Study 3: Sanctuary – Rites for Wrong
The Sanctuary was a place of forgiveness. It started with blood and ended with holiness. All year long, the blood sacrifices would come into the temple and then, on the 10th day of the 7th month – the day of Atonement – everything would be cleansed and holiness would reign among the people and priests for a time. Until it all started over again. And again. And again.
Then Jesus came.
Read Romans 5:6-11
How does this passage make you feel? Why?
What state were we in when Jesus died for us? Why does this matter? (v6,10)
Why is it important that we were ‘still sinners’ when God sent His Son? (v8)
What has the blood of Jesus done for us? Why is that important? (v9)
What restored our friendship with God? What comes with that friendship? (v10)
We are friends of God! How does this new relationship change the way we live? (v11)
The Old Testament Sanctuary
Before Jesus came, God demonstrated his plan for reconciliation through a system the people participated it each year. It was called the temple. When God’s people were wandering around the desert, God gave Moses a plan for a mobile temple called the Sanctuary. Just as the people had tents they would set up every time they stopped travelling, the Sanctuary was God’s tent where the priests made sacrifices for the people – to cleanse them from their sins – because of God’s instructions. These personal sacrifices could happen anytime the Sanctuary was set up.
Once the Israelites settled in Canaan, they built a temple out of stone and built a fixed Sanctuary at its centre. There were many rituals, rites and items in the Sanctuary used in the forgiveness process. Amazingly, each and every one of these things represented the ultimate and complete sacrifice made on the cross by Jesus – God’s Son.
Once a year, both when they were travelling and once the temple was fixed in stone, there was a special day called the ‘Day of Atonement’ in which everything was ‘made right with God’ through an entire day of purification rituals. This ‘Day of Atonement’ was designed to return God’s people, priests and temple to a perfect relationship with Him. On this day all of the sins of Israel were forgiven and then the sins were removed from the Sanctuary and sent walking – literally! Let’s have a look.
Read Leviticus 16:1-2
What had happened that caused God to present careful rules for coming into His presence?
Why was God so serious about how people acted in His presence? (sin cannot exist in God’s presence. If it is enacted, it will destroy the sinner.)
Read Leviticus 16:3-5
What must Aaron (the High Priest) do before entering the sanctuary? (bathe, clothes, bring sacrifices – two goats, one bull-ram)
Read Leviticus 16:6
What did this sacrifice (of the bull-ram) accomplish? (purified himself and his family)
Now that he is clean, dressed right and ready – the first sacrifice ensures he is totally right with God before entering the sanctuary.
Read Leviticus 16:7-10
What is the purpose of the two goats?
(one is a sacrifice for the sins of the people)
(one is sent walking with the sins accumulated in the temple that year on it’s head – at the end of the ceremony – to purify the sanctuary for the next year)
‘Azazel’ is one of the most mysterious words in the Bible. It only appears on the Day of Atonement and nowhere else in any ancient literature. Therefore, it’s meaning is unsure. What do you think ‘azazel’ means? (‘the goat that goes away’ or ‘scapegoat’)
What does the goat sent walking to Azazel accomplish?
(In effect, the sins of the people are symbolically cast into the realm beyond civilization, to become the property of a being who is the antithesis of the God of Israel.)
Read Leviticus 16:11-16
Why were each of these steps so very important?
This is the most dangerous part of the day. Aaron enters God’s presence – the Most Holy Place. Each year, when Aaron came out of the Most Holy Place alive, how do you think he felt?
What did this part of the day accomplish? (purify the Most Holy Place, entire Sanctuary [tabernacle])
What was it purifying God’s house from? (the sin and rebellion of the Israelites)
Read Leviticus 16:17-19
What did putting blood on the altar accomplish? (purified Israel from sin [goat] and his family [bull])
Read Leviticus 16:20-22
All the sins from the people that day and all the sins accumulated in the Sanctuary that year were now figuratively ‘on the hands’ of the High Priest, Aaron. What does he do with those sins? (both hands – not through the HP, all other offerings were one handed! – but from him onto the goat.)
Where did the sins from the purified Sanctuary go? (into the barren desert – to Azazel)
With Christ as our High Priest and the sins of the world forgiven on the cross, we are now living in the heart of the perpetual literal Day of Atonement. The High Priest was right with God, the Sanctuary was cleansed (Daniel 8:14), and now we await the time of the second goat – when all the sins of God’s people, reconciled throughout history in the Sanctuary of Christ’s love will be placed on that old goat, the Devil, and he is sent walking for the thousand years between the second and final (third) coming of God to this world. We are living in the presence of God because of the lifesaving rites and righteousness of His Son.
With such forgiveness and reconciliation with God available, how can you take the temple to the people in your life, today?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-19
What does the ‘old life’ and ‘new life’ mean? (v14,15)
How does it change? (v15) (selfishness to Christlikeness)
Who do Christians life for? How are they new people? (v17)
What ‘gift from God’ did we receive? (v18)
Who is the initiator of our reconciliation: us or God? (v18)
What does that ‘gift’ of friendship lead to initiate in our personal relationships? (v18)
What is ‘wonderful’ about the message of reconciliation? (v19)
Read 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
How do these two verses sum up this study? (v20 our call, vs21 perfect sacrifice)
Leviticus is at the heart – the middle – of the books of Moses.
Leviticus chapters 1 – 15 are focused on blood and how to apply it.
Leviticus chapters 17 – 27 are focused on holiness and how to maintain it.
Leviticus 16 – The Day of Atonement – is the apex and tipping point between sin and salvation, blood and holiness, justification and sanctification. How does this compare to the cross? (the cross is the tipping point in reality, the Sanctuary was the example)
Reconciliation between humanity and God has always been in God’s hands. He chose to forgive us for our sin. He chose to establish a plan of reconciliation to reach out to us. He designed the Sanctuary to exemplify His plan for forgiveness. He sent His Son to enact His plan for forgiveness. Every time the plan of reconciliation emerged, God initiated it.
From that place of applied reconciliation, God calls us His ‘temple’ and our actions are the actions of His ‘priests’ – acting on behalf of God to enact the work of reconciliation which God, again, began within us. God’s ‘priests’ (us) are called to continue the work of reconciliation between humanity and God - firstly within the camp (between sinful believers and God, as in the OT Sanctuary system) and then to the wider world of those who do not yet know God due to the gift of His Son – the perfect blood sacrifice.
Now, bought with the blood of Christ, we live in the reality of the Sanctuary’s work in our lives – as holy because He is holy. Each and every act of reconciliation that we initiate is an act of God’s holiness in us and through us.
We are living in the perpetual Day of Atonement – bringing at-one-ment between God and fallen believers, God and those who have yet to meet Him and between God’s image-bearers and fellow image-bearers (interpersonal forgiveness).
This life of bringing forgiveness is a work we are truly cut out for! We were saved from certain death by the Reconciliation of God for us through His Son Jesus. And now we are called to enact and encourage reconciliation in every relationship in which we have influence. When relationships break down, the deceiver is delighted. When relationships are healed, the Creator is exalted. We are relationship reconcilers.
Do you want to take seriously God’s Sanctuary mission to make things right in the world?
Will you commit to being a reconciler on a world filled with brokenness?
Will you accept the challenge to be God’s reconcilers, today?