Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE MEDIATION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN MUST BE A PERFECT MEDIATION.
1. Personal perfection. For ordinary ministration, washing feet and hands sufficient. For the great day, entire cleansing. This must be. A fellow-creature, imperfect and sinful, may be employed as a channel of communication between God and us, but not as the efficient Mediator undertaking for both. The spotlessness of Jesus must be more than relative, more than character; it must be absolute, therefore, only as we see it in the Incarnation. Nor can we find satisfaction in the humanity of Christ unless we believe that it was capable of rendering to God an infinitely acceptable sacrifice; therefore, while it was flesh, it must have been free from all taint of sin. We lay our sins on him; then he must be himself absolutely sinless, or else our sins will be increased by his. Only in the pre-existence of the Second Person in the Trinity can we find a support for this doctrine of personal perfection in the man Christ Jesus.
2. Official perfection. The high priest must be clothed in spotless garments. "Holy garments." He put off his "golden garments," and put on the white linen, emblematical of official perfection. The continual repetition of the sacrifices and the priestly ablutions, together with the special priestly offerings, represented the necessary imperfection of the ceremonial atonement. The priest's office was seen in its height of dignity in the high priest's office; the high priest's office in its most solemn duty, to enter the holiest once a year and make atonement for all. But the true High Priest and the true mediation were yet to come. The ministry of Christ was a perfect offering of man to God, in his active and passive obedience, and a perfect revelation and assurance of Divine favour to man; in the facts of his earthly life, promising healing and restoration for human woes, and life from the dead; in the development of a perfect humanity by example; in the unfolding and proclamation of the heavenly kingdom, which actually commenced in his person, and proceeded in ever-widening spheres of spiritual life in his Church; in his risen glory and the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, which were the completion of his official work as Mediator, for he said that if he went to the Father (that is, as Mediator), he would send the Comforter. Thus the vail was taken away, and the way into the holiest made manifest (Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 10:19-23). Our High Priest is not one of an imperfect succession of Aaron's sons, but after the order of Melchisedec, coming forth directly from God, and standing in unique perfection; the pledge at once of Divine acceptance and the spiritual liberty of the gospel.
II. VICARIOUS ATONEMENT. The three facts of the day were:
1. The blood of the victims shed and sprinkled.
2. The living way opened between the throne of God and. his people.
3. The public, solemn putting away of sins and their loss, as guilt, in the wilderness.
In the true atonement, thus represented, these are the essential factors - expiation, reconciliation, restoration.
1. Expiation. The blood of the bullock, the blood of the goat, brought in before the mercy-seat, sprinkled seven times, etc. No remission of sins without blood. A tribute to the holiness of God, therefore to the perfection of the Divine government. No peace can be true and abiding which has not its roots in the unchangeableness of God. Notice how the modern feeling of the steadfastness and uniformity of nature vindicates the necessity of a forgiveness of sin which is a maintenance of Law. The sufferings of Christ must be viewed, not as the arbitrary assignment of a penalty, but as the sufferings of the sacrificial Victim, i.e., of him whose blood, that is, his life, was freely offered to seal the covenant, and who, being in the form of a servant, obeyed even unto death; made of a woman, made under the Law, therefore both having a fleshly, mortal nature, and being in a position of obedience, wherein he must, as a true Son, "fulfill all righteousness." The cross was an open conflict between righteousness and unrighteousness, in which the true representative Seed of the woman, the true Humanity, was bruised, and, as a Victim, laid bleeding and dying on the altar; but in which, at the same time, the acceptance of the offering, as proved by the Resurrection and Ascension, was a manifestation of the victory of righteousness and the putting away of sin. The universality of the expiation was represented by the offering for priests and people alike, for the holy place, for the very mercy-seat, fur all the worship and religious life of the congregation. Apart from the merit of the Saviour's blood, there is no acceptance of anything which we offer to God. The attempt to eliminate all distinctive recognition of expiation from religious worship, is the folly of our times in many who reject the teaching of Christianity. A temple without a sacrifice, without the blood which is the remission of sins, is a contradiction of the first truth of Scripture, that man is a fallen being, and can therefore be acceptable to God only on God's own revealed terms of atonement.
2. Reconciliation (verses 11-14). The true conception of salvation is not a mere deliverance from the punishment of sin, but living fellowship between God and his creature. The life of man is the outcome of God's wisdom, power, goodness, unchangeable and everlasting. He carries eternity and divinity in his very nature and existence. His future blessedness, yea, his very being, must be secured in God's favour. The burning coals of fire from off the altar, and the sweet incense beaten small, rising up as a cloud before the mercy-seat, betoken the intermingling of the Divine and human in the life of God's reconciled children. This is maintained by the offerings of faith and prayer: the light of Divine truth penetrating the mind and life of man, the heart rejoicing in God and seeking him by a constant reference of all things to him, and dependence of daily life on his mercy. When thus the will and love of God underlie all our existence and pervade it, there is an open way between this world and heaven; the two are intermingled. Man becomes what he was made to be - a reflection of his Maker's image. "I will say, It is my people, and they shall say, The Lord is our God." Christianity has the only true message of hope for the world, because it proclaims reconciliation between the infinite perfection of God and the polluted and imperfect humanity which he has redeemed.
3. Restoration (verses 20-28). The scapegoat - an emblem of the entire deliverance of man from the guilt and misery of sin. The necessity of this proclamation of a new world. Heathen minds recognized the evil of sin, but lay under the spell of fatalistic despair. "No symbol could so plainly set forth the completeness of Jehovah's acceptance of the penitent, as a sin offering in which a life was given up for the altar, and yet a living being survived to carry away all sin and uncleanness." The commencement of all renovation of character and life is the sense of entire forgiveness, perfect peace with God. The sins are gone into the wilderness, they have not to be cleansed away by any efforts of ours. Spiritual restoration lies at the root of all other. "The kingdom of God" is first "righteousness," then "peace," and then "joy in the Holy Ghost." This is the Divine order of restoration. But as the priest put his hand upon the head of the goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, so in the Divine work of grace on behalf of man, there must be the living faith which blends the penitent submission of the human will with the infinite sufficiency of the Divine righteousness and power. - R.
Leviticus 16John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:10. The sacrifices already considered all bring out with more or less emphasis the idea of atonement. But to render this cardinal idea of our religion still more emphatic, it was ordained that the tenth day of the seventh month in each year should be a day of special humiliation on the part of the people, and special ritual on the part of the priests. The directions about it were apparently given immediately after the presumption and death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. They must have ventured, we think, into the very "holiest of all," with their censers of unholy fire. The stages in atonement may be set forth in the following way: ?
I. THERE IS THE VOLUNTARY HUMILIATION OF THE HIGH PRIEST. The Day of Atonement was the high priest's day; he undertook the atoning work, and no man was to venture near the tabernacle (verse 17) while he was engaged in it. The first thing required of him was humiliation. He had to lay aside his glorious garments in which he usually ministered, and to assume plain white linen ones; he had to bring a sin offering for himself and household; he had thus to humble himself under the mighty band of God, before he could be exalted by admission to the Divine presence. Now, it requires the high priest with his sin offering to typify with any adequacy Jesus Christ. For he is both our High Priest and our Sin Offering. He humbles himself to die as a Sacrifice upon the cross; he is a voluntary Sacrifice - he offers himself (Hebrews 7:27). The humiliation of our High Priest can only be judged by our conception of the glory of Divinity which he temporarily resigned, added to the depth of ignominy into which in his crucifixion he came. All this was necessary that a way of reconciliation might be opened up for sinners.
II. THE HIGH PRIEST WAS REQUIRED NEXT TO PERFUME THE AUDIENCE CHAMBER WITH INCENSE. He proceeded with a censer of coals from off the altar, and a handful of incense, and was careful to fill the holy of holies with the fragrant cloud. Here again does it require the incense, in addition to the priest, to typify the relations of Jesus to our atonement. The work of atonement begins in his intercession. Think how he prayed during his life on earth - how earnest his prayer in Gethsemane was when he sweat as it were great drops of blood; think, further, how his intercession is continued in the heavenly places. Prayer is the beginning, middle, and end of the redemptive work. Without this incense, even the blood of the unblemished lamb would lose much of its effect. It seems evident from this that we must put away those hard and business-like illustrations of atonement, as a hard bargain driven on the one side and paid literally and in full on the other. We must allow a sufficient sphere in our conceptions for the play of intercession and appeal, and remember that, while it is a God of justice who is satisfied, he proves himself in the transaction a God of grace.
III. AFTER THE INCENSE THERE IS BROUGHT IN THE BLOODY FIRST OF HIS OWN SIN OFFERING, AND THEN OF THE PEOPLE'S. The blood of Jesus Christ is symbolized by both, and the act of sprinkling it before God is also to be attributed to our Great High Priest. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:24, 12). Now, the presentation of blood unto God, and the sprinkling of it seven times in the appointed place, represented the appeal which the self-sacrifice of Jesus, his Son, is so well calculated to make to the Divine mercy in the interests of guilty men. The law of mediation is that self-sacrifice stimulates the element of mercy in the Judge. And if it be objected that surely God does not require such an expensive stimulant, the reply is that the self-sacrificing Son and the stimulated Father and Judge are in essence one. The act is consequently a Divine self-sacrifice, to stimulate the element of mercy towards man, and make it harmonize with justice. Here then we have remission of sins secured through the shedding of the blood of Jesus. Pardon and reconciliation are thus put within the reach of the sinner.
IV. BUT THE HIGH PRIEST WAS EXPECTED NOT ONLY TO SECURE THE PARDON OF SINS, BUT ALSO TO PUT IT AWAY BY THE DISMISSAL OF THE SCAPEGOAT. For the pardon of sin is not all man needs. He requires sin to be put away from him. He needs to be enabled to sing, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). Now, this putting away of sin was Beautifully represented in the dismissal of the scapegoat. This second sin offer-lug, after having the sins of the people heaped upon its head by the priestly confession, is sent away in care of a faithful servant to the wilderness, there to be left in loneliness either to live or die. Here again we have a type of Jesus. He is our Scapegoat. He carried our sins on his devoted head into that wilderness of desolation and loneliness, which compelled from him the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" There did he fully atone for them, and secured their annihilation. As we meditate upon this portion of his mediation, we are enabled by the Spirit to realize that sin is put away through Christ's sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26). That desolation of the Redeemer into which he entered for us interposes itself, so to speak, between us and our sins, and we feel a wholesome separation from them. How can we ever love sin when we realize that it led our Lord to this?
V. THE HIGH PRIEST, HAVING THUS DISPOSED OF SIN, RESUMED HIS GLORIOUS GARMENTS, AND OFFERED THE BURNT OFFERING FOR HIMSELF AND THE PEOPLE. The stages already noticed have been prayer, the remission of sins through the shedding of blood, and the putting away of sin through the dismissal of the victim. Now comes dedication as the crowning purpose of the atonement, and which the burnt offering all along has indicated. It is Christ who offers this burnt offering, and is the Burnt Offering. That is to say, he has offered for men a perfect righteousness, as well as afforded us a perfect example. Our consecration to God is ideally to be a perfect one - but really how imperfect! but Christ is made unto us sanctification; we are complete in him; we are accepted in the Beloved; and we learn and try to live as he lived, holy as he was holy. Moreover, upon the burnt offering was presented the fat of the sin offering, the Lord. thus emphasizing his satisfaction with the atonement, and his acceptance of it. The remainder of the sin offering, as a sacred thing, is carried to a clean place without the camp, and there burned. In no more beautiful way could God convey the assurance to his people that the ritual of atonement was complete and acceptable to him. It is when we gratefully dedicate ourselves to God, which is our reasonable service, that we receive the assurance of acceptance in the Beloved.
VI. THE WASHING OF THE THREE MEN OFFICIATING ON THE DAY OF ATONEMENT CONVEYS SURELY THE IDEA OF THE CONTAMINATING POWER OF SIN. For the high priest, before he puts on the glorious garments and presents the burnt offering, is required to wash himself in water. The man who piloted the scapegoat to the wilderness has also to perform careful and complete ablutions. And so has the man who took the remains of the sin offering beyond the camp. For all three had to deal with sin, and are ceremonially affected by it. Most vivid must have been the impression thus produced upon the people. Sin would appear the abominable thing which God hates, when it is so defiling. We have here the climax of the sacrificial worship. The Day of Atonement would be a rest indeed to the sin-burdened people. At the tabernacle they see in ritual how God could be reconciled to man, and how he could pardon and put away sin. As the smoke of the burnt offering passed up to heaven, many a soul felt that a burden was gone, and that the heavens were smiling once more. May the experience of the day of atonement abide in our hearts still, for we need it as much as the pilgrims long ago. - R.M.E.
Hebrews 3:1). But he was especially so upon this great occasion of his entrance into the most holy place,
I. THE MOST HOLY PLACE OF THE TEMPLE WAS A TYPE OF HEAVEN.
1. The tabernacle was a figure of the universe.
(1) It represented the material universe. In allusion to this, Paul speaks of the universe as the great house built by the hands of God (see Hebrews 3:3, 4). And our Lord, also, alluding to the temple with its many courts and offices, speaks of the universe as his Father's house (John 14:1).
(2) It likewise represented the moral universe. In this light it is also viewed by Paul in the same connection as that in which he likens it to the material (see Hebrews 3:6). In many places of Scripture the people of God are described under the similitude of the temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21, 22; 1 Peter 2:5).
2. The holy places signified the heavens.
(1) Amongst the coverings were what our version calls "badgers' skins," but the original word (תחשׁ), techesh, in ancient versions is explained to denote a colour, viz. blue. The covering may have been composed of rams' skins dyed blue, as the other covering was of "rams' skins dyed red." Blue was the proper colour to suggest the air, while the red would suggest the golden glow of the light in the ethereal heavens.
(2) Josephus, speaking of the gate of the porch of the temple, which stood always open, styles it an "emblem of the heavens." And the vail leading flora the porch to the holy place, made like Babylonish tapestry (Joshua 7:21) of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, he compares to the elements ('Wars,' 5:5). Josephus also describes the branched candlestick, with its seven lights, as emblems of the planets of the solar system.
(3) But whatever may be said of details, the broad fact is not left to conjecture or even to tradition; for Paul tells us plainly that the holy places were patterns of the heavens (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 9:23).
3. The most holy place figured the supreme heaven. (l) This must be obvious from the fact that the Shechinah was there. God appeared then in regal state upon his throne of glory. The cherubim around him represented the powers of creation, physical and intellectual, which all wait upon him to fulfill his will everywhere in the great universe. Their faces were so placed that, while they all looked inward upon the propitiatory, they also looked outward in all directions, upon the house.
(2) This innermost sanctuary Paul accordingly describes as "heaven itself " - an expression synonymous to the "third heaven," and "heaven of heavens" (Hebrews 9:24; 2 Corinthians 12:2, Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 115:16). It is the palace of God and of angels.
1. He entered in his white garments.
(1) Not in his "golden robes." These are vulgarly supposed to have been his nobler vestments, and it is thought that entering in his white garments he appeared in "mean" attire, to express "humiliation" and "mourning" (see Matthew Henry, in loc.).
(2) But is this opinion just? Where are the white robes of the high priest so described in Scripture? Is it not rather the other way (see Ezekiel 44:17)? Are the seven angels (Revelation 15:6) described as in mean attire? As a matter of fact, did Jesus meanly or mourningly enter heaven? Was it not rather his entrance "into his glory" after his "sufferings" were "finished" (Luke 24:26)?
(3) The white robes represented the glorious body of his resurrection (see 1 Timothy 6:14-16; Hebrews 9:24, 25). And a specimen of the quality of these garments was given on the mount of transfiguration, when the light of his glory was so white that no fuller on earth could make linen to compare with it (see Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:3).
2. Note now the allusion to Nadab and Abihu.
(1) (See verse 1; refer also to Leviticus 10:1, 2.) This terrible event occurred in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 3:4), where the Law was given, and where these very men were called up with Aaron to witness the glory of the Lord (Exodus 24:1). Whatever induced them to offer strange fire, they became, in the sequel, a figure of Jesus, who came not with legal righteousness, and whom the fire of God was to search to the utmost.
(2) Aaron now became a similar type (see verse 2). He was to die if he came near Jehovah, and so represented Jesus, who, in the union of his manhood with the Godhead, was to die. This issue was only averted from Aaron by the substitution of animal sacrifices, which were to procure the "forbearance of God," until Immanuel should put away typical sin sacrifices by the sacrifice of himself.
(3) To avert death from Aaron, God appointed that incense also should be fumed before the mercy-seat, in the cloud of which he would appear (verses 2, 12, 13). The cloud tempered the fierceness of the fire of the presence of God, and showed that, in virtue of the intercession of Christ, man may see God and live. - J.A.M.
(1) of such condign and signal punishment as befell the sons of Aaron: God does not visit us thus in these days; nor
(2) of coming too often or drawing too near to God. The barriers which then stood between the manifested Deity and the common people are removed. We may "come at all times" to the mercy-seat, and are in much greater peril of God's displeasure for "restraining prayer," than for intruding into his presence without need. Nevertheless, privilege has its own peculiar peril, and the penalty is very serious: it is death; not physical, but spiritual, eternal death. There may be in our case -
I. PRESUMPTION FROM OFFICIAL POSITION. It is only too possible that those who "offer before the Lord" may come to regard their official duties as things which avail before him, independently of the spirit in which they are rendered. "Many will say,... have we not prophesied in thy Name... and in thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you" (Matthew 7:22, 23). Many may say, "Have we not preached thy gospel, taught thy truth, evangelized in thy Name?" etc., and - trusting in their official works instead of looking to their inner spirit, and instead of attaching themselves to Christ in penitence and faith - be condemned at his bar.
II. FORMALISM FROM FAMILIARITY. It is all too possible for those who "offer before the Lord" to die a spiritual death, because they lose all real and living appreciation of the things they say and do. There is a subtle but powerful tendency in the human mind to do mechanically and unintelligently that with which it is exceedingly familiar. Not even the most sacred words or solemn rites are proof against it. We may, at the desk, or pulpit, or even at the table of the Lord, take words upon our lips which find no answer in the soul. We may be obnoxious to our Lord's reproach (Matthew 15:8). To use sacred language without sacred feeling is to move away from the fountain of life; to have entered the precincts of habitual formalism is to have passed the outer portals of the kingdom of death.
III. DISOBEDIENCE FROM DISREGARD TO THE WILL OF GOD. We are not bound to a rigid correspondence with every minute New Testament practice. There are some matters in which changed circumstances demand other methods. But we are bound to search the Scriptures to find the will of our Lord in the worship we render and the work we do for him. If we follow nothing better than "the traditions of men," or our own tastes and inclinations, we may find ourselves in the wilderness - a long way from the water of life. Whatever position we occupy in the Church of Christ, however much of "the honour that cometh from man" we may enjoy, it is essential that we:
1. Cherish the spirit of humility, and exercise a living faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Realize the truth we speak, and spiritually participate in the services we conduct.
3. Have supreme regard to the will of our Master, seeking to learn that will as devoutly, patiently, studiously, as we can. These things must we do "that we die not" before the Lord. - C.
1 John 2:2). We have -
I. FOUR FEATURES OF RESEMBLANCE.
1. Aaron acted under Divine direction. He was appointed by God to take the post he took, and was charged to do everything he did. He might not deviate in any particular from the instructions which came from heaven. "Aaron shall" is the continually recurring strain; almost every other verse contains this formula; departure from direction was utter failure in his work and death to himself (verse 2).
2. Aaron divested himself of his rich attire - he wore not the ephod with precious stones, nor the mitre glittering with golden crown; this splendid attire he laid by on this occasion, and he put on the simple linen coat, and was girded with a linen girdle, and wore a linen mitre (verse 4).
3. Aaron did his priestly work alone. "There shall be no man in the tabernacle when he goeth in... until he come out" (verse 17). No other foot but his might enter within the vail; no other hand but his might sprinkle the blood on the mercy-seat.
4. Aaron bore a heavy burden for the people. "So laborious and trying was his work that, after it was over, the people gathered round him with sympathy and congratulation that he was brought through it in safety." So Christ, the great antitype,
(1) was appointed of God (Hebrews 5:4, 5); he was "the Anointed," the Sent One; he "came to do his Father's will," and though under no such minute commandments as those which regulated the actions of Aaron, he was ever consulting the will of the Father, doing "nothing of himself" (John 5:19-30; John 8:28; John 9:4).
(3) "Trod the winepress alone." "Ye shall leave me alone," said he (John 16:32) and alone he agonized in the garden, and alone he suffered and died on the cross. His was a most lonely life, for not even his most loved disciple understood the meaning of his mission; and his was a lonely death, none of those who stood weeping by being able to take any part in the sacrificial work he then wrought out.
(4) Bore so heavy a burden for us that his heart broke beneath it.
II. THREE POINTS OF CONTRAST.
1. Aaron was compelled to present offerings for himself (verses 6, 11-14).
2. Had to present an offering that was provided for him; a bullock had to be brought from the herds of Israel (verse 6), or he would have been a priest without an offering.
3. Could offer no availing sacrifice for deliberate transgressions: presumptuous sin had already paid the penalty of death. But Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest,
(1) needed not to present any sacrifice for himself; the holy, harmless, undefiled One, separate from sinners, did not need to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins (Hebrews 7:26, 27).
(2) Had no need to procure a victim, for himself
"... came down to be
I. THE OFFERINGS FOR AARON AND HIS HOUSE. (See verse 6.)
1. In these Christ is viewed in his relation to his Church.
(1) The Christian Church is the house or family of Jesus (Hebrews 3:6). (See Psalm 135:19, where the "house of Aaron," as opposed to the "house of Israel," may be spiritually construed to denote the Christian as opposed to the Hebrew Church.)
(2) To his Church Jesus stands in the relations of
He bears our sin in his own person, and dies for us, as Aaron would have died for his own sin and that of his house, had not the sin sacrifices been substituted to procure the forbearance of God until our competent Aaron should appear to satisfy all the claims of justice and mercy.
(3) Aaron, in making atonement for himself and his house, evinced that Christ should be a priest having compassion (see Hebrews 5:2, 3). For though Jesus had no sin of his own, yet did he take upon him our nature, with its curse, so as to be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (comp. Hebrews 7:28, margin; 2:18; 4:15). What a blessed assurance for us!
2. But Christ cannot be of the family of Aaron.
(1) Aaron for himself and for all his house needed sacrifices to atone for their own sins; how then could they put away sin from others? This they could only do typically and ceremonially (see Hebrews 7:26, 27).
(2) Provision was made in the family of Aaron for the transmission of the priesthood from hand to hand; it was therefore never contemplated that any member of that house should have the priesthood in perpetuity. But this we must have in the office of a perfect Priest. His intercession must have no interruption (see Hebrews 7:23-25).
(3) To fulfill these conditions, Christ is come, a high priest after the order of Melchisedec (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:15-22). He sprang from Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-14). We may praise God for the perfection of the priesthood of Christ, which needs no supplement in the offices of mortals.
II. THE OFFERINGS FOR THE PEOPLE.
1. There was the burnt offering.
(1) This, under ordinary circumstances, for the individual might be a bullock, or a ram, or a he-goat, or, in case of poverty, a pigeon; but in this case for the nation, as in the consecration of the priests, the ram is specified. (Leviticus 1:3, 10, 14; Leviticus 8:18). It is suggested that this animal was chosen for the offensiveness of its smell, in order to represent the odiousness of sin.
(2) In this case also the high priest in person, and alone, officiated. No one was to remain with him in the tabernacle of the congregation (verse 17). What an expressive figure of Christ (see Isaiah 63:3, 5; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 56; John 16:32)! No one could help Jesus in his great work of atonement.
2. The sacrifice of the two goats now claims attention.
(1) Two are brought, to foreshadow what one could not adequately, viz. that one part only of the compound person of Christ could die, while both parts were necessary for his making atonement. The animal on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat was to stand alive before the Lord, to make atonement with him (verse 10; see Hebrews 8:3; 1 Peter 3:18). The "somewhat" which our high priest has to offer is his humanity, which his Godhead supported and rendered infinitely efficacious for the expiation of sin.
(2) In casting lots upon the goats, one for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat, we are taught that the sufferings of Christ were ordered by the providence of God (see Acts 4:28). This is amply evinced in the wonderfully detailed anticipations of prophecy.
(3) Aaron laid his two hands upon the head of the creature that was to be the scapegoat, and confessed the sins of the congregation. These were such as may not have been atoned for by the usual sacrifices. And they are summed up as "iniquities" and "transgressions" and "sins" (verse 21). Laden with these,
(4) he was sent away "by the hand of a man of opportunity" (verse 21, margin). Such was Simon the Cyrenian, who bore the cross on which the atonement was to be made for sin (Matthew 27:32; see Galatians 6:14; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14). Jesus was hurried along to his execution by the rabble rather than by any officer appointed to lead him. And as the man of opportunity was to be unclean until he had bathed his flesh and washed his clothes, so will the blood of the murder of Jesus be upon the Jews until it is cleansed by their repentance and faith (comp. Matthew 27:25 and Joel 3:21).
(5) The scapegoat was to go away with its burden into a "a land not inhabited," or "land of separation," a "wilderness," a place in which it might be lost sight of. This was designed to teach us how effectually our sins are borne away into oblivion by Christ (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; John 1:29; Hebrews 8:12). To set forth this important truth, it was also ordered that the bodies of those beasts whose blood was brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, were burnt without the camp (verse 27; Hebrews 13:11, 12). So, like the "man of opportunity," whoever burnt the sin offering became unclean, and so remained until he had washed (see Zechariah 13:1). Have we been purified from all complicity in the guilt of the crucifixion of Jesus? - J.A.M.
I. THE FACT THAT THE HIGH PRIEST WAS TO MAKE ATONEMENT FOR HIMSELF AND HIS HOUSE.
1. It prevented pride, keeping alive in his breast a sense of infirmity. The expression, "for his house," means his sons, and afterwards all who were of the priestly order. The pomp of office requires some guarantee against undue exaltation. A lofty position is apt to turn a weak man's head, and his fall becomes the more calamitous. It is certain that the highest in the Church of Christ cannot claim exemption from sin.
2. It enkindled sympathy with those for whom he had to exercise his sacred functions (see this beautifully insisted on in the Epistle to Hebrews 5:2, 3). Note likewise the superiority of Christ's sympathy because of exquisite holy tenderness of spirit, un-blunted by passion. Jesus Christ acquired a fellow-feeling by his humiliation in becoming man, and in being tempted in all points like as we are, whereas Aaron was exalted to be a high priest, and needed to remember his humanity. If Aaron forgot this, and treated the worshippers gruffly, not only would their feelings be wounded, but his intercession would be so much the less efficacious, for even under the Law sentiment was requisite as well as symbol.
3. Its priority to the atonement made for the people emphasized the truth that only the cleansed can make others clean, only the sinless can rightly intercede for the sinful. Because Jesus Christ is holy, he sanctifies his followers. He who was eminently forgiving could pray to his Father to forgive his murderers. None but believers saved through grace should preach the gospel.
4. It prophesied the eventual supersession of Aaron's order by a perfect priesthood. There was evidence of defect in its very face. Not always could God be satisfied with or man rejoice in imperfect mediation. An intercessor needing forgiveness for himself, a purifier who had constantly to cleanse himself, pointed to the advent of One who should have no need to offer up yearly sacrifice on his own account, whose purity should be real, not merely ceremonial and symbolical.
II. THE CEREMONY ENJOINED.
1. The attire, The gorgeous clothing of colour, gold, hells, and pomegranates, was laid aside, the whole body washed in water, and a garb of white linen donned. It was a day in which the fact of sin was prominent, and splendour ill befitted such an occasion. Besides, the high priest was not to look upon himself this day as representing God to the people, but as presenting the people to God, and a humble demeanour, indicated by plain attire, was appropriate to this function. Then, too, the white linen spoke of the holiness which the day's services were to secure. It was the garment of salvation, in which God manifested his willingness to be the Saviour of the people from their sins.
2. The sacrifices, a sin offering and a burnt offering. Leaving consideration for the present of what was peculiar to the day in the former, here note
(1) that a harmony is observable in all God's laws. Whilst this sin offering had its special rites, in other respects it was to be treated according to the general rules - a portion consumed on the altar, and the carcass burnt outside the camp. A likeness is traceable in the dealings of God, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Underlying features are discerned similar to those ascertained in other departments. Miracles have their customary analogies and laws; the operations of the Spirit proceed on familiar lines and principles; the worship and service of heaven will present some of the aspects that have marked the gatherings in the sanctuaries of earth.
(2) Again we observe how purification precedes consecration. The burnt offering followed the sin offering. After fresh ablution, the high priest arrayed himself in his usual vestments, and proceeded to place the holocaust upon the altar, to be the emblem of unreserved surrender to God's glory. Having been bought with the precious blood of Christ, and thus redeemed from sin, we are enabled to dedicate ourselves to the service of God. It is in vain that men attempt the latter without the former.
3. The entrance into the holy of holies. How solemn and full of awe the moment in which the priest drew aside the vail and came near to the Divine presence! He was alone with God! It was dark but for the mysterious light that appeared between the cherubim, and the glowing coals on which he put the incense. Not too clearly might man contemplate even "the cloud" that was the enwrapment of Jehovah; the cloud of incense must cast an additional covering over the mercy-seat. Not lingering to indulge profane curiosity, the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sin offering upon the front of the mercy-seat, and upon the floor of the holy place. What a view was thus obtained of the majesty of God! what thoughts of his condescension in permitting a sinful creature to have such access to him! May not we learn the impiety of seeking to pry too closely into the mysteries of the Divine existence? Prayer becomes us in appearing before him; then do we know most of God, and protect ourselves from death. And the prayer is made efficacious through the atoning blood. The ark containing the commandments which we have transgressed is covered by the golden plate of Divine mercy, and that mercy is everlastingly secured by the atonement wherewith it is honoured and appealed to.
CONCLUSION. The privilege of the high priest was nothing to what we enjoy. What boldness we may use in entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus! What remission of sins, what freedom from guilt, what liberty and gladness are ours! Our High Priest has ordered as our Forerunner, not for us merely, into heaven itself (Hebrews 9:8). As Aaron came forth from the sanctuary to the Israelites, so shall Christ appear, apart from sin, to them that wait for him unto salvation. He shall "receive us unto himself." - S.R.A.
John 1:29). That there were two goats rather than one presents no difficulty at all; there might well have been more than one to typify the Sacrifice which they foreshadowed. We learn -
I. THAT GOD ADMITS VICARIOUS SUFFERING INTO HIS RIGHTEOUS REALM. The innocent goat would shed its blood, would pour out its life, that the guilty human souls might not die, but live. It was a Divine appointment, and shows clearly that the propitiatory element was allowed by the Holy One of Israel. The vicarious principle has a large place in the kingdom of God on earth. Involuntarily and also voluntarily we suffer for others and others for us. Man bears the penal consequences of his brother's sin. He does so when he cannot avoid so doing; and he does so frequently with his own full consent; indeed, by going far out of his way on purpose to bear it. Vicarious suffering runs through the whole human economy. But there is only One who could possibly take on himself the penalty of the world's sin - only One on whom could possibly be "laid the iniquity of us all." That one is the spotless "Lamb of God," that Son of God who became sin for man; he, "for the suffering of death was made a little lower than the angels," and took on him a mortal form. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows;... he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities," etc. (Isaiah 53:4, 5; 1 Peter 2:24).
II. THAT THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST AVAILS TO REMOVE COMPLETELY ALL CONDEMNATION. When the children of Israel saw the live goat, over whose head their sins had been confessed, being led away into the waste wilderness where it would never more be seen (verse 22), they had a very vivid assurance made through their senses to their soul that "their transgressions were forgiven, and their sins covered." No such dramatic assurance have we now, but we may have the utmost confidence that our sins are forgiven us "for his Name's sake;" that "there is no condemnation to us who are in Christ Jesus," to us "who have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 13:39; Romans 5:9). Trusting in the slain Lamb of God, we may see, by the eye of faith, all our guilt and all our condemnation borne away into the land of forgetfulness, where God will remember it no more for ever.
III. THAT NO SACRIFICE WILL AVAIL ANYTHING WITHOUT ACTIVE PARTICIPATION ON OUR PART. Useless and unavailing altogether the slaying of the one goat and the sending away of the other without the act of confession and the imposition of hands by the high priest (verse 21); this part of the solemn ceremonial was essential; apart from that everything would have been vain. And without our personal spiritual participation the sacrifice of the Lamb of God will be all in vain.
1. There must be the confession of our sin; a confession of sin which springs from contrition for sin, and is attended by a determination to put all sin away (repentance).
2. Faith in the Divine Redeemer. "Our faith must lay its hand on that dear head of his."
3. And this must be the action of our own individual soul. Whatever guidance and encouragement we may gain from the ministers of Christ, we ourselves must repent and believe. - C.
I. ATONEMENT WAS MADE FOR THE TABERNACLE.
1. The work of Christ affects the material universe.
(1) The tabernacle, we have seen (see on verses 1-4), was a type of the universe, material and moral; and that the holy places represented the heavens. The sprinkling of the tabernacle and its holy places, therefore, teaches that the universe is affected by the atonement of Christ (verses 15-19, 33; Hebrews 9:12, 23, 24; Revelation 5:6).
(2) Aaron, as the type of Christ, entered into the holiest place, but then only once in the year, nor could he without dying open an entrance into it even for his son, who, in his turn, could only enter there as the type of Christ. This showed that, while the tabernacle stood, the way into the holiest was not made manifest. But the vail was not only rent in the torn flesh of Jesus, so that he himself became the Way, but he entered heaven himself once for all (Hebrews 10:19, 20).
(3) Do we avail ourselves of the privileges of our spiritual priesthood (Hebrews 10:21, 22)?
2. The work of Christ influences the moral universe.
(1) Angels, therefore, manifested interest in the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow (Exodus 25:20; Daniel 8:13; 1 Peter 1:11-13). The sprinkling of the holy places teaches that, through the atonement of Christ, holy angels are reconciled to us. By the sanctifying power of his grace we are brought into sympathy with them.
(2) They are now, therefore, interested in the welfare of the Church; and are themselves a part of the great family of Jesus (see Daniel 12:5, 6; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:10, 15; Philippians 2:9-11).
II. ATONEMENT WAS MADE FOR THE PEOPLE.
1. None were exempted from the need of it.
(1) Aaron and his house were in the same category with the people in this respect. Though types, they were yet sinful men.
(2) But through the blood-shedding of this day, all stood "clean from all sins before the Lord," i.e., he looked upon them and accepted them as clean. So in the great day of judgment will he look upon us and accept us as clean through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (Jude 1:24).
2. It was a general expiations.
(1) It occurred but once in the year. It was to atone for iniquities, transgressions, and sins, which, through ignorance, inadvertency, or perhaps neglect, had not been atoned for by ordinary sacrifices. Christ not only atones for particular sins, but for sin itself.
(2) It was repeated every year. The utmost the Jewish priest could do was to call sin to remembrance, and point to a greater than himself, who needed not to repeat his offering (see Hebrews 10:1-3).
III. THE DAY OF ATONEMENT WAS TO BE KEPT AS A SABBATH.
1. In it they were to afflict their souls.
(2) Resting from the toil of the world, with afflicted souls, while their sins were called to their remembrance, suggests that repentance towards God must accompany faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
2. In it they were to rest.
(1) This suggested relief from the burden of sin. What a gracious sabbath in the soul is the sense of sins forgiven!
(2) This would be all the more expressive upon the year of jubilee, which, every forty-ninth year, came in on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9).
3. The time was the tenth day of the seventh month.
(1) Dr. Lightfoot computes that this was the anniversary of the day on which Moses came the last time down from the mount, bringing with him the renewed tables, and having the glory shining in his face.
(2) Jesus appears literally to have ascended into the heavens, as his type passed behind the vail, on the tenth day of the seventh month (see reasoning conducting to this conclusion in the appendix of Mr. Guinness's work on 'The Approaching End of the Age'). It was the time of the vintage, and maples the fullness of the atonement (see Mark 12:1-9; comp. Revelation 19:15).
(3) It may prove that, on some anniversary of this day, Jesus will come down from heaven, in a glory immeasurably brighter than that in which Moses descended from the mount, to set up his kingdom upon this earth (see Acts 1:11). The vintage of his wrath upon his enemies precedes the sabbath of his kingdom. - J.A.M.
I. It was A DAY OF UNIVERSAL ATONEMENT. The high priest made atonement for himself and the order of priests, for the people of the congregation, for the brazen altar, for the tabernacle, and for the sanctuary. Thus was taught the truth that sin mingles with the holiest of men and their deeds, with the holiest things and places. Defilement attaches to our highest acts of worship, to our best thoughts and prayers. The tabernacle needed cleansing because of the "uncleanness" of the people (verse 16) among whom it was situated. The noblest men receive some degree of contamination from their surroundings, and the purest principles have some alloy adhering to them through use. Mere ignorance of specific transgressions was not sufficient to obviate the necessity of atonement. Sin was there, though they should discern it not. "I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified." Could any spectacle more vividly impress upon the mind the reality of sin and the need of its removal?
II. It was A DAY OF HUMILIATION. "Ye shall afflict your souls." The word implies self-denial and consequent fasting, Not lightly was sin to be regarded! We are ever ready to extenuate our guilt and to minimize its enormity. The transgressions in respect of which a sin offering was prescribed were not high-handed acts of rebellion, but such as resulted from man's frailty, from natural depravity. Yet this was not deemed an excuse of itself, it only showed the importance of providing for its atonement. No man with a perception of the magnitude of his iniquity can retain a heart at case, a conscience at rest. If there be such quietude, it is an evidence of the deadening influence of sin. Though sin has been overruled to the glory of God, it is in itself abominable, and must be viewed with abhorrence. Well may we bow before God in deep abasement!
III. It was A DAY OF REST. No work of any kind was permitted - it was a "sabbath of sabbaths." All the attention of the people was concentrated upon the ceremony observed by the high priest. What a rebuke here to those who cannot spare time to think of their state before God! Surely the transcendent importance of religion justifies occasional abstention from ordinary labour. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and forfeit eternal life? The constitution of our minds does not enable us to think seriously of many things at once. Let not the concerns of the soul be thereby shelved. If we will not afford the necessary period here, there will come a long season of forced meditation, when the subject of sin and its forgiveness shall pierce us through and through with unutterable remorse.
IV. It was A FIXED DAY. God, in his merciful forethought, set apart the tenth day of the seventh month, lest the Israelites should forget the duty incumbent upon them. There are many advantages in having a time determined upon for religious worship. It comes regularly, and even children look for it. It prevents excuses, ensures due remembrance, and leads to fitting preparation. What is to be done at any time is practically for no time. But the observance of such days needs to be guarded against degenerating into formalism and routine. And under the gospel no adventitious sacramentarian importance must be annexed to these seasons, otherwise we fall under the censure of the apostle, as observing "days, and months, and seasons, and years." Oh! for wisdom to distinguish between the true and the false in ordinances!
V. It was A DAY OF YEARLY OBSERVANCE. The imperfection of other sacrifices and purifications was thus clearly demonstrated, for however attended to they did not exclude the Day of Atonement. And the yearly repetition of the day itself told the same tale, pointed the same moral of the impotence of the sacrifices of the Law to "make the comers thereunto perfect" (see Hebrews 10:1-4). The day served its purpose indeed, but only by shadow and prefiguration. Compared with the Crucifixion, it was but a "splendid failure" to pacify the conscience, cleanse the heart, and quicken the life of those who participated in its effects.
VI. It was A DAY OF HUMILIATION THAT PREPARED THE WAY FOR A JOYOUS FESTIVAL. After five days commenced the Feast of Tabernacles, distinguished for its rejoicing beyond all others. The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement closed with a burnt offering, in which the people symbolically renewed their self-dedication to the worship and service of God; and very appropriately the chief feature of the Feast of Tabernacles was the large number of burnt offerings presented, as if the people should testify their gladness at the thought of pardoned iniquity, and of belonging to a God who so graciously blessed them and granted the increase of their fields. The man whose sin is forgiven and put away is truly happy. He can devote himself to God with glad ardour. The cloud that brought the storm and darkness has passed to the far horizon, and now it is brightened with many hues from the dazzling sun. Grief on account of sin is not designed to mar permanently the pleasure of our days. The depression is succeeded by elevation of soul. The surgeon's lance may have pained us, but now we are tranquil through the relief afforded. - S.R.A.
the day of the year to every devout Israelite. No other was comparable to it in solemnity and sacred importance. Several features of peculiar interest combined to raise it above all other occasions.
1. It was the one annual solemnity prescribed by the Law.
2. It was a day of perfect rest from labour (verses 29, 31).
3. It was the one day of universal fasting enjoined or encouraged in the Law (verses 29, 31).
4. It was a day of self-examination and spiritual humiliation (verse 29).
5. On that day the high priest went perilously near to the manifested presence of God - then, and then only, entering within the vail, and standing in presence of the mercy-seat and the mysterious, awful Shechinah (verse 12).
6. On that day unusual sacrifices were offered unto the Lord, and a striking spectacle witnessed by the whole camp, the live goat being led away into the wilderness (verse 21).
7. Then, also, the people felt themselves in an unusually blessed relation to Jehovah - free, as at no other time, from all their sin; they were "clean from all their sins before the Lord" (verse 30). We may, therefore, well pronounce this the great anniversary of the Hebrew Church. It must have had hallowing influences in both directions of time: it must have been anticipated with interest and awe; it must have left behind it sacred shadows of holy feeling - of unity, reverence, joy in God. The holding of this anniversary "by statute for ever" suggests to us -
I. THAT IN CHRIST JESUS THE OBSERVANCE OF DAYS IS AN OPTIONAL THING. There are valid grounds for believing that it is the will of Christ we should observe the Lord's day as the disciples of him who is "the Resurrection and the Life." But the enforcement of the observance of sacred days by statute binding on the Christian conscience is expressly disallowed (Galatians 4:10, 11; Romans 14:5, 6; Colossians 2:16).
II. THAT IT IS WISE, AS A MATTER OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, TO OBSERVE SOME ANNIVERSARIES. God has, in his providential arrangements, made certain points to be regularly recurring. Time is so measured that we must be periodically reminded of interesting events. God put the lights in the firmament in order that they might not only "give light upon the earth," but that they might be "for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years " (Genesis 1:14).
1. A Church should observe:
(1) the day of its institution, or
(2) the day on which it was conscious of revival, or
(3) any particular day which is, to itself, fruitful of sacred suggestions.
2. Individual Christian men may observe
(1) the last day of the old year,
(2) the first day of the new year,
(3) the anniversary of their birthday, or
(4) the anniversary of the day which has the most hallowed associations to their mind, - the day of religious decision or that of reception into the visible Church of Christ.
III. THAT THERE IS A TWOFOLD USE WE MAY MAKE OF SUCH ANNIVERSARIES.
1. Solemn retrospect; with careful retreading of past experiences, free and full acknowledgment of God's goodness and our own manifold shortcomings, simple faith in the Divine promise of forgiveness through Christ.
2. Thoughtful forecast; with studious consideration of what may yet be done for the Master and mankind, devout reconsecration of self to the service of the Saviour, believing prayer for Divine guidance and guardianship through future years. - C.
I. WHY THIS ANNUAL CEREMONY? Have not numerous sacrifices been presented all the year round without intermission? Have not daily offerings been laid on the altar, morning and evening? and double sacrifices every sabbath day? and special offerings every month? And have not the people been bringing their presentations, from flock and herd, as piety has dictated, or special circumstances have required, all through the seasons? Have not these "come up with acceptance" before the altar of Jehovah? Has not sin been atoned for? What need, then, of these annual solemnities, of this very special ceremony at the tabernacle? And if to such reflecting worshipper it should occur that the blood of lambs and bullocks, of doves and pigeons, was no real substitute for the forfeited life of men, would he not take a further step in his inquiry, and ask -
II. CAN THIS SUFFICE, ALL OTHER FAILING? What is there in the ceremonies of this sacred day which will avail, if all the year's sacrifices are insufficient? Will the fact that one man will stand in the inner instead of the outer side of a separating vail, and sprinkle blood on one article of tabernacle furniture rather than another, - will this make the difference between the adequacy and the inadequacy of animal sacrifice for human sin? Will the ceremony of slaying one goat and leading the other out into the wilderness constitute the one needful thing that is wanted to remove the guilt of a nation? Surely something more and something greater is wanted still. To these suggested and probable inquiries of the Hebrew worshipper, we reply -
III. THESE TYPICAL SOLEMNITIES DID NOT SUFFICE. It was a striking mark of their insufficiency that the very altar and tabernacle of the congregation, even the "holy sanctuary" itself (verse 33; see verse 16 and Hebrews 4:21), had to be "atoned for." Even they became affected by the "uncleanness of the children of Israel." Here was imperfection legibly written on the holy things. And our instructed reason tells us that these things were inherently unsatisfactory. "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Such "gifts and sacrifices could not make him that did the service perfect" (Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 7:18, 19). They only served for a time, and drew their temporary sufficiency from the fact that they were to be completed and fulfilled in one Divine Offering, which should be presented in "the fullness of time." And thus we come to -
IV. THE ONE ALL-AVAILING SACRIFICE. In the one Great Sacrifice at Calvary, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is everything which a guilty race requires.
1. No need, now, for annual sacrifices; "in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year" (Hebrews 10:3). "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever," etc., "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Not "once a year," but once for all, once for ever!
2. No need for purifying the holy place. He hath passed into the heavens; has sat down at the right hand of God. The "uncleanness" of man cannot stain his throne of grace.
3. No question as to the efficacy of his atonement. "If the blood of bulls and of goats," etc. (Hebrews 9:13, 14).
4. No limit to the application of his atoning death. The cross of Christ is that on which not merely "all the people of the congregation" (verse 33), but all human souls in every land and through every age may look, in which they may glory, at which they may leave their sin and fear, from which they may date their inextinguishable hope and their everlasting joy. - C.