approach of God’s people into the blessing of Jehovah’s presence.

The great day of atonement came at the conclusion of the many laws which God had given concerning the tabernacle and its services. It served to give in fullest detail the meaning and significance of the altar and its sacrifices that were offered daily before the Lord. In terms as clear as could be had in the Old Testament shadows and types, it anticipated and foreshadowed the work of atonement that in the fullness of time would be realized by Christ.

Summoned by Moses, Aaron was called at the opening of the designated day to the tabernacle of God, there to wash himself at the laver in the court of the tabernacle and to dress himself in the holy garments of the high priest. With him were brought four sacrificial animals: a bullock, a ram, and two small he-goats as similar in appearance and size as they could be, to be presented before the Lord. Between the two he-goats a lot was cast to select the one as the scapegoat, or Azazel as it was known by the Hebrews, and the other as the Lord’s.

First in the ceremonies of the day was the atonement which was made for the high priest himself and for his house: It was of utmost importance at all times that the priests of God should be free from all guilt when serving in their office as representatives of the people before God. Thus in the first ceremonial function of the day, the bullock was slain as a sin offering for Aaron the high priest. Once this sacrifice was completed, he could go in his own behalf into the inmost sanctuary of the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, to stand before the mercy seat in the presence of the Lord. Twice he went, once with a tenser filled with burning incense, and once with the blood of the sacrificial bullock to sprinkle it seven times before the mercy seat and also upon the mercy seat itself. The significance of this was evident; it meant that the atonement for the high priest was accepted of God, and he was worthy to serve as the servant of God in the main ceremony of the day.

The principal sacrifice of the great day of atonement centered in the two sacrificial he-goats. These two young kids, as similar in size and appearance as possible, represented one sacrificial offering. They were two in number so that they could represent the two different aspects of blessing that arose from the atoning sacrifices made before God.

Once the ceremony for the high priest was completed, the first of these goats was slain as a sin offering for the people. As in all of the sacrifices, this typically and symbolically manifested the promise of God that He would exact punishment for the sins of believing Israel upon the substitute which was presented upon the altar, typically the goat in this case, in reality Jesus Christ at His coming in the fullness of time. With the blood. of this sacrifice the high priest could once again enter into the inmost sanctuary, the dwelling place of Jehovah, now as the representative of the people of Israel. This blood of Israel’s sacrifice was also sprinkled upon the mercy seat and before it seven times. The symbolism of this was very beautiful. It meant that Israel because of the atoning sacrifice was accepted, representatively in its priest, before the face of Jehovah its God.

When the high priest came forth from the tabernacle again, the second young goat was brought forth. This was the scapegoat or Azazel. Upon the head of the live goat Aaron laid both of his hands and made confession of all of the sins and transgressions of Israel. Thereupon the goat was led out into the wilderness far from Israel’s camp and left free to wander by itself. Symbolically, the sins of Israel were carried away into an uninhabited land, never to return again.

Symbolically, this ceremony gave to the sacrifices of the tabernacle a very rich revelation of meaning. While all of the sacrifices of the tabernacle represented symbolically the promise of God that the Redeemer to come would bear the guilt of Israel’s sins before the wrath of God, this ceremony revealed to them in lucid, although figurative, terms the blessings that would arise from the sacrifice. On the one hand, the true children of Israel would be received with favor into the presence of God, and on the other hand, the guilt of their sins would be carried far away never to return to them again. Israel in that day could not know as clearly as we how this would be realized, but surely from this very beautiful ceremony the believers of Israel came to understand some of the blessedness that would be theirs in the coming of the true Redeemer. Through faith it was for them a source of comfort and peace.

Finally, the ceremonies of the day were brought to a conclusion when Aaron went again into the tabernacle to wash himself in the Holy Place, to put upon himself another change of garments, and to return to offer the ram as a burnt offering to the Lord. The burnt offering too was a sacrifice of atonement, but included in it also the aspect of complete: dedication to the Lord. Standing at the conclusion of the rituals of that great and significant day, it gave expression to the truth that through the means of the atoning sacrifice Israel was presented as a nation dedicated and holy unto the Lord.

As the ceremony of the great day of atonement stood at the end of many lengthy commandments concerning sacrifices and the cleansing from sin, it formed the introduction to many laws that were to follow concerning Israel’s responsibilities as the people who had been brought into communion with God. The gift of this typical gospel by which the believers in Israel received the promise of complete and perfect redemption was purely of grace, but for them it implied great responsibilities. Through atoning grace, they were the people of God, and to them was the command, “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” There followed weeks and months through which the many implications of this were explained. Many religious, civil, and ceremonial laws were given which would guide Israel in its national life so that it might appear as a distinctive nation dedicated in the service of its God.

Among these were many laws which dealt with the relation of the people to their God. Some of them gave specific instructions for the keeping of special festivals and ceremonies through which the nation would conduct its religious worship. Others were enlargements of the first four commandments of the law. The importance of these commandments was brought very forceably to the fore in the instance of a young man who sinned against the fourth commandment of the law. The young man was a son born from the marriage of an Israelitish woman with an Egyptian husband. While fighting with a man of Israel, this young man very determinately gave utterance to an angry and blasphemous harangue against the name of Jehovah. The people were shocked with what they heard, and the judges before whom he was brought were at a loss to know what the punishment should be. Finally the case was brought to Moses, and he in turn laid it before the Lord. In answer the reply was given, “Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all of the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin . . .” It was a warning to Israel that any purposeful transgression of God’s sacred law was a most serious offense, and this principle should be maintained by exacting upon the perpetrator of such the most severe punishment for it. Only in this way would Israel remain a nation holy before the Lord.

Again there were many laws given which had to do with the relation of the Israelite to his neighbor. These were in effect an enlargement upon the second table of the law. They touched upon many different aspects of human life. Extensive legislation was given concerning the holy institute of marriage. The relationship between man and woman was at all times to be kept clean from adultery and fornication. It was to be characterized by continence and faithfulness that marriage might reflect the relationship of love between the Lord and His Church. There were also laws relating to the neighbor in his life and his possessions. The neighbor was at all times to be respected in the position given him by God. No one by his own choosing had any right to harm or terminate the neighbor’s life. No one might deal dishonestly so as to infringe upon the neighbor’s rights of possession. Such actions were to be punished with severity. The neighbor’s very reputation was to be respected in the use of words. Notably these rights extended even to the poor, to slaves, and to strangers. The poor were to be cared for in love. The slaves were to be treated kindly and respected in their rights. All were to be respected as creatures of God. Generally all of these laws followed the principle so often quoted in the New Testament Scriptures, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.”

Finally God prescribed laws governing the relation of the Israelite to the land. This was in itself a promise, for as yet the nation of Israel had never owned a land that it could call its own. But to them was the promise. As the seed of Abraham the land of Canaan would be theirs. The laws given to govern the manner in which the land was to be kept held the clear implication that Israel would not be left an outcast and a wanderer. Israel should be prepared to enter into its promise and to treat it as a land held in stewardship for the service of Jehovah God.

“Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy”; this was Israel’s command. It was a nation that formed the peculiar possession of God. It formed a nation born again unto covenant life in highest liberty before God. It was not a liberty of the flesh to live according to the whims of the sinful flesh. Rather the flesh in its sin was to be bound that wickedness might not bring forth the fruits of confusion and death. The liberty of Israel was a liberty of the heart which lived in peace and love before the blessings of its God.

But Israel as a nation was God’s chosen people only in type. There were many in its midst who would not submit to the binding of the flesh. To them the law was but a scourge that drove them deeper into sin. And even for the faithful, the law was only a schoolmaster that taught them of the terribleness of their sins and brought them to cry the louder to God for the full realization of the promise through which the law would be written with love in the heart.

—B.W.