Introduction: Welcome to Expound, our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Great to see you. Great to be with you tonight in our worship of our great God and Savior, the incomparable One. My favorite service of the week is right here, right now. I love this. We don't have to worry about another service afterwards, it's just—we can dig into the Word. And you're to be commended. You're to be commended for coming in the middle of the week to a Bible study in the book of Leviticus, the Old Testament, the Law of God, the Torah, and let me encourage you to keep it up.
Some of you, perhaps, haven't even read through the whole Bible yet. You want to do that. You want to do that this year, and this is a great place to take a chunk of it in. Leviticus, let's turn to chapter 16. As you're turning in your Bibles to that, you may already have it premarked, just a short note I wanted to share with you. I just saw it on my desk before I came out, from a man by the name of Aziz who said, "We enjoy listening to you through the Internet from our apartment in Athens, Greece, where we are ministering to Persian speaking refugees."
And so, just a little bit, a snippet, to let you see how the tools that the Lord has availed to us to use like the technology of the Internet, broadcasting, live streaming, can be picked up and is being picked up by people, in this case, around the world ministering to Persian refugees in Athens, Greece. You just never know. So we're, we're thrilled and it's the work that God is doing through you. So I wanted to you to be aware of it. Why don't we pray.
Father, we're here because we believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable. We're thankful that we have the opportunity to live in a country where we can gather and assemble freely. We don't have to worry about government intervention, or checking what we're talking about, or curtailing that. We've enjoyed freedoms in this great nation and we're so thankful.
Father, we want to open up in prayer and declare that you are not only the Lord of our lives, but of this time. And we pray that the next several minutes that we're together until closing would indeed be profitable as we study the principles of your Word, words and rituals that have not been practiced for many years. But I pray, Father, that your Spirit would use these words, some that are foreign to us, because we haven't spent much time in this book.
I pray, Lord, that we would see what you're saying behind it all. I pray also, Lord, that you will minister, especially to those who need a special touch this night, a special touch of grace, an experience of your mercy, that something said, something they read, maybe the prayers, or look, or words from someone near to them, even after the service, would be of great comfort, in Jesus' name, amen.
When I was a boy, there was one particular occasion where I knew I offended my father. He was very silent after my offense. I knew there was going to be a consequence of some kind coming, there always was. He never threatened, he always promised. But it was his quietness, and the fact that I knew that I offended him that bothered me the most, and more than anything else I longed for his forgiveness.
The first words from Jesus on the cross were, "Father, forgive them, because they don't know what they do." Of all of the things Jesus said it's noteworthy that the first sentence was a declaration or a plea for forgiveness. Why? I think it's simple, because Jesus knew our greatest need was forgiveness, so that topped his list.
We are dealing with a festival that was all about a once a year forgiveness. It is the Day of Atonement called, in Hebrew, Yom Kippur, the central and culminating feast to many of the Jews. A solemn one, certainly; a festival, yeah, but not really one where there was lots of celebration. It was more deep contemplation as they would—you'll see it toward the end of this chapter—afflict their souls during this day of Yom Kippur. Kippur means "to cover," Yom means "day": the day of covering. Kippur or kaphar means "to cover," and that's an important thought.
You see, in the Old Testament sins were never completely removed, they were simply covered over. As it says in the book of Hebrews, chapter 10, "The blood of goats and bulls could never take away sin." And so though these were practiced every year, it was all in anticipation for the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world, Jesus Christ. When he came, he could do what the Law could never do and all of its rituals; and that is, actually remove the stain of sin from individuals who believed in him.
Last time we were together in Leviticus we covered part of chapter 16 down to verse 6. We're going to begin with verse 7 tonight, read through chapter 16. Perhaps, since 17 is short, make it through that even. You just never know, but that's what we're aiming at. Now in way of review, chapter 16 is divided neatly into three sections.
Number one, preparation of the priest, that's verses 1 through 7. The priest must prepare himself. He has to wear special clothing, linen clothing. He has to make a sacrifice, an offering for his own sin.
Second division, preparation of the place, verses 8 through 19. The tabernacle itself, even though that is the place where sacrifices were made, even that piece of property must be cleansed and prepared on the Day of Atonement, because that was the place where the sacrifices throughout the year were made for the sins of Israel. It all has to do with sin, so it was as if God was saying, "Sin taints even that worship property, the tabernacle."
Then verses 20 through 34 is the preparation of the people. And we just got through six verses last time as I mentioned. We begin in verse 7, but a reminder—because you're going to read about this as we go through it—five animals were used on this special day of Yom Kippur.
There was a bull for the sin offering and a ram for the burn offering. That, that was an offering, or these were offerings for Aaron the high priest and his family. Then there were two goats; one will be offered up, one will be let loose as a sin offering for the people, and then another ram as a burnt offering for the people. So Aaron prepares himself, the high priest will prepare himself, and offer a sacrifice for himself.
Verses 7, " 'He shall take the two goats,' " now keep your eye on these two goats. You're going to see them throughout the chapter. One, one has a good future, and one has a real baad future. One will die and one will live. " 'Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: One for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat.' " Now lots were like, for lack of a better analogy, holy dice.
There was a box, and in the box was written on wood "for the Lord," and the other one was "for Azazel." I'll explain the second one in a minute. If the high priest picked out the one "for the Lord," that was a goat to be killed or sacrificed as a sin offering for the people. The second one, as I mentioned, is the scapegoat.
" 'Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord's lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.' " So on one piece of wood, one little plaque, was written "for the Lord," that animal was killed. On second one was written "for Azazel," and it's translated "scapegoat."
But Azazel was a place in the wilderness near Jerusalem in the desert where there was a precipice. And it was the entranceway to the vast Judean Desert, the empty wilderness, and that's where the scapegoat would run off into bearing away the sin of the people of Israel.
I'd always wondered about this place, and several years ago I had a friend who is a tour guide in Israel and he has a jeep. So he took me in the jeep and he went where tours never go, and took me to this place of precipice which was away from Jerusalem and where the scapegoat was brought and then let loose in the wilderness. And you really get the picture of what happened once the tabernacle was moved to Jerusalem, and eventually the temple was built there.
Because, you see, from that precipice the temple was so far back nobody could see it. So there were stations set up in the desert where once the scapegoat ran away and could be seen no more, that person, once it disappeared from its sight, would relay to a station behind him, "It's gone. I can see it no more. Our sins are out of sight." He would relay it to the next fellow at the next station, and all the way back to the temple where—when eventually the news got back—there was a great celebration on this day of Yom Kippur. And that was the only day there was celebration, was at that ritual.
" 'And Aaron,' " verse 11, " 'shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as a sin offering which is for himself. Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord' "—that is, the fire in that little censer, " 'that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die. He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.' "
If I can jog your memory a little bit back to the previous book in the Torah, the book of Exodus. In chapter 33, you may remember when Israel camped that there was a special tent called the tent of meeting. And Moses himself would walk in that tent and hang out with the Lord, have a little, like, private chats with God. And it says whenever Moses walked inside the tent and people saw it, that people rose up to worship the Lord.
Moses went in, and then the real odd language comes, where he spoke to the Lord "face to face as a man would speak to his friend." Now, what an honor to be able to have some kind of experience like that directly with the Lord, something we've all longed for.
But apparently that wasn't enough for Moses, because on one occasion when he's there having a chat with God, he goes, "Lord, I just want to see your glory." Remember that? And the Lord says, "Moses, you can't see my glory. No man can see my face, and live, but I will pass you and you will be able to see my passing or the afterglow of my coming through the camp. And you'll see that part, but you can't see my face. You can't see my full glory. You wouldn't be able to exist; you wouldn't be able to live in this present body in which you live."
Now, reminiscent of that is this idea of walking into the Holy of Holies where the mercy seat was. The mercy seat was the slab of gold on top of the ark of the covenant. On this slab were two angels on either side covering it. When Moses again walked up to Mount Sinai, the children of Israel quaked and shuttered because the mountain was covered in smoke.
There was lightening, and thunder, and a, a deep cloud, a dark cloud that covered, and Moses went up, and in that mist and in that cloud he conversed with the Lord. And so the high priest once a year—symbolic, I believe, of that event on Sinai—walked into this place where he could only gaze through the fog, through the cloud, through the haze toward the mercy seat, because God was said to dwell between those two angels on the lid of the ark of the covenant.
But he wouldn't be able to see it plainly and clearly. It was dark in there. The source of light was in the next room, the Holy Place. But he could see toward that in this cloud or in this mist, and he would sprinkle blood on that lid. Now, what was inside that box; do you remember? Scripture says there were three things: there was a golden pot of manna, there was Aaron's rod that blossomed, and there was a copy of the Ten Commandments, which the children of Israel had broken. I mean, they broke God's Law; they didn't obey God's Law. So it was the testimony of their failure.
So you have these angels in worship of God, but looking down upon emblems of the failure of children of Israel. It was a judgment seat, really. But on the Day of Atonement, on Yom Kippur, in the midst of the smoke and blood a transformation, tooks place takes place from judgment seat to mercy seat. It's a place where God would be merciful, because the angels would look down on a lid that covered the broken testimony of their failure, and they would look down upon the blood that was shed and sprinkled upon the mercy seat.
Okay, now fast forward into the New Testament. There's a word that is used four times. Let me see if you remember this word: propitiation. Do you remember that word? Propitiation. "This is love," says John in 1 John, chapter 4, "not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for ours sins." It's a tough word to translate.
The Greek word is hilasmos, and it means something that is propitiatory, something that is efficacious for atonement. And so the word is written in our translation propitiation; another translation says "atoning sacrifice." But the word, as I mentioned, is hilasmos, that's the Greek term. Hilasmos is related to a Greek noun hilasterion, which is translated literally "mercy seat." Mercy seat.
So when you get a Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint—not a Hebrew, not an Aramaic, but an Greek translation—and you read the word mercy seat, it's the word hilasterion, translated in the New Testament propitiation. So Jesus Christ is our mercy seat, literally. The One who transforms that place of judgment into a place of mercy because of his blood.
It's interesting, is it not, that the priest sprinkled the blood toward the east how many times? Seven times. How many wounds were on Jesus' body? Seven wounds: a crown of thorns platted and put on his head from which he bled profusely; the Roman flagellum on his back, caused his back to be torn open; the two spikes through his hands, that's four; his two feet, that's six; a spear in his side, that's seven.
So a slab in that one room filled with cloud, a slab, a bloody slab, a blood splattered slab flanked by two angels. I find it interesting when you get to the gospel of John, and the women come to the tomb and they go inside, they go into the tomb which was a rock slab. You can see these tombs still today. They would have seen what? A blood splattered slab flanked by two angels. It says in John 20 an angel was at the head, and another angel at the foot, saying, "Why do you seek the living from among the dead? He's risen."
But Jesus was taken off the cross in that bloody state, wrapped up hastily, and placed in that tomb. And they would have seen a bloody slab flanked by two angels, and would begin to understand Jesus Christ is our helasterion, our mercy seat, our place of atonement, our propitiation.
Now, verse 15, the high priest leaves the holy place, moves back out into the tabernacle toward the people: " 'He shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil,' " that's one of the two goats, one that had the lot that said to the Lord. " 'And do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.' "
And it's specified that they do it toward the east side of the mercy seat. The east side of the tabernacle was the entrance. You would walk through moving westward. You would find another tent, which was the Holy Place, and then the Holy of Holies. And so the part of the mercy seat that faced the east is where the blood was sprinkled.
Now, just a thought—I don't want to press this or get overly enthusiastic about meanings of things, I'm always cautious. But in thinking of this, when Jesus, before he went to the cross, and he was moving toward Jerusalem from the east. He had been in Bethany at the house of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. He moved over the Mount of Olives into a garden right in front of Jerusalem called the garden of Gethsemane. And there in the garden, on the east side of what would have been the altar, he sweat great drops of blood even before he received those seven wounds on his body from which he bled.
" 'So he shall make' ", verse 16, " 'atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all of their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.' "
So one goat was killed, one goat is let loose. What's that typify? What does it signify? I believe it's a perfect description of atonement, especially in the New Testament. One is killed because the wages of sin is . . . death. The other one is set free and the only thing done to that is the priest with his hands, with his bloodied hands, would put his hands on the goat and confess the sin of the children of Israel and be let loose—that speaks of life. First John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." It's a beautiful depiction.
" 'There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement for the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel.' " So, you see, this was a one-man show on the Day of Atonement. There were no other auxiliary priests, no helpers, no associates, no assistants; it was the high priest once a year, alone, by himself, performing these functions.
Verse 18, " 'He shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord,' " that's the altar of sacrifice in the outer courtyard, " 'and make atonement for it, and take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns,' " that is, those four protrusion on the corners, " 'of the altar all around. And then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.' "
So the high priest has bathed, he has gotten on his linen garments, he has sacrificed a bull and a ram. Now, back to these two goats, or the second one. " 'And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel.' "
I can only imagine that would have taken a long time. Once a year, and you're going to confess all of the sins of the children of Israel? So I don't exactly know what he said or what he could have said, but I do know that as time went on this became sort of codified like much of Judaism became. It became a codified ritual where there were forty four categories that the priest made confession in this longer confessional for the sins of the children of Israel.
" 'He shall confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and he shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.' "
This goat was never seen again. The idea is that it would go out of sight. In Psalm 103 it says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our iniquities from us." That's the symbolism just like David was rejoicing over that in Psalm 103. They were seeing that symbolically before their eyes as that goat walked away out of sight, they relayed it from station to station, and there was a rejoicing in the temple.
Now, again, the real fulfillment of this is in the New Testament, the new covenant, not the old. Because Isaiah, Jeremiah, chapter 31, makes a prediction that there will come a new covenant that God will make with the house of Israel. "Not like the old one," that God said, "I made with your fathers," but a new covenant. "And their sins and their iniquities," he said, "I will remember no more"—all of that predicted as under the new covenant. So Jesus our sin offering, the goat that was slain; Jesus our scapegoat, taking our sins out of sight. And just to quote an old sixties saying, that is really "out of sight." I mean, that really is great news.
Jesus is so much better than Santa. Santa makes a list and checks it twice, and he's going to see if you are naughty or nice. Jesus doesn't, he just destroys the whole array of legalities of sins against you. He just rips up the whole list, gets rid of the whole list. As it says in Colossians, chapter 2, "Destroying the handwriting of ordinances that was against us . . . nailing it to the cross," our scapegoat.
" 'Then Aaron,' " verse 23, " 'shall come into the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Holy Place, and shall leave them there. And he shall wash his body with water in a holy place, put on his garments, come out and offer his burnt offerings and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.' " This guy was busy all day long. Now, the ritual of the Day of Atonement, the Yom Kippur central ritual is over, but the priest does not sit down yet. He still stands up, and he still has work to do for himself and for the people.
Now, so often as we've gone through the book of Leviticus, we have made the analogy and the comparison between the high priest in the Old Testament, Aaron and his sons, and Jesus Christ the ultimate High Priest as seen in the book of Hebrews. And there are many ways to compare him, except for here; here we have no counterpart. This high priest after he was done still has to stand up and work. Jesus our High Priest, when he offered his sacrifice, sat down.
Let me just read that verse to you, that's out of Hebrews, chapter 10, it says, "And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man"—that is, Jesus, "after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God."
Why did he sit down? Because it's done, it's over, it's finished, tetelestai, like he cried out on the cross. Once he offered the sacrifice he could sit down, because you can't add any more work to what he has done for you, so don't try. Don't you try to be a priest now, and say, "Oh, well, I'm going to work my way, and earn my way, and earn your love." No, you can relax and you can sit down because he sat down. Once and for all, the work is over, it's finished.
Verse 25, back to this high priest: " 'The fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. And he who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp,' " that is with the rest of the folks, hang out with people. " 'The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, had been carried outside the camp. And they shall burn the fire their skins, their flesh, and their offal. Then he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
" 'This shall be a statute forever for you in the seventh month,' " called Tishri, the Hebrew month of Tishri, " 'the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells with you.' "
Now, that's an odd term, afflict your souls. And we're not exactly sure what it means, but it seems to denote some kind of solemnity, some kind of introspection, some kind of evaluation, because the word afflict your souls is also mentioned in one of the psalms along with fasting. Traditionally this is the day that the Hebrew people would fast, and still to this day do fast, withhold from eating. In fact, it is in only, they say, "required day" in the Jewish calendar to fast, from this idea to afflict your soul.
So the idea is that on this day while the priest is doing his thing, the high priest, in the tabernacle with that blood and all the sacrifices with the goat and the scapegoat; that the people would be, knowing what's going on, and be thinking about the awfulness of sin. This is what sin does: It requires the shedding of blood. It requires the taking of life of an innocent animal. And they would think about that and there would be an intentionality as they would mourn over their sin.
I do love the idea of preparation before a festival. I was reading a while back, a couple weeks back, a few weeks back, of a ritual that was common over in Scotland in the Scottish Presbyterian churches where there were these things called communion tokens. Now get this, if you wanted to take communion in these churches, you had to have a token. The, the way you got this token is that some time before communion, like the week before, elders of the church would visit the homes of the parishioners and be encouraged to think about and confess their sin, and pray, and prepare their heart for communion.
So the elder would lead them in a prayer and, and the person would then accept the communion token, which would be turned in at the communion service to the officiate, the one officiating communion, one of the elders then, which shows I have prepared myself to take the Lord's supper. Now the days of tokens are long, but should our preparation for taking the Lord's Supper be gone? I don't think so.
Next week (Wednesday nights) we're going to gather together next Wednesday for communion. I would just encourage you instead of rushing in that sometime this week, or sometime Wednesday before you come, that you just quiet your heart and prepare your heart. If you want to use this term afflict your soul, confess your sins to the Lord, get a clean slate, and then come that night. It's a great idea.
" 'For on that day,' " verse 30, " 'the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you,' " notice the word solemn, " 'and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.' "
So you'd never walk up to somebody and go, "Merry Yom Kippur," or "Happy Yom Kippur." They would look at you like: "What? Where are you from?" Even to this day if you tried that to a Jewish person, it wouldn't make much sense, because it's not a merry or happy occasion; it's a time to afflict your souls. The only happy moment was in the temple after all this was done, and that scapegoat was released from sight was there a celebration in the temple, because the day was over then.
" 'And the priest, who is anointed,' " verse 32, " 'and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place, shall make atonement and put on his linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be' " now notice this, " 'an everlasting statute for you,' " —"you" being the Jewish people, " 'to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all of their sins, once a year.' And he did as the Lord commanded Moses."
There are, in Judaism, two feasts that are close in proximity to each other. One is called Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and the other is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In Hebrew they are called Yamim Noraim or the days of solemnity, or solemn days, days of awe. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, those ten days were known as days of repentance or preparation.
Now, it says here in verse 34, "make an everlasting covenant." Now, something happened that caused the day of Yom Kippur to not be celebrated anymore in Judaism. Can you guess what that was? It happened in AD 70; that's the hint. The destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans. The temple was destroyed, so this whole ritual could not take place in the temple with the sacrifices and with the scapegoat anymore. So there were no sacrifices, there was no sacrificial system, there was no temple.
That poses a problem for the Jewish people, because the Scripture says, "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." So what happened? What happened is a little bit of accommodation, retooling, gathering your thoughts and going, "H'm, we got to come up with something." So it is said, according to the history of the Jews, that after the temple was destroyed and many of the Jewish people were in mourning because they couldn't keep their festival, their feasts, even the Day of Atonement, that they went to one famous rabbi who is very, very famous in Judaism.
If you know Judaism, you know the name Yohanan ben Zakai. He lived during the destruction of the temple, during the time of Christ, during the time of Paul the apostle. In fact, you might say Judaism took one of two different turns: one avenue followed Saul of Tarsus, proclaiming Yeshua is the Messiah; the other followed Yohanan ben Zakai. And he said to his followers, "Because there is no temple, if we just reflect before the Lord and do nice things for people that will be as effective as the killing of animals."
From that moment on that set a precedent among the Jews followed to this day where around the Day of Atonement, those ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they think about what they've done. But they also think about the good things they've done, and they try to count more good things they've done than bad things. And when they think about the good things they've done, they pat themselves on the back and they feel good. They're still left with a problem: there's no shedding of blood, there's no remission for their sins, they're not taken away—year after year, after year, compounded becomes this problem.
The answer, of course, was found in the teachings of the other Rabbi Shaul, Saul of Tarsus, who says Jesus is that completed sacrifice, once for all for ours sins, and he makes the atonement. That's why, according to him, the sacrifices have been taken away since AD 70.
Well, chapter 17, you'll notice it's a short chapter, so not a problem. Now in this chapter there's a division in the book of Leviticus. We enter into a section that is called the code of holiness, because the word holy appears another fifty two times in this section. Holy, what does it mean? different, separate, dedicated to God. And you'll hear things like, "Do this because it's holy," or "This is holy," or "You're to be holy because I am holy." That is repeated often in the rest of is this book.
Now, the great truth in this chapter is the value of blood and the importance of a central place of worship—those are the two themes of this chapter. The value of blood and the importance of a central place for worship, both of which have dynamics that even affect us today.
Now, before we get into this chapter, just a little background. Keep in mind that the children of Israel are pretty fresh out, out of Egypt still. They just got out of Egypt, they're gathering in the wilderness, God is giving them his revelation, but they're used to seeing a false worship system of many different gods and goddesses in Egypt.
They would have seen a sacrifice to Apis the bull god, Heqet the frog goddess, Sobek the sacred crocodile, Ra the sun god, and all of the altars and all of the sacrifices, many of which were animal sacrifices at different altars and in different places. And evidently some of the practices of the Egyptians, from whence they came, has affected the way these people, God's people, want to do their worship now in the wilderness. So God has to lay down some laws.
Verse 1, "The Lord spoke to Moses saying, 'Speak to Aaron, to his sons, to all the children of Israel, and say to them, This is the thing which the Lord has commanded saying: "Whatever man of the house of Israel who kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or who kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting to offer an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people." ' " So, no slaughter of any animal was permitted at any place except one place, the door of the tabernacle.
The people of Israel were to become a tabernacle centered people. If we had a map, and you could see from a bird's eye view, or if you were flying over the camp of Israel in a Goodyear blimp, and you're looking down from the blimp, you would see in the center of all of the different camps of the twelve tribes, right in the middle would be a space and then that tabernacle.
It was the very heart of their community, which, by the way, that's how European Christian towns were developed in old times. The church was always in the center of town with a steeple so you could always, always tell, you know, we're a, we're a God centric people. That was the idea of the church with the steeple in the center of town, was built around this model.
"To the end," verse 5, " 'To the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to the priest, and offer them as peace offering to the Lord, peace offerings to the Lord. And the priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and burn the fat as a sweet aroma to the Lord.' "
Now just don't take some of these sayings that we read for granted. I mean, the fat of animals on a barbecue grill—[sniff] [laughter] it's awesome. Right? So I've always imagined what it would be like to hang around the tabernacle or around the temple in Jerusalem around the Passover when a lot of those lambs were killed, or the daily sacrifices, and the wind would waft to where your house was. It's like, yeah! It's a sweet smell to the Lord; it's a sweet smell to any of us.
Now, you'll notice the offering that is mentioned. Go back and look at verse 5, " 'To the priest and offer them as peace offerings.' " So here's how, how it worked, if you remember from our first few chapters in Leviticus, of the five offerings that are outlined, one of the offerings, the peace offering was like a sacred meal that you invite your family and friends to. You bring an animal, a portion goes to the priest, a portion is burned and sacrificed. The priest will then cut it up like a butcher would, give it to you.
You take it home, invite your family, your friends, and you'd have a holy party, a holy barbecue, a sacred potluck. Except you're bringing the pot and then God would then bless it. The idea was fellowship around worship.
And God said, "You're not going to sacrifice or slaughter an animal inside the camp or outside the camp, but at the door of the tabernacle." In effect, God is saying, "I want to be invited to dinner." If you're going to do it, it must be as a peace offering at the door of the tabernacle, because he didn't want the people just going out like the Egyptians and doing their own thing.
This also highlights another truth, not just here, but you're going to see it repeated. In fact I'll read either to you in a moment, or you can turn there in a moment. That of all of the places that they could do their worship, God narrows it down to one place, one place: At the tabernacle, and eventually at the city of Jerusalem where God will locate the center of worship.
Turn in your Bible ahead a couple of books to Deuteronomy, chapter 12. I want you to see something. It'll be a while until we get there, no doubt. So go to Deuteronomy, chapter 12, and let's read a few verses. " 'These are the statutes, the judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains, on the hills, under every green tree.' "
They would worship under hills, on hills, because it was closer to the sun, that was part of their superstition, or by a tree because of what it symbolized with fertility. " 'And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of you, out of all your tribes, to put his name for his dwelling place; and there you shall go.
" 'There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, you're vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your household, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you.' "
So God wanted the worship to be both corporate, together, and centralized in one place, because he knew the tendency would be to follow the worship system of other people around them, and lose the whole revelation that God is giving them.
So, if an Israelite said, "Why should I have to go to the tabernacle? Why can't I just go out into the desert, a bunch of my friends and I, and just sit by a rock? We can worship there, can't we?" No! "Well, I don't like these priests, and I don't like waiting in line. It's such a long line to bring my peace offering. There's a whole bunch of other people in front of me unless I get up really early. Why can't I just sacrifice out here; can't I do that?" No! God wants his worship here to be corporate, and he wants it to be centralized.
And when we get to the New Testament, we get to a concept Jesus calls his church. Matthew 16, he announces, "I will build my," ekklesia, "church," my called out group of people. And we get to the book of Acts, and we see how they met together, what they prioritize, how they lived, and they worked together, and they met in one accord.
Many people today say, "Why do I need church? I can go to the mountains, worship God with just nature." Sure you can, but that's not enough. "Well, I can grab a few friends and go out to the golf course and worship on the golf course." No, you mean worship the golf course. Well, certainly you can look up and go, "Lord, thank you. That was a great seven iron shot. Praise you, Lord!" But that's not enough.
I believe, like here, worship needs to be corporate and needs to be centralized. We need to be together. We need God's people. You need other people. God created people to be social beings, to be set with other people. It says in Psalm 68 that "God sets the solitary in families."
If you just notice the way people are designed by God, we're designed to be too weak to gravitate toward a group, to be with other people. Whether it's a science club, or Elks Club Lodge, or Alcoholics Anonymous, or whatever, we derive strength being with each other; we need other people.
What is the benefit of Christians getting together? Paul says in 1 Corinthians, "If one member of body suffers, we all suffer." There's strength when somebody else takes my sorrow. When one member rejoices, we can all rejoice with that person. So, we need God's people.
Number two, we need God's principles. Out in the world you and I get messages every single day that reverberate the values of this world, of this age, values that are against God, against truth. So we need to counter that with consistent doses of truth.
That's why Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "The church is the pillar and the ground of the truth." It's a place where truth should be taught, not just a big pep rally where everybody sings and does the same thing, but we learn the truth of God's principles. We need God's people, we need God's principles.
Number three, we need God's purpose. Every human being I've ever met would love their life to have a purpose. They would love to have their life become a part of something greater than themselves, some great cause, some noble cause. The greatest cause, greater than any social, sociological, or political cause, is this cause: God's cause. You might call it the family business, what Paul said to the Philippians, "our partnership in the gospel."
You want to be a part of something great, become a part of God's plan for his kingdom upon this earth: bringing people to Christ, building up other people in the faith. We need God's people, we need God's principles, we need God's purpose.
Number four, we need God's presence. It seems to me as I read the Bible there are special promises given to two or three, two or more, as we gather together that God promises his presence with us corporately, more so than just us individually. Yeah, I know, western evangelicals are all about the personal relationship with God, and that's good and that's true, but it happens to become one of the tenets that really marks western evangelicalism, as opposed to other believers around the world.
They're about the group, man. They're about the needs of the community and, and ministering to the needs of everyone, not just themselves. It's not just my private, personal relationship, but it's our, the body of Christ. You're a member of body, but you yourself are not the body of Christ. Only when you gather with other believers does the body come together.
So you could say, "I don't need the church." Well, that would sort of be like a, a tuba player saying, "I don't need an orchestra." I don't know if you've ever, ever heard a tuba, it's great, but not by itself. Pity the person who lives next door to the tuba player. And I'm, I'm, I'm sorry if I am offending any tuba players out there, but I've been around them, and they only are great in concert with other instruments in harmony, but not alone.
Or a Christian without a church is sort of like a football player without a team. What are you going to do? Throw the ball up, catch it, throw it up, catch it. Yeah, this is a lot of fun; no team dynamic. Or a businessman without a business, or soldier without an army, a company. We need each other.
Verse 7, better hurry up, glad there's not many verses. " 'They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.' " Interesting, because it seems to imply that one of the reasons God is giving them these laws, these directives is that they were starting to do exactly that, worship false gods in a false manner.
Now, when it says demons in that verse, the Hebrew word is exactly goat demons, goat demons. In fact, one translation, and I quote says, "So that they may no longer offer their sacrifices for goat demons." You say, "What, what does this have to do with anything? I don't quite get it." In Egypt one of the principal twelve gods of Egypt was the god Mendes, or the goat god. And he was worshiped in his own altar and in his own way by killing of animals, much like what God is saying, "Don't do that." It implies some of children of Israel were taking their cues from what they had seen Egyptians do with Mendes the goat god, the hairy goat god.
Fast forward to the time of the Greeks. The goat, goat god has been in the pantheons and in the mythologies of ancient peoples all the way back from Egypt, all way through the Greek times. There's a Greek god called Pan. You probably, some of you, heard of Paneus. And the Greek god Pan is depicted as a goat with horns and a tail and cloven feet. And the medieval picture of the devil comes from the idea of the Greek god Pan or Paneus who was worshiped in ancient times, and that is what God a forbidding here.
Okay, enough FYI, back to verse 8, " 'You shall say to them: "Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and offer it to the Lord, that man shall be cut off from his people. And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people." ' "
I think what I'm going to do, if it's okay with you, since next week is communion that I'm going to tie these verses into the next chapter as we take communion. But let's just go ahead and read this, and get reference for it so we can at least say we finished the chapter, and I'll expound more upon that next week.
Verse 11, " 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.' Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.'
"Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of the flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.'
"And every person who eats what died naturally or what was torn by beasts, whether he is a native in your own country or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. Then he shall be clean. But if he does not wash them or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt."
So summing it up, God's people were not to worship haphazardly, but very specifically. You do it God's way; you do it in God's place. Why is that important? Because, well, as times goes on we find that these people had a tendency to add or subtract laws that either they wanted, or disregard laws of God that they didn't want to follow. Until it gets so bad among these same twelve tribes that in the book of Judges we read, "And every man did what was right in his own eyes."
People have a tendency to make it up as they go along, and not go by God's revelation, but by their own imagination. There's only two ways to do life and two ways to worship: Imagination, you make it you will as you go along. You say, "I picture God as this or that, and I kind of want to do this, and I kind of feel like I want to do that," and that's where a lot of people live. Or, "This is what God says, and I'm going to surrender to him and do it his way."
The people of Israel faced this tendency. The people they came from, Egypt; the people that were going into, the Canaanites, had a few different ideologies. Number one, polytheism, which means the worship of many gods: the god of the sun, the god of the moon, the god of the stars, the god of the earth, the god of the sea, the god of the rivers, the god of fire—polytheism.
Another worship system was called pantheism, where God is impersonal and is basically the sum of all his creation. Everything that you see is God: I'm God, you're God, the tree is God, the door is God, we're all God. That was the view of early Greek philosophy, later Roman philosophy, and is the chief tenet of the present day New Age movement—pantheism: everything is God, everything is deified.
A third worship system, and we'll close with this, was called henotheism, H E N O theism. Henotheism is that every city, every state, every nation, had its own principal god. So that when one nation battled another nation, was really the gods battling the other gods, and whoever won showed that their god was stronger than your god.
So you read this odd phrase in the Old Testament where they said, "The gods of the hills are stronger than the god's of the valley. It's because the hill people conquered the valley people. Now, that's henotheism: local god's competing, battles through mankind, one god usurping another authority.
Now, this has a different twist to it. When a prince of one city or nation marries a princess of a different place, she brings her gods with her. This happens in the Old Testament with King Ahab of Israel who marries a woman named Jezebel, the Sidonian princess, who worshiped Baal as their chief principal god, and now Baal or Ba'al worship is introduced down in Israel.
Where it really becomes bad is Solomon. King Solomon introduces—the first one to introduce idolatry into the camp of Israel by marrying one thousand women; seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines. With them came all of their gods and goddesses, and that's why the Scripture after that says, "They turned Solomon's heart away from worshiping the Lord." It's that principle of henothesim at work as other gods from their pantheon are brought in, and there's false worship introduced by the king of Israel.
Just to add a little more fun to it, you can go chase this down on your own; look it up. The only other time the number 666 is used in the Bible, besides Revelation 13, is with King Solomon. His annual wage was 666 talents of precious metal per year. You can have fun with that. Let's pray.
Father, as we've been able to examine a couple of chapters in the Old Testament, and see their meaning and importance in the New Testament, more than, more than that, to our lives. Again, we're just so grateful that we have a place, we have a group of friends, we have a country where we can come and worship freely and learn and grow; as the Scripture says, "Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And the bottom line with the Old and the New Testament is that you have made access to your tabernacle possible, access to your presence and fellowship with you a possibly, a reality. But as there was only one door to the tabernacle, there's only one door to heaven today. And Jesus said, "I am the door, I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life, and no man comes to the Father unless he comes through me." It's not by sincerity, it's not by imagination, it's by following the revelation that you have made so plain and clear in the plan of Scripture, and principally in the person of Jesus.
Lord, I pray for anyone who may have come tonight maybe for the first time, or they've come a few times before, they just sort of stumbled in, in their travels this evening, and they're here with us. And as they examine their lives they have to admit, "I, I don't know the Lord. I'm not a saved person. I'm not sure that if I were to die tonight I'd go to heaven."
And as important as the blood of these animals were in Old Testament times, the blood of Jesus Christ your Son can cleanse a man or a woman from all sin. Your Word tells us that; your revelation declares that. If there's anyone within earshot here whose life isn't under the blood of Jesus Christ to wash away their guilt, their sin, their stain, then they're not cleansed, and I pray that they would desire for that to happen.
As our heads are bowed, as our eyes are closed, if you've gathered with us this evening, if you don't personally know the Lord, if you haven't surrendered your life to Christ, if you haven't personalized the work of Jesus in your own life by asking him to be the Lord and Savior of your life, if you are willing to do that right now, or if you've wandered away from him and you need to come back home to him, either way I want you to raise your hand up in the air. Just right now, do it right now, raise your hand up.
And by raising your hand you're saying, "You've identified me. I want to know this Savior, and I'm prepared to invite him into my heart as my Lord and my Savior." You raise your hand up so I can acknowledge your hand and I'll pray for you as we close. Lord bless you, ma'am, on the left. Anyone else? Raise it up. Raise it high so I can see it. If you're in the balcony or in the family room—and God bless you, on my left as well. For those with your hand raised, right now, right where you're at, invite Christ to come in.
Say to him: Lord I know I'm a sinner. Forgive me. I place my faith, my trust, in this Jesus. I believe Jesus died on the cross, shed his blood for my sin, and rose again from the grave. I turn from my sin; I turn to you as my Savior and my Master. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and fill me with a sense of purpose and peace that I've never known, in Jesus' name, amen.