The Two Goats Leviticus 16
Posted by adventbiblestudy on July 21, 2015
In Leviticus chapter 10, Moses told Aaron it was his job to teach people the difference between clean and unclean. Moses explained everything Aaron needed to know about clean and unclean animal’s in chapter 11. In chapter 12, Moses added some information about when a woman is unclean, and how to purify her in different situations. Moses followed that with a long, detailed list of rashes and skin diseases and what priests had to do to make people ceremonially clean. Now we can see why following instructions was so important.
Leviticus 14 contains one of the strangest set of instructions found in the Bible. After inspecting a leper and announcing him clean, the priest had to perform a strange ceremony.
He will then slaughter the male lamb in the sacred area where sin offerings and burnt offerings are slaughtered. As with the sin offering, the guilt offering belongs to the priest. It is a most holy offering. The priest will then take some of the blood of the guilt offering and apply it to the lobe of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot of the person being purified. “Then the priest will pour some of the olive oil into the palm of his own left hand. He will dip his right finger into the oil in his palm and sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the LORD. The priest will then apply some of the oil in his palm over the blood from the guilt offering that is on the lobe of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot of the person being purified.
(Leviticus 14:13-17 NLTse)
What makes this ceremony really strange is the fact it is the same ceremony for anointing a priest. Then Moses presented the other ram, which was the ram of ordination. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head, and Moses slaughtered it. Then Moses took some of its blood and applied it to the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the big toe of his right foot. (Leviticus 8:22-23 NLTse). This included the high priest. Why would God use the same ceremony for the high priest and a leper?
I’ve written a number of studies and stories about those two ceremonies and how Jesus used a leper to introduce His ministry in Jerusalem. It showed how God has the same respect and concern for people no matter who they are, a leper, or high priest. But when I prayed about this it took only a few seconds for God to reveal another detail.
When we consider the culture, the people those ceremonies were first given, we have to ask, what did it mean to them? It was the same message. God cares for lepers as much as He cares for the high priest. This was another reminder, God still wanted them to choose to become a kingdom of priests.
When I get visions like that when I’m praying, I can see God leaning over, waiting for someone to ask a question so He can answer. Imagine the God of the universe waiting for us to ask a question. And being so eager to answer.
We are more than clay jars. We may be empty like a clay jar, but we have hands, eyes, ears, mouths, and minds. It’s like we have to take off that lid so God can fill us up. I don’t know why, but we need to ask questions. That’s the way it always works with me. So many times I’ve asked God about this and that, and it seems He always answers with something in His Word I’ve never seen before. You have to try it some time. I know for sure, our Infinite God will never run out of something new to teach us.
Leviticus 16:1-2 NLTse The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died after they entered the LORD’s presence and burned the wrong kind of fire before him. (2) The LORD said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover–the place of atonement–is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover.
Notice the direct connection Moses used to link Leviticus 16 to chapter 10? I had to pray about this one based on the fact, I’ve heard, or been taught an interpretation of this chapter. But is it correct? And is it complete?
When I prayed, I didn’t receive a specific message. Nothing showing anything new or adding to what I’ve been taught. That scares me. Most of what we learn in this world is from this world. People use the world to interpret scripture and in most cases miss the spiritual meaning. We’ve seen God add new details time after time in this book. I doubt if we will ever get to a place in scripture where God cannot add to His written Word by showing us something we missed.
In this case, God’s answer was simple and consistent. Look back. I knew I had to follow the general rules of context. Based on the introduction here in chapter 16, Moses is telling us, we missed something by skipping over chapters 11 to 15. What was it? The most obvious step is to look back at the summary in chapter 15.
Leviticus 15:29-33 NLTse (29) On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. (30) The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Through this process, the priest will purify her before the LORD for the ceremonial impurity caused by her bleeding. (31) “This is how you will guard the people of Israel from ceremonial uncleanness. Otherwise they would die, for their impurity would defile my Tabernacle that stands among them. (32) These are the instructions for dealing with anyone who has a bodily discharge–a man who is unclean because of an emission of semen (33) or a woman during her menstrual period. It applies to any man or woman who has a bodily discharge, and to a man who has sexual intercourse with a woman who is ceremonially unclean.”
This takes us to a story recorded in Matthew chapter 9, Mark chapter 5, and Luke chapter 8. What does it tell us when God repeated something three times. We have to look at that story. Not only that story, but the entire chapter in the gospels.
When I look at something like this, I know there is a good reason why God pointed us ahead to Jesus’ ministry. I know when we compare scripture to scripture, we will find answers to questions few people have bothered to ask. That’s because most people jump from scripture then directly to the world for an interpretation. They refer to this as the simple answer. They use the excuse, the message has to be simple for people to understand. That shows me their lack of faith as well as how they were taught to rely on themselves. But is it really themselves they are relying on? It doesn’t matter what label we place on them, the fact of the matter is, their range of listening and learning from God’s throne is limited. So is their knowledge and lessons they teach. All are very limited by their main source of information, this world. In this instance, we’ll let God’s Word speak for itself and let you judge for yourself.
The first step is to start at the beginning of each chapter and read over it until you get to the story each of those three chapters share. We look for two things, what they have in common and how the chapters differ.
All three chapters contain the story about the woman with an issue of blood. All three accounts tell basically the same story. I am only going to tell you the basic out line. You can go over the minor details yourself. The Lord knows you need the practice.
All three books tell us the woman touched Jesus when He was following a religious leader to his house to heal his sick daughter. Just a side note here. The man’s name is mentioned, but not the woman’s name. But which one led people to Jesus? Which one was a witness?
Now that we see the obvious connection between the three chapters, it is time to review previous texts in each and pay attention to details that will help to explain the spiritual side of Leviticus 16. I hope you read the whole chapter. If you don’t get in the habit of reading the entire chapter, you’ll never learn to see the spiritual meaning of any of the symbols.
Matthew begins with a story familiar to most Christians. But like most stories, has been taken out of the chapter and made to stand alone. That’s the way most people teach. Take out one story and before you know it, they aren’t teaching the way God intended, they are teaching what they think is right. But here we’ll look at what happens when we let God tell the story.
Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” (Matthew 9:2-3 NLTse).
Instantly we see a contrast. According to the rules of context God used throughout the Bible, a contrast in the introduction or summation of a chapter tells us God used contrasts to teach a lesson. So we have to look for contracts teaching two sides of the same lesson.
We also have to pay attention to another law of contrast. The summation in Leviticus 15 serves two purposes. It summarized everything taught in chapter 15. In this case it summarized everything in Leviticus chapters 11 to 15. It also led into chapter 16.
Getting back to Matthew 9, we see Jesus healed a man no one else could possibly heal. See the connection to the woman with the issue of blood? Always look for patterns. God put them there for a reason.
There are a few verses in that story we need to pay attention to. They sum up how people will view a Bible Study using God’s laws of context. Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.” (Matthew 9:4,8 NLTse)
Why were people afraid? Why would they be afraid of Jesus? He was introducing something new. Look what Jesus told them. Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? (Matthew 9:5 NLTse). People had their own concept on how sins were forgiven. Jesus wasn’t introducing anything new. There was always only one plan to forgive sins. The problem was, those people only had a worldly view. Jesus introduced the spiritual view, and they were afraid. They same is true whenever people are introduced to the spiritual meaning in any story in the Bible. Most people will react with fear and reject it. Just like those people rejected Jesus.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (Matthew 9:9-10 NLTse).
Always expect the unexpected when studying scripture. Here Jesus called a tax collector and had dinner with other tax collectors. This was Jesus’ style of ministry and also His way of teaching. The link between this story and the previous story is how those religious leaders not only doubted but opposed Jesus. The contrast is being repeated so we pay attention to it.
In the next story Jesus introduced an important lesson most people miss. But Jesus used this concept to teach a number of lessons throughout His ministry. One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?” Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matthew 9:14-15 NLTse).
The fact most people miss is seen in the example Jesus used. Most people want to jump around the Bible trying to place their own interpretation on a wedding. What they are doing is taking texts out of context. That’s what this world does. When we look at this example, we see another contrast. Remember, we’re supposed to be looking for contrasts. That is what a lot of people do when they use the worldly method of Bible Study they call proof texts. They use a contrast meant to teach one lesson, but use it to create something totally different. In this case, fasting is a contrast to a wedding. Once we look at it as a contrast, we see it cannot stand alone to teach a lesson. Another detail to consider is, weddings are often used to call attention to traditions. Man made traditions. People like to take stories about weddings out of the Bible and make them stand on their own instead of allowing scripture around the text to explain the spiritual meaning. By removing them from the chapter, they apply man made interpretations entirely missing the spiritual message.
Look at the simple message on the surface. What is Jesus referring to? Jesus is telling them, someday He won’t be with them. Jesus tried to tell them about what was about to happen how many times? Did they understand? Why couldn’t they understand? Jesus gave the answer here. They relied on tradition to interpret scripture instead of listening to what He taught. Now that we understand the spiritual meaning of a wedding and how Jesus used it to point out how people accepted traditions over what He taught, we can’t miss the spiritual meaning of what Jesus taught next.
“Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”
(Matthew 9:16-17 NLTse).
The old represents man made traditions. The new represents what Jesus taught them. Could Jesus make the lesson any easier than that?
That takes us to the story we were lead to. Now we have a few facts to consider when we look at this story, which is actually a story within a story containing a series of contrasts. God arranged these stories with a series of contrasts throughout this chapter to show us, none of these stories can stand alone any more than a single text can stand alone to teach a spiritual message.
We have to be aware of contrasts. We see how some people opposed Jesus. We also see how people are afraid of new concepts. Even concepts that have been around before this world was created. We also see how tradition blocked out what Jesus taught.
Matthew began his story in the middle. As Jesus was saying this, the leader of a synagogue came and knelt before him. “My daughter has just died,” he said, “but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.” (Matthew 9:18 NLTse). Matthew must have had a good reason for this. One reason was to draw our attention to the woman.
Another contract is introduced. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22 NLTse).
Matthew didn’t bring out the contrast like other writers did, but we see another contrast brought to light by the way Matthew recorded his version of the story. The man wanted Jesus to follow him. The woman went to Jesus. The next story also centered on faith.
After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind him, shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?” “Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” (Matthew 9:27-29 NLTse).
Why would a story about two blind men follow a story about a religious leader and a woman who knew Jesus was the last hope to heal her? The two blind men showed how the man and woman needed spiritual healing to see. What did the man and woman have in common? Jesus was their last resort. How many people do you think those blind men went to before they went to Jesus?
Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! Jesus sternly warned them, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” But instead, they went out and spread his fame all over the region. When they left, a demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed. (Matthew 9:30-33 NLTse).
Jesus always taught spiritual lessons in a particular order. Jesus quickly moved from two blind men to a demon possessed man for a reason. Jesus told the blind men not to tell anyone. Why? The demon-possessed man gave us the answer. That day the men received their sight. Were they ready to preach? We see a far deeper lesson in the previous stories. John’s disciples couldn’t answer a simple question. Were they ready to teach? Were any of them finished with the old cloth and wine skins? Or were they still mixing the old with the new? Jesus summed up the situation at the end of the chapter. Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Matthew 9:35-38 NLTse).
Mark began his series of stories in chapter 5 with a man possessed by a whole bunch of demons. This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles–as he often was–he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. (Mark 5:3-4 NLTse). People tried to hold that man back, but nothing could keep that man from coming to Jesus. Already we see how Mark’s stories are directly related to Matthew’s series of stories. If we pay attention, we can see how each story builds on the previous story from people going to Jesus as a last resort, to blind men finding Jesus, to a demon-possessed man breaking chains to meet Jesus. This series illustrates the learning process and details we find and learn when following the basic law of context. Read the whole story and series of stories.
Mark continued the trend of teaching with contracts. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. (Mark 5:15-17 NLTse). No power on earth could keep that man away from Jesus, but the crowd asked Jesus to leave.
But something out of the ordinary happened. Something unexpected. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. (Mark 5:18-20 NLTse). That demon possessed man became one of the greatest evangelists in the Gospels.
That brings us to the beginning of the story the summation in Leviticus 15 led us to. Mark began his story at the very beginning. Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.” (Mark 5:21-23 NLTse).
Notice how Mark included details of Jesus getting into the boat and getting out of the boat. Two details show us what Jesus was doing. Pig farmers on one side of the lake showed us Jesus ministered to pagans. The leader of the synagogue showed us Jesus ministered to Jews on the same day.
Lets take a quick look at another contract. Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:41-43 NLTse).
The demon possessed man became one of the greatest evangelists in the Bible, but Jesus told the religious leader not to talk to anyone about what he saw. Do you know why? If we look at the story about the woman, we can see why.
His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” (Mark 5:31-36 NLTse).
It all boiled down to faith. The man saw a display of faith exhibited before his eyes and didn’t catch on. Among other things, Jesus healed the woman as a test to see who would catch onto the act of faith and who missed the lesson. The religious ruler was too caught up in his own problems to learn a simple lesson. Get the spiritual picture?
Luke’s account of that day was far different than Matthew’s and Mark’s. Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; (Luke 8:1-2 NLTse). We instantly see the connection between Luke’s book and Mark’s stories.
Luke added a new detail to consider. Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. (Luke 8:3 NLTse). People were giving to Jesus’ ministry. We also have to consider how those demons in Luke’s and Mark’s story fit in. Was that a spiritual connection to Herod?
Luke takes that story about the woman with the issue of blood out of the box with the previous story he recorded. One day Jesus told a story to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. (Luke 8:4-5 NLTse). You can go over the details of that parable on your own. I just want to share one detail I learned yesterday. This is an example showing how God works with us through His messengers.
I told the story about Aaron’s sons taking a short cut in Leviticus chapter 10. A friend told me about another story in the Bible what used a short cut as a symbol. I never saw this before. The farmer was sowing seed in his field. How did that road get in the middle of his field? Someone decided to create a short cut through his field. The farmer wasn’t sowing seed on any road long his field. That stray seed landed on a road build as a short cut through his field. This story showed what happens to seed cast on short cuts.
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’ “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. (Luke 8:9-12 NLTse).
I hope this explains short cuts in plain enough English for you to understand. And remember, the theme in these series of studies is to show how God reveals the spiritual message in each story. It just so happened that God arranged a short lesson to show what will happen to man made short cuts. Jesus summed up that lesson in His own words. “No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” (Luke 8:16-18 NLTse).
Luke chapter 8 is rather long and contains a number of nuggets of information someone could write a book on. Here is one of them. Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” (Luke 8:21 NLTse). Jesus thought this was a good time to tell people, He looked at everyone like family. Why did He tell people this after telling them the story about the farmer sowing seeds. Jesus told His disciples He wanted them to understand all the parables He taught. He wanted them to understand everything in scripture. Jesus wanted to break the man made notion that only a few gifted or educated people can understand scripture.
Talk about a few encouraging words for us in the next lesson. After learning a few lessons about faith, then telling us we are all like family, Jesus used His disciples to add to that lesson. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. The storm stopped and all was calm! Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” (Luke 8:23-25 NLTse). It is like asking, where is your faith?
Then Luke’s story showed many of the same details Mark recorded. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. The storm stopped and all was calm! Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” (Luke 8:23-25 NLTse). Now we know the relationship between the story about those demons in that man shows us something about that religious leader in the next story.
“No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him. On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for him. Then a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come home with him. (Luke 8:39-41 NLTse).
We see Luke brought up an important detail. Jesus sent the man back to his family. Jesus told the man to begin his ministry at home. Jairus’ daughter was sick at home. This is a deep spiritual lesson most people would miss if it hadn’t been repeated. Spiritual matters and ministry begin at home. If Jairus couldn’t teach at home, how was he equipped to teach anywhere else?
This has been a short example showing how God’s Word is designed to explain itself. When men start messing around with it, they take out little bits and pieces. They think they are doing a good job, but all they are doing is leaving people with scraps of information. Most of the information is from the world and people never gain the deeper understanding God designed it to convey.
Now we’re left with the task of looking at this information in two directions. Since this began at the end of Leviticus 15, we need to see how it applies to lessons in Leviticus 15. Then we have to look at how this information applied to Leviticus chapter 16. Looking back is always easier. So it is the best place to begin. I am only going to look at a few basic concepts in Leviticus 15. Previous chapters have the same basic concept but us different symbols. You can go over those lessons using the same study methods.
Looking at Leviticus chapter 15 we see a man and a woman are ceremonially unclean. What do those two have in common? Among other details, they are both mature adults. Comparing that detail to the story we were led to in the Gospels, we see the woman was a mature adult, and so was the religious leader. Now for the contracts. Only the woman saw the potential of her faith. It happened to be displayed in the type of person most people would least expect to see such a high degree of faith. She had every reason to give up and turn her back on God. She was tested every day for twelve years. On the other hand, Jairus had that same twelve yeas to practice his faith. He had twelve years to grow his faith and a relationship with God. What distracted Jairus? The woman had distractions placed in her life. But she overcame them. What about those other stories? What does a man possessed by a large number of demons teach us about being ceremonially unclean? The lesson is obvious.
Jesus isn’t the type of teacher to place anyone in a position to guess at an answer. Jesus always gave the answer. We had to be patient enough to wait for that answer. But didn’t that twelve years the woman suffered teach us anything about patients? We found the answer in Luke’s book when he told us about that parable with the farmer and his seeds. Jesus is always ready, willing, and able to teach us. And to heal us. No matter what the situation is.
Moses relied on the same method he used throughout Exodus and Leviticus. Moses explained step by step procedures to cleanse unclean men and women. Moses made it clear priests had to learn those step by step processes. A great deal of that process consisted of a close observation and inspection. I only covered a few of the basic concepts and ideas in the chapters listed here. God has plenty more to show you. All you need to do is follow the simple process God gave you? What could be easier than following scripture the way it was recorded and letting God explain all the spiritual lessons?
Now comes the more difficult part, explaining how those previous chapters and the lessons from the Gospels helps to explain Leviticus chapter 16. Looking ahead is always more difficult. I wish people trying to explain unfulfilled prophecies understood that. But that’s not part of their plans. Their messages have to be designed to make it look like it was easy for them to explain. But when you pay close attention, you’ll see how quickly they leave God’s Word and drift into the world to find answers. You won’t see that here.
Leviticus 16 deals with two time frames. It is a ceremony Moses taught the priests and it is a prophecy about the future. It has to be an important prophecy by the way Moses introduced it by reminding us two of Aaron’s sons lost their lives by not following a simple procedure. We don’t want to make that mistake.
We completed the first step by looking back to see how Moses finished the previous chapter and going where that texts directed us. The next step is to review the entire story in Leviticus 16 and see how that relates to scripture we were led to.
Leviticus 16:3-4 NLTse “When Aaron enters the sanctuary area, he must follow these instructions fully. He must bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (4) He must put on his linen tunic and the linen undergarments worn next to his body. He must tie the linen sash around his waist and put the linen turban on his head. These are sacred garments, so he must bathe himself in water before he puts them on.
Moses began by repeating something we should be familiar with, sacrificing a bull. We know slaughtering a bull tells Aaron to leave Egyptian concepts behind. This tells us to leave worldly concepts behind. Bathing reinforced that message.
Leviticus 16:5-8 NLTse Aaron must take from the community of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (6) “Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the LORD. (7) Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle. (8) He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel.
Moses reminded Aaron and us, there is a proper way to approach God. How you approach God is something personal between you and Him. The main point is, don’t approach God, get a part of the answer then decide to create a short cut. Notice how this ceremony began at the entrance of the Tabernacle.
We also see the contrast Moses introduced. One goat is offered to the LORD. The other carried the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel. One goat died, the other lived. Remember to always look for the unexpected. Especially in prophecies about the future. You have to allow God to reveal every detail.
Leviticus 16:9-10 NLTse (9) Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the LORD. (10) The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD.
Notice how Moses repeated details or the contrast between those two goats. That tells us it is an important detail. One goat is offered to God. The other is sent away. Now we can compare those details to contrasts in the Gospels we reviewed.
The demon-possessed man came to Jesus. The town sent Jesus away. The woman with the issue of blood was a living testimony. Jesus told the religious leader not to tell anyone what happened. The paralyzed man had faith to be healed. Those religious leaders doubted Jesus and tested Him. Matthew and his friends ate with Jesus while the religious leaders waited outside. Can you see a pattern explaining the spiritual difference between someone coming to Jesus and being led away? See how those lessons apply to those goats?
Leviticus 16:11-13 NLTse (11) “Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the LORD. After he has slaughtered the bull as a sin offering, (12) he will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the LORD. Then he will take two handfuls of fragrant powdered incense and will carry the burner and the incense behind the inner curtain. (13) There in the LORD’s presence he will put the incense on the burning coals so that a cloud of incense will rise over the Ark’s cover–the place of atonement–that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. If he follows these instructions, he will not die.
Moses also repeated the role of that bull. It not only purified Moses but his whole family. Jesus told us everyone was past of His family. Then Moses explained the process Aaron had to follow to offer incense. Notice this process is a little different that the process Moses gave earlier. This time Aaron walked past the incense alter taking the coals inside the curtain. There Aaron offered incense directly in front of the Ark, representing God’s presence.
Now we see why God was so angry when Aaron’s sons made a short cut. God didn’t want anyone to see an opening to create a short cut in this ceremony. If they did, they would miss the entire spiritual meaning. God didn’t waste His time having Moses record a long list of laws regarding ceremonial uncleanliness. God wanted that fresh on our minds when we got to this chapter. There in the LORD’s presence he will put the incense on the burning coals so that a cloud of incense will rise over the Ark’s cover–the place of atonement–that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. If he follows these instructions, he will not die.
Leviticus 16:14 NLTse Then he must take some of the blood of the bull, dip his finger in it, and sprinkle it on the east side of the atonement cover. He must sprinkle blood seven times with his finger in front of the atonement cover.
Aaron had to make sure that bull was dead and everything it represented was left behind before approaching God’s throne.
Leviticus 16:15-17 NLTse (15) “Then Aaron must slaughter the first goat as a sin offering for the people and carry its blood behind the inner curtain. There he will sprinkle the goat’s blood over the atonement cover and in front of it, just as he did with the bull’s blood. (16) Through this process, he will purify the Most Holy Place, and he will do the same for the entire Tabernacle, because of the defiling sin and rebellion of the Israelites. (17) No one else is allowed inside the Tabernacle when Aaron enters it for the purification ceremony in the Most Holy Place. No one may enter until he comes out again after purifying himself, his family, and all the congregation of Israel, making them right with the LORD.
It took the blood of one goat to purify the Most Holy Place. Why did the Most Holy Place have to be purified? That was where God’s presence presided and no one was allowed in. What did the Most Holy Place need to be purified from? What made it ceremonially unclean?
Back to the previous chapters that taught us it takes a close investigation to see if something is clean or unclean. A quick look at the Most Holy will tell us it is clean. But a closer, patient look will tell a different story.
Leviticus 16:18-19 NLTse (18) “Then Aaron will come out to purify the altar that stands before the LORD. He will do this by taking some of the blood from the bull and the goat and putting it on each of the horns of the altar. (19) Then he must sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times over the altar. In this way, he will cleanse it from Israel’s defilement and make it holy.
A closer look is an understatement here. Moses didn’t tell us which alter Aaron purified. Is it the incense alter, or the altar for burnt offerings? Can we be sure based on what Moses recorded? Moses did say it was the altar that stands before the LORD. That points to the incense altar. Why would that altar need purification? Another detail requiring a close investigation. Moses told us what defiled the alter. It was Israel’s sins.
At this point we can look at that series of stories related to that goat that purified the Most Holy Place and the alter. Where do we see signs of a purification in those Gospel chapters?
At the beginning of Matthew 9, we’re shown Jesus has authority to forgive sin.
Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” (Matthew 9:2, 6 NLTse).
Jesus began that series of lessons by showing He had authority over sin. Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority. (Matthew 9:8 NLTse).
By looking back at Leviticus 15 and previous chapters, we see how the gospels were arranged to show us how Jesus was also given authority to ceremonially cleanse people. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22 NLTse).
Leviticus 16:20-22 NLTse (20) “When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place and the Tabernacle and the altar, he must present the live goat. (21) He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. (22) As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land.
Moses showed us a double cleansing. First with blood, then the transfer of sin from Aaron to the live goat. Moses also told Aaron to place both his hands on the goat’s head. This showed Aaron’s control over that goat like slaughtering the bull showed control. The goat had no choice but to accept all those sins. Some Bibles point out the man who led the goat into the wilderness was a strong man. The original Hebrew called the man a fit man. This shows how people translating the Bible a few hundred years ago understood a lot of details many people miss today.
When we look at how Aaron and that fit man had control over that goat taken to the wilderness, we can ask which stores in the Gospels help us to understand what that goat represented. When Jesus cast out those demons, what did He do? With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place. (Mark 5:7-10 NLTse). Jesus showed His authority over those demons. Jesus also cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene.
After Jesus raised the religious leader’s daughter from the dead, He cast out another demon. When they left, a demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed. But the Pharisees said, “He can cast out demons because he is empowered by the prince of demons.” (Matthew 9:32-34 NLTse).
Most of the people believed Jesus had authority over demons, but not the religious leaders. We see the same theme repeated in those stories, Jesus had authority or total control over demons. Jesus gained that authority when He defeated their leader, Satan in the wilderness. See the connection. Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness and that goat was forced to carry the sins of the people back to that wilderness.
Leviticus 16:23-25 NLTse (23) “When Aaron goes back into the Tabernacle, he must take off the linen garments he was wearing when he entered the Most Holy Place, and he must leave the garments there. (24) Then he must bathe himself with water in a sacred place, put on his regular garments, and go out to sacrifice a burnt offering for himself and a burnt offering for the people. Through this process, he will purify himself and the people, making them right with the LORD. (25) He must then burn all the fat of the sin offering on the altar.
Moses introduced another detail far different than previous instructions he gave to Aaron. Now Aaron was supposed to take off his garments made for the high priest, wash, then put on his regular cloths to sacrifice the burnt offering. This shows a movement into something new. Through this process, he will purify himself and the people, making them right with the LORD.
Moses took the attention off the bull and goats and placed it on Aaron. We have to ask why Aaron took off his priestly robes, breastplate, and other articles, washed, and dressed. There are a number of symbols involved in this ceremony and Aaron the high priest is one of those symbols.
Aaron was the only person allowed in the Tabernacle during that ceremony. Aaron offered the blood of each sacrifice and followed a particular procedure for each. Aaron displayed control over the goat that carried the sins into the wilderness. It wouldn’t take much to jump ahead to any number of verses in the New Testament identifying Jesus as High Priest in Heaven. But Leviticus chapter 16 shows us a particular pattern to follow. So far that pattern identified those two goats. For some reason we haven’t seen clear sign posts leading us to other books or chapters linking Aaron to Christ. Looking at this from Israel’s point of view, it doesn’t seem they are ready to see Aaron as a symbol of their Savior. We have to respect that fact and let the Bible reveal symbols the way it was designed to reveal them.
Leviticus 16:26-28 NLTse (26) “The man chosen to drive the scapegoat into the wilderness of Azazel must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. Then he may return to the camp. (27) “The bull and the goat presented as sin offerings, whose blood Aaron takes into the Most Holy Place for the purification ceremony, will be carried outside the camp. The animals’ hides, internal organs, and dung are all to be burned. (28) The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water before returning to the camp.
Moses added details about the man who took the goat into the wilderness. Moses also introduced another man. One man took the goat carrying Israel’s sins into the wilderness. The other man took the dead bull to join that goat in the wilderness. That gives us another detail to consider. There is some type of connection between that goat and the dead bull.
After their done with their tasks, both men washed. This was a ceremonial cleansing. Previous chapters were filled with ceremonial cleansing. Those men didn’t carry any of the defects described in Leviticus 11 to 15. If they did, those defects would have disqualified those men for the work. There is something spiritual about that message you have to consider. The work those men did represented work in the Heavenly Sanctuary. But in a way points to work we are assigned here. In a way our work is tainted, or defective. We make mistakes. But like those men, we can undergo a type of spiritual cleansing. Jesus sent that message in those chapters when He forgave sin, ate with tax collectors, and approached a demon-possessed man living among a village of pig farmers. Those spiritual connections go much deeper than any of us can image. You’ve learned a number of steps to follow and study on your own. Part of that cleansing process is to study on your own. Study is one way to get into a position to feel a small portion of what that man felt when Jesus cast out those demons, or the woman felt when she was finally healed.
Leviticus 16:29-31 NLTse (29) “On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn, you must deny yourselves. Neither native-born Israelites nor foreigners living among you may do any kind of work. This is a permanent law for you. (30) On that day offerings of purification will be made for you, and you will be purified in the LORD’s presence from all your sins. (31) It will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. This is a permanent law for you.
Just as we’re seeing the link between the Old Testament and New Testament materialize, Moses added another one. The link between God’s message to Israel and Jesus’ ministry. God established a bond between Israel and the other people who left Egypt with them. In that society, God needed to build bridges because the enemy was hard at work creating divisions from day one.
This may not be a subject many of us think about or consider while reading or studying the books Moses wrote, but it was a reality they lived through. Every once in a while God reminded Israel, they had to get along with the other people. He often used festivals and holy days to remind them. I’m not sure how well it worked.
To one extent or another, other cultures tried to mold Israel into something contrary to God’s plan. Then again, those temptations were part of God’s plan. They reflect on today’s society. How many denominations are willing to accept and work with other Christian denominations? It seems everyone is out for themselves. Too much time, effort, and money is wasted making other churches look bad. Don’t you think those efforts and money could be better served helping people and finding ways to lead people to Jesus?
We have to reflect on a question. Why would Moses record this reminder here? Most Christian believe Leviticus chapter 16 is telling about the judgment process in Heaven. Wouldn’t it make sense to remind people about one of the most important aspects of being a Christian at the end of one of the longest and most detailed explanations about the judgment process? It’s like a warning at the end of a prophecy. Or a choice. Be purified by accepting and encouraging each other.
Leviticus 16:32-34 NLTse (32) In future generations, the purification ceremony will be performed by the priest who has been anointed and ordained to serve as high priest in place of his ancestor Aaron. He will put on the holy linen garments (33) and purify the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle, the altar, the priests, and the entire congregation. (34) This is a permanent law for you, to purify the people of Israel from their sins, making them right with the LORD once each year.” Moses followed all these instructions exactly as the LORD had commanded him.
What goes through your mind when you read the end of this chapter? Are you thinking about what John and Peter wrote about being a kingdom of priests for Jesus? Are we working on a purification ceremony in our lives? I’m not asking about some ministry trying to purify the world with an endless stream of sermons designed to make the world change. I’m talking about that look in the mirror Paul wrote about. That transformation that takes place when you see less and less of yourself and more of Jesus.
Now that the Tabernacle and temple are gone, God replaced them with something. What do you think that was? A stone and wood church? Do those buildings really attract people to God? Or is it your life style, the way you handle problems, your display of faith? Let’s face it, even human knowledge of scripture does a limited job of leading people to Christ. Jesus never made a display of what and how much He knew about scripture. He didn’t have to impress people with that type of example. His life was an example.
Jesus never told people to build elaborate buildings to attract new members. Jesus never told anyone to step out on faith and go into debt to build those impressive buildings. Jesus never had any of His disciples write about a maintenance plan for a building or how to plan a parking lot. Not one of the disciples wrote a word about budgets for building projects, or paying utilities. And don’t listen to those excuses about how times have changed. You can’t tell me God didn’t see all of this coming. God did remind us about a festival when everyone is supposed to live in temporary tents and how that is somehow supposed to remind us how we’re supposed to work together. God always reminded us to put on our priestly garments. “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.” (Matthew 9:16 NLTse)