The Hebrew word for atonement, “kippur”, means to cover, make atonement, and make reconciliation.
What needed to be covered? The hurt caused by the people of Israel’s sin. Who needed to be reconciled? The people of Israel to G-d. Hurt, no matter who causes it, can strain any relationship. And if this hurt is never dealt with, it can destroy a relationship.
It is the same with the relationship with man and G-d. We hurt Him by our actions, words and thoughts. This hurt causes our relationship to become strained and damaged. Yet our great and awesome G-d made a provision to deal with this hurt so that the relationship between His people and Himself could always be intimate.
Leviticus 16 reveals the process by which G-d would cover His people’s sins and restore the relationship – the sacrificing of two goats. These two goats were presented before the L-rd at the Tent of Meeting. Then lots were cast – one lot for the L-rd, which was to be a sin offering; and the one for the scapegoat (“azazel”) for making atonement by sending this goat into the desert. At the end of the day there would be one dead goat and one living goat both making atonement for the nation of Israel.
It was because of Israel’s rebellion and sin that caused the goat for the L-rd to be sacrificed. Its blood was sprinkled on the Atonement cover of the Ark, the Tent of Meeting and the altar to cleanse them from “the uncleanness of the Israelites.” This happened because Israel sinned. The goat’s blood was a “covering” for the Ark (imagine a blanket on the bed – the bed is still present, but all you see is the blanket or covering), the material of the tent and altar. The blood was making atonement for Israel’s sins (see Leviticus 17:11).
After doing this, the High priest would take the second goat, which is alive, and lay his hands on its head and confess “over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – their sins – and put them on the goat’s head”. Then an unnamed man would take this goat into the desert and release it.
What a beautiful picture of what our Messiah did for us. The author of Hebrews states, “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place (remember that only the High Priest once a year on Yom Kippur could do this) by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is His body and since we have a great priest over the house of G-d, so let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience” (10:19-22).
It is Yeshua’s death and His blood sprinkled on the Atonement cover and Tent of Meeting that makes the Most Holy Place atoned for so we can enter the presence of G-d. The hurt we caused Him has been “covered” so we may have intimacy with Him again. The relationship between us and G-d has been reconciled.
But what about the azazel? Again the azazel is a perfect picture of what Yeshua did and does for us. The Scriptures make several clear statements concerning the act of Yeshua carrying away sin. John the Baptist said in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Heb.9:26, “But now He (Messiah) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” As the azazel carried Israel’s sins away from the camp, thus making it a holy place for G-d to dwell with His people, so Yeshua carried away our sins so we can dwell with our G-d (see 2 Corinthians 6:16-18).
Rabbi Shaul (The apostle Paul) stated in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “G-d made Him (Yeshua) who had no sin to be sin for us.” This is seen in the very act of the High Priest laying his hands on the azazel. This action “symbolizes the transference of sins from the guilty party (the children of Israel) to the innocent (azazel). The innocent then becomes the sin-bearer. Yeshua undeniably fulfills this type or picture (Is.53:4,6,11,12).” Yeshua, who fulfilled the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, took away our sin just as the azazel did.
Now keep in mind that both goats – one living and one dead – bring reconciliation or atonement. We must ask the questions, why was the second goat kept alive? Why were there even two goats? I believe Rabbi Shaul explains it in Romans 5:9-11.
“Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were G-d’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son (Yeshua), how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His (Yeshua Messiah) life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in G-d through our Lord Yeshua Messiah, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
We have hurt G-d and will continue to hurt G-d, both of which will put a strain on the relationship. Yeshua died to cover our past mistakes. Yet He lives to keep on taking care of our present ones! He stands today before the Father and says every time we sin, every time we put a strain on the relationship, “Father, I took care of that one! I paid for that hurt with My blood.” Yeshua keeps on covering for us. Yeshua keeps on reconciling us to G-d every moment of every day of every year.
This Yom Kippur praise Yeshua the Messiah that our relationship with G-d has been restored and can always be intimate.
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