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“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood to be received by faith.” Romans 3:25 (NIV) The Israelites kept the Day of Atonement. They took two goats, sacrificed one as a sin offering and sent the other away out into the wilderness, symbolically removing the sins of the nation. Yom Kippur, which literally means‘to cover’, is translated as Atonement in Leviticus 16, where theinstructions for this ritual are outlined.. For example, the lid of the Arc of the covenant was called the lid of Atonement (Hebrews 9:5), as it literally covered the Arc. The high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year with the blood of the sacrificial goat and sprinkled it on the Arc, covering the lid or making Atonement. It was like painting over the sins to cover them so God couldn’t see them. Instead of getting rid of them, it hid them from view. It would be like a child hiding sweet wrappers under the pillow so the parent didn’t see they had been eating sweets.

The writer of Hebrews said it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). It just hid it by sending it into the wilderness, like hiding it under the pillow. The problem was they had to keep making atoning sacrifices because they kept sinning! Atonement, as a festival, pointed to a sacrifice that was to come, once for all. It pointed to a future sacrifice, which was to change the rules. Jesus was fully God and fully human which meant his sacrifice could reconcile God and man. Only He could do this because He was without sin and He fulfilled the requirements of the law. Jesus did not nullify the law. He did what was required under the law, thereby covering the sins.  But there was more—He not only covered them, He removed them completely.

Hebrews 9 describes the new covenant through Jesus, who was not only King, but also High Priest. He was therefore able to enter the Holy Place, not through the blood of animals but by his own blood. Hebrews 10 makes it clear that the blood of bulls and goats never took away sin, but that the blood of Jesus did—once for all! The High Priest went into the holiest place once a year, but when Jesus died, the curtain tore in two and the Holy of Holies was no longer only accessible to one man once a year. Jesus went into the holy place by his own blood. In Jesus, we too are in that holy place, in the presence of God right now, which is only possible by our sin having been removed once for all. Old Atonement was covering over sin, but now those sins have been removed. The covering is now God’s love, by which the sins have been removed. We can therefore have true At-one-ment with God. The sweet wrappers are no longer under the pillow, they are gone!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the great sacrifice of Jesus, once for all. Thank you that in your great love and mercy, you sent your Son who died so we can live.