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Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 66

Leviticus 16 reminds us of why Nadab and Abihu died. Without seeking God, they determined their own path to God’s presence (Leviticus 16:1). Today we read about the institution of the holiday that is most central to Israel’s calendar year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As opposed to Nadab and Abihu’s approach, this day conveys God alone can grant access to His glorious presence. Leviticus 16 shows God’s particular plan for how the priest, a new kind of Adam, can enter once a year God’s glorious presence. The day of atonement in Leviticus 16 is the center of Leviticus, and Leviticus is the center of the first five books of the Bible. This central chapter conveys that God has made a way for one person to have access to God’s Holy presence like Adam and Eve did in Eden. In doing this, God paints a yearly picture of the hope that one day we all can be with God, like this, again. On Yom Kippur, the various rites Aaron and the subsequent high priests follow conveys a reversal of the expulsion from Eden. During these ritual rites, Aarron would pass through areas protected by golden cherubim, representative of the angelic beings blocking the garden of Eden. This is made possible through cleansing and sacrifice. Over the course of the year, sacrifices for sins were offered, and God forgave his people. On the day of atonement, God uses a scapegoat to show that if Israel lives faithfully within this tabernacle system, God takes away all their sins. Leviticus 16 shows that God intends for His people to dwell in enjoyment of His good gifts. In echoing creation, this day is highlighted as day of Sabbath, of special rest (Leviticus 16:31). Sabbath is a gift of God to us whereby we enter His rest (Hebrews 4:9-11). The day of Atonement reflects that God intends to make His people once again rest in Him. The connection is clear, without God’s atoning work, we have no rest. Through God’s atoning work, we can have true rest. Let us consider this and reflect with gladness on how Jesus’ atoning work provides for us an even better rest.

Jeremiah Vaught