Leviticus 16:20-34

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Leviticus 16:20-34

                 Leviticus 16 gives instructions for the holiest day of the year for Israel—the Day of Atonement.  “Atonement” means “reconciliation”, or removal of separation.   Sin separated Israel from God.  In order for God to dwell with the people, that sin must be atoned, or accounted for and removed.  Remember in Leviticus 10 that Aaron’s sons had ruined the “opening day ceremonies” of the daily sacrifices by attempting to approach God in a cavalier manner.  They had paid the price with their lives.  This would have terrified Aaron and the remaining priests.  How could they make sure they approached God properly?

First, only that which was holy could approach God’s holiness and survive.  This meant the entire community had to be “clean”.  Definitions of what constituted a “clean” people and a “dirty” people our detailed in Leviticus 11-15.  Anything diseased, dirty, or dead must either dwell outside the camp until healed or be destroyed.  Examples of uncleanliness include skin disease, mold, or bodily emissions.  Priests were given the job of determining if a person or possession was clean.  If someone had become unclean and then passed the priest’s inspection, sacrifices were prescribed to restore them to full standing in the camp.

No matter how careful they were, however, the people could not stay 100% ritually clean at all times.  Also, what about the people’s intentional sins (rebellion) or community sins (sins of the people)?  God made provision that on a special day every year, Aaron or the high priests that came after him could enter the Most Holy Place.  First, Aaron washed in the great water basin by the sacrificial altar and changed into simple linen garments that were just for this day.  Then, he had to take fire from the altar and enter the Tabernacle, burning incense and filling the tent with thick smoke.   God was going to show up and must remain hidden from the priest.

Aaron was to enter the Most Holy Place twice—once with the blood of a bull to atone for the priests, and once with the blood of a goat to atone for the people.  This blood would be sprinkled on the “mercy seat” – the lid of the ark, where God’s presence met man’s sin.  Aaron would then lay both hands on a second goat—the “scape goat” or “goat of Wilderness”- this time verbally confessing the sins of the people.  This transferred all the sins to the live goat, which was driven into the wilderness, thus removing the sins of the people from the camp.  In our sermon today we’ll see there is deep meaning for Christians in the Day of Atonement.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests.  Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions.  Let as many answer each one as they would like.

What does it mean when we say something came “between us” and someone else?  How is this similar to sin coming between us and God or others, and what happens if it is unaddressed?   


Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?


What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?