Here I Am. Send Me!

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”– Isaiah 6:1-8 ESV

This chapter seems a bit out of place. It provides details concerning Isaiah’s divine call, but appears after the first five chapters, which contain a summary of Judah’s sin and God’s coming judgment. It would appear that Isaiah wanted to begin his book with a clear description of the state of affairs in Judah so that the people would understand the nature of his message to them. Now, in chapter six, he reveals that he is a messenger sent from God. He has received a commission from Yahweh Himself, and has been tasked with the responsibility to warn the people of Judah of what God has ordained, unless they repent and return to Him.

Isaiah prefaces this chapter by providing the date of his calling. It was in the year King Uzziah died. That would have been around 740 B.C. It’s interesting to note that King Uzziah was one of the few godly kings to reign in Judah since the split of the kingdom after Solomon’s reign. He reigned over Judah for 52 years, but like so many of the other kings of Judah, Uzziah failed to remain faithful to God. He enjoyed the blessings of God, but allowed them to go to his head.

But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar. Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the Lord, all brave men. They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The Lord God will not honor you for this!” 2 Chronicles 26:16-18 NLT

Don’t miss the details concerning Uzziah’s sin. He had entered the sanctuary of the temple and burned incense on the altar of incense. In other words, he had taken on the role of the priest and, in doing so, had violated the law of God. He had committed the very same crime that had resulted in King Saul’s removal and replacement by David (1 Samuel 13:9).

When confronted by the high priest, Uzziah had reacted with rage, screaming at Azariah and the other priests. As a result of his actions, God struck him with leprosy. And the text tells us that he remained a leper until his death.

So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the Lord. His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land. – 2 Chronicles 26:21 NLT

His God-ordained disease banned left him unclean and banned from ever entering the temple again. He spent the remaining years of his life in quarantine, secluded in a separate house and unable to govern the people of God.

And in the year of his death, Isaiah was given a vision by God. It is not coincidence that Isaiah saw God in His holy temple, the actual temple in heaven. He was given a glimpse into the actual Holy of Holies where God sits on the mercy seat. The author of Hebrews wrote of the existence of the true temple in heaven where God dwells.

That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.

For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. – Hebrews 9:23-24 NLT

The earthly temple was modeled after the heavenly one. And while Uzziah, in his pride, had entered into the earthly temple and offered unlawful sacrifices to God, Isaiah was allowed to see into the heavenly temple where God’s presence dwells. And he describes it in great detail.

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. – Isaiah 6:1 ESV

Isaiah, like John in the book of Revelation, was given the privilege of seeing God Almighty in all His glory. And Isaiah describes God as sitting on his throne, the mercy seat located in the Holy of Holies. We know this is the location of God’s throne because of Isaiah’s description of his immediate surroundings.

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. – Isaiah 6:2 ESV

Over in the book of 1 Kings, we have a very similar description of the Holy of Holies in the temple Solomon constructed.

He made two cherubim of wild olive wood, each 15 feet tall, and placed them in the inner sanctuary. The wingspan of each of the cherubim was 15 feet, each wing being 7 1⁄2 feet long. The two cherubim were identical in shape and size; each was 15 feet tall. He placed them side by side in the inner sanctuary of the Temple. Their outspread wings reached from wall to wall, while their inner wings touched at the center of the room. He overlaid the two cherubim with gold. – 1 Kings 6:23-28 NLT

These two cherubim are not to be confused with the two that were located on the top of the ark of the covenant. Notice their size. They were 15-feet tall and on permanent display in the Holy of Holies. It was inbetween these two massive statues that the ark of the covenant was to be placed.

Then the priests carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple–the Most Holy Place–and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. – 1 Kings 8:6 NLT

But, while the cherubim in Solomon’s temple were lifeless statues, the two that Isaiah saw standing above the throne of God in heaven were living creatures. And they cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3 ESV). This is very similar to the scene John saw in his vision of the heavenly throne room.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!” – Revelation 4:8 ESV

In both visions, the emphasis is on the holiness of God. The whole earth is full of His glory. He is all-pervasive. Yes, He sits on His throne in the Holy of Holies, but He is not restricted in any way. God’s glory fills the entirety of His creation. And it is that fact that makes the sins of Judah so much more egregious. The reaction of Isaiah reveals that he fully understood the dramatic contrast between the holiness of his God and the sinfulness of his own people.

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  – Isaiah 6:5 ESV

He even saw himself as unworthy to stand before a perfectly holy and righteous God. Even his lips were contaminated by his sinfulness, making him unworthy to sing the praises of his God. And he was not alone. The entire population of Judah was marred by sin. Like Uzziah, who found himself covered with leprosy and banished from the temple, the people of Judah were covered by the guilt of sin and unwelcome in God’s presence. It was their sin that separated them from God. Their unrighteousness kept them from approaching the righteous King, the Lord of hosts.

But with Isaiah’s confession of guilt came cleansing and forgiveness. One of the cherubim touched his lips with a hot coal from the altar of incense and pronounced:

“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” – Isaiah 6:7 ESV

The apostle John reminds us that this incredible opportunity is available to any and all who will simply confess their sins to God.

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. – 1 John 1:9 NLT

Isaiah required cleansing before he could act as God’s spokesperson. He needed to have his own sins forgiven before he could deliver God’s message to the people of Judah. We see this lived out in the life of Aaron, the original high priest, who, each year on the day of atonement had to offer sacrifices on his own behalf before he could intercede for the people of God.

Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. – Leviticus 16:11-13 ESV

Once cleansed from his own sins, Aaron could then offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. And, after having received cleansing for his sins, Isaiah was ready to serve as God’s messenger to His people.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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The Valley Between Two Mountains.

Two-MountainsFor you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. – Hebrews 12:18-24 ESV

The author of Hebrews compares the Christian life to that or a long and arduous journey. Because of his Hebrew audience, he most likely has in mind the more than 40 year journey the people of Israel took to get to the land promised by God to their forefather, Abraham. That had been an ultra-ultra-mega-marathon, covering thousands of miles and four decades. And it had required incredible endurance and a constant awareness that there truly was a goal in mind. They were headed somewhere. They had an actual destination. Even on those days when it all felt pointless and mind-numbingly repetitious, they had to keep walking and trusting that God knew what He was doing and Moses knew where he was going. At times, they had their doubts and felt free to make them known.

In these verses, the author contrasts Mount Sinai with Mount Zion. The first mountain was from their past. It was the place, early on in the Exodus story, where God had met with Moses and given them the Ten Commandments. It had been a terrifying and life-changing moment for the people of God.

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. – Exodus 19:16-19 ESV

The physical manifestations that had accompanied the presence of God that day had left the people in a state of fear and anxiety. The Exodus account goes on to say, “when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die’” (Exodus 20:18-19 ESV). The dramatic physical display they witnessed that day left them terrified. None of them missed the significance or symbolism of it all. Their God was powerful, holy, transcendent and not to be trifled with. The dramatic display on the top of Mount Sinai was intended to reinforce in their minds the holiness of God. It was also a reminder of their own sinfulness. That fact would be reinforced by the giving of Ten Commandments by God to Moses. But if you recall, the first time Moses returned from the top of the mountain with the tablets in his hands he found the people worshiping the golden calf. Just days after the pyrotechnic display on the mountain that had left them trembling in fear, they had determined to make their own god. So Mount Sinai would forever be a symbol of God’s holiness and their own sinfulness. The law God gave them would prove to be a constant reminder of their own sinfulness and incapacity to live obediently.

But Mount Zion was a different mountain and represents an altogether different encounter with God. Mount Sinai was physical in nature and could be seen and touched, albeit at pain of death. Yet Mount Zion is a spiritual mountain. There is no smoke, fire, thunder, lightning, or ban against coming near. Mount Zion is not only approachable, it is preferable. It is our final destination. It represents “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22 ESV). During the reigns of David and Solomon, Jerusalem was a powerful city, the capital of the Jewish empire. It was in Jerusalem that Solomon built the temple. It was there that the people came each year on the Day of Atonement to make sacrifices to God. As the people journeyed from the surrounding areas up to Jerusalem, they would sing the Songs of Ascent found in the psalms. One of them says, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 125:1-2 ESV). Jerusalem, Mount Zion, represented the presence of God. It was there that God dwelt in the Holy of Holies. It was to Zion the people walked in order to celebrate the various feasts and festivals. It was there they went to receive forgiveness of sin and to have their relationship with God restored.

For believers, our final destination is also Mount Zion. It represents our heavenly home – “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” We are on a journey to a place where we will encounter God, but rather than experiencing fear and trembling, we will enjoy peace, acceptance, joy, and a freedom from sin and sorrow. There will be no condemnation. There will be no need for the law to remind us God’s holy expectations. We will be holy. There will be no conviction of sin or any need for the law to expose our sin anymore, because we will be sinless. In a sense, the Christian life is a journey from one mountain to another. It is a long, sometimes difficult trip away from the mountain where man’s relationship with God was marked by law, rule-keeping, disobedience, fear and failure. It is a daily walk toward another mountain where we will find complete forgiveness, the redemption of our bodies and our final glorification. Paul reminds us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV). We are on our way to Mount Zion. That is our final destination. It is our home. And while the journey there may seem long and at times difficult, we must keep our eye on the prize. We must never turn back to Mount Sinai, marked by rules and a constant reminder of our guilt and sin. Mount Zion is our home, where we will be with all those who have gone before us and enjoy unbroken fellowship with God and “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24 ESV).

 

Hold Fast.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV

There should be a proper response when we consider all that Jesus has done for us.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 5:8-10 ESV

…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, this securing an eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:12 ESV

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:28 ESV

His sacrifice on our behalf should provide us with a confidence to come into the very presence of God, with “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 ESV). When Jesus died, the veil in the temple that acted as a barrier into the Holy of Holies, was torn in two. “Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51 NLT). That event was incredibly significant, because it removed, for all time, the veil of separation between man and God. Up until that time, the only person who could enter the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence was said to dwell, was the high priest. And his access was limited to a single day each year, the Day of Atonement, and he could enter only having sacrificed an animal for his own cleansing. If he failed to do so, he would die. And no one else was allowed into the presence of God. But that all changed when Jesus died. The veil was torn, and the barrier to God was removed. It was as Jesus had claimed: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9 ESV). Those who have placed their faith in Jesus as their sin substitute can now enjoy access to God. As His sheep, they can enter into His presence without fear of death or rejection. The can go in and out and find pasture.

But this newly available access to God, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus, should create in us not only a confident assurance, but a desire to live in obedience to His will. The author tells us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV). We are to pursue righteousness, not in the hopes of gaining God’s approval, but in gratefulness for the fact that we are already approved in His eyes. Our hearts have already been sprinkled clean. Our bodies have been washed with pure water. We stand before Him as holy. This does not mean we are without sin. Each of us still retains his old sin nature. We still have the capacity and propensity to sin. But our sins can no longer keep us apart from God. We have been extended forgiveness. We have been fully acquitted. And we have His promise that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). We have access into the Holy of Holies, at all times, where we can receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness – never condemnation.

So the author of Hebrews tells us to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV). This is the same thought he expressed back in chapter six when he said, “we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (Hebrews 6:18-19 ESV). Earlier in that same chapter, he wrote, “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV). We must keep our focus on the promise to come. Our hope is to be based on the completed work of Christ. He is coming again. That is why the author tells us, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 ESV). He came, but our hope is based on the fact that He is coming again. And we are to hold fast to that reality. It is to provide us with the motivation we need to remain faithful until the end. It is to give us the encouragement we need to live obediently and not complacently. The apostle John reminds us, “And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame. Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children” (1 John 2:28-29 NLT). It is our hope in Christ that gives us the help we need to live godly lives as we wait for His return. It is our faith in His return that provides us with the determination to remain faithful till the end. We must hold fast. We must finish strong. We must fight the good fight and finish the race set before us – “for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV).

The Time of Reformation.

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing  (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. – Hebrews 9:1-10 ESV

In verse ten of this section of Hebrews, the author made an interesting statement. He referred to “the time of reformation”. The Greek word he used was diorthōsis and it means “a making straight, restoring to its natural and normal condition something which in some way protrudes or has got out of line, as broken or misshapen limbs” (Greek Lexicon :: G1357 (KJV) Blue Letter Bible). It could also mean to straighten thoroughly, rectify or restore. Some Bible translations refer to it as the “new order” or the time “when things will be put right”. But it is clear that the author is referring to the new covenant. The old way has been replaced by something new and improved. The author gives a brief description of the old way by listing some of the more important characteristics of the tabernacle and the worship that took place there. He mentions the Holy Place and the lampstand, table and bread of the Presence. He brings up the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, in which there was the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant. He includes the priests and the high priest, who were responsible for making sacrifices on behalf of themselves and the people. But he can’t help but remind his readers that “according to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (Hebrews 9:9 ESV). The sad reality was that the old covenant could never provide the worshiper with intimate access to God or the relief that their sin debt was taken care of.

The very fact that the average Jew could not enter the Most Holy Place, but had to rely on the high priest to minister on their behalf, paints a picture of the inadequacy of the old way. It could not make the worshiper fully right with God or provide a personal experience of His presence. By these things “the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing” (Hebrews 9:8 ESV). As long as the tabernacle or the temple were still in use, the people would never fully experience the joy of access to and intimacy with God.

In John’s gospel, he records an encounter Jesus had with the Jews outside the temple just after He had chased out the money changes. He made a bold statement. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 ESV).  Angered and more than a bit confused by Jesus’ statement, the Jews responded, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 ESV). Thankfully,  John provides us with clarification. “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21 ESV). In this brief exchange, we are provided with a glimpse of the “time of reformation” to which the author of Hebrews refers. Jesus was the temple of God through which men would enter into the His presence and receive a declaration of full acquittal for their sentence of death and complete forgiveness for their sins. In other words, they would be made right with God through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. He is not only the high priest and the sacrifice, but the temple of God itself. He alone can provide access to the Father. Which is why, when He breathed His last breath on the cross we are told, “At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart” (Matthew 27:51 NLT). The barrier to God’s presence was removed. Which is why Paul reminds us, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence” (Ephesians 3:12 NLT). And the author of Hebrews told us, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT).

Day 142 – Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-30

Access Granted.

Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-30

By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. – Luke 23:44-45 NLT

Some of the last words spoken by Jesus from the cross were, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34 NLT). This took place at the most crucial moment during His entire ordeal. It was at this point that all the sins of mankind were placed on Him. The penalty and burden of all the sins of all time were transferred onto Jesus and His holy, righteous Father had to turn away. For the first and only time, God the Father and God the Son were separated. Their inseparable bond was broken. No longer could God look on Jesus and say, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” He could not look on His Son at all, because of the sins of men. This scene is similar to that in the Old Testament during the days of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Each year, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron was instructed by God to select two goats. One was sacrificed as a sin offering for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. This first goat was slaughtered and its blood was taken inside the curtain into the Holy of Holies, where it was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. This would purify the Most Holy Place from the sins and rebellion of the people. Then Aaron would sprinkle the remainder of the blood throughout the Tabernacle, purifying it as well. The second goat, called the scapegoat, was kept alive. After having cleansed the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle and the altar, Aaron was to place his hands on the head of the goat and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. This act symbolically transferred the people’s sins onto the goat. It bore their sins – the sins of the entire nation of Israel. Then the goat was driven into the wilderness, away from the presence of God, where it was left to die. This event had to take place every single year in order to provide cleansing and forgiveness of sin for the people. But when Jesus died, He satisfied the demands of God once and for all. The book of Hebrews tells us, “The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship” (Hebrews 10:1 NLT). Instead, they served as a constant reminder of their sins year after year. But Jesus came to change all that. “For God’s will was for us to made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10 NLT). “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time” (Hebrews 10:12 NLT). Jesus, our scapegoat, took on all our sins and bore the penalty we deserved. He paid our debt with His own life – once and for all.

And when Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?, it was not cry of surprise or despair. He was not off guard by what was happening. He was actually quoting Psalm 22:1. That incredible Psalm goes on to describe the death of Jesus in amazing detail. “My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divine my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing” (Psalm 22:16-18 NLT). This moment on the cross, when Jesus was temporarily separated from His Son due to the sins of mankind, was all part of the plan. It had to happen. Jesus had to become our scapegoat. And when He had taken on our sins, an amazing thing happened. Luke tells us that at that moment, in the Temple, the heavy curtain that hung at the entrance into the Most Holy Place, was torn from top to bottom. This symbolic barrier between God and man, separating them from one another because of  the holiness of God and the sins of men, was ripped down the middle. No longer would there be a barrier preventing men from having access to God. There would be no more need for a sacrificial lamb or for blood to be sprinkled by the high priest on the Mercy Seat. When Jesus took on the weight, the burden and the penalty of our sins, He did so once and for all. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place” (Hebrews 10:19-20 NLT). Jesus bore the penalty for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. He suffered separation from the Father so we could gain access to the Father. He died so that we might live. He suffered so we might be saved. So “let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 NLT).

Father, I can’t thank You enough for this incredible plan of Yours. That You would allow Your own Son to take on my sins and die in my place blows me away. I can’t fathom why You would do something so incredible. I know it was not because I deserved it. It was because of Your love. Rather than giving me what I justly deserved, You gave me what I could never have earned on my own – Your grace, mercy, favor and forgiveness. Your Son’s death provided me with access into Your very presence. The barrier is removed. Access has been granted. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org