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Leviticus 1:4 Put His Hands Upon the Atonement

Posted by adventbiblestudy on December 7, 2012


Study methods explained. Bible stories, studies with links between Old and New Testament texts.

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Leviticus 1:4 KJV And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

Although this may be one of the most important and well know prophecies about Jesus, atonement may be one of the most misunderstood words in the Bible. In the KJV version, atonement is only found once in the New Testament. When we look at Old Testament texts we see a number of people and things offering an atonement.

Exodus 32:30 KJV And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.

Exodus 29:36 KJV And thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it.

Exodus 30:16 KJV And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

How can Moses, a bull and money make an atonement? It is easier to understand once we find out what it really means.

The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. 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. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. (Hebrews 10:1-3 NLTse).

An atonement is a reminder. It has nothing to do with forgiving sins or cleansing us from our sins, only Jesus has the power to fulfill that promise. Were all these atonements reminders of their sin, or pointing to Jesus? Many texts in the New Testament show how this prophecy about Jesus was fulfilled, how Jesus replaced both the old system of sacrifice and office of the priest.

In the old system the sinner placed his hands upon the head of the sacrifice confessing their sins. Symbolically the sins were transferred to the sacrifice. Not many people could watch. There was only a narrow opening at the end of the curtains surrounding the Tabernacle, which may have been a good thing. Would you like to confess your sins with a crowd gathered around?

After the sins were placed upon the head of the sacrifice, a priest would take its life by quickly slitting its throat. Death was supposed to be quick and painless. This was not a symbol related to Jesus’ sacrifice. The priests chose to put Him on a cross to die a slow, painful and public death. I wonder why some symbols have such a close relationship to their fulfillment, while some details are so distant?

Aaron and his sons were symbols of Jesus’ ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary, while the priest in Jesus’ time could never be compared to Him or Hs ministry. In real life they stood out as stark contrasts to Jesus and His ministry in both earth and Heaven. A system and pattern given by God was corrupted beyond imagination, yet thousands, millions of people blindly followed. Why? Was it because they lost their direct relationship with God, deciding life was better by living that relationship through a representative they chose themselves? Did they know their chosen representatives standing in God’s place plotted against and killed the Son of God? No wonder Jesus came to replace the system and those responsible for running it.

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. That is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as theirs. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood–not the blood of goats and calves–he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. (Hebrews 5:1-3, 7:27, 9:11-14 NLTse)

The atonement, or reminder of or sins has been replaced by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, not only to forgive our sins, but clear our consciences so we can live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:2 NLTse).

We may not consider the sacrifice of a lamb as a prophecy, but it is a symbol pointing to Jesus who is not only the sacrifice, but the High Priest, offering Himself to God. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 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 9:14, 10:12, 10:21-22 NLTse).

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