And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.
There was risk involved in drawing nigh to the manifested presence of the Deity. God desired not that the judgment upon Nadab and Abihu should be repeated; rather would he be "sanctified" by reverent approach at appointed seasons in appointed ways. The Almighty can cause the wrath of man to praise him, but he prefers to be honoured by the affection that seeks diligently to observe his precepts. Hence the directions issued concerning the great Day of Atonement, on which the high priest was to come into closest contact with Jehovah. Let us consider those directions so far as they related to the purging away of the uncleanness of the priests.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.