Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.
The Old Testament sacrificial system was “a shadow of the good things to come . . .” (Heb. 10:1). Part of this system was the Day of Atonement: “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God” (Lev. 23:27-28).
Moses then stated the gravity of it: “For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people” (Lev. 23:29-30). Why this weightiness? Doesn’t it seem too harsh? Is this a loving God?
The fact that we may question these severe consequences shows that we don’t understand the offense of sin, nor what has to be accomplished for our forgiveness. Sin is deadly. It slays everyone; it’s no respecter of persons. The only way to be saved is by a substitutionary death and the shedding of blood: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). The price for sin—death—has to be paid, either by the sinner or by a substitute.
When we consider the solemnity of the Day of Atonement, foreshadowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we begin to understand its seriousness and significance, especially in relation to afflicting oneself and doing no work at all. Let’s consider both.
To afflict oneself means to humble oneself. All these sacrifices point out our sins and their devastating consequences. We deserve to die and be eternally separated from our Creator. He, however, provided atonement. That certainly gives reason to humble ourselves, realizing that our sins are the cause of someone else’s sufferings.
What about no work? Jesus’ sacrifice is all-sufficient: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). Nothing should be added to His finished work on our behalf. Any addition will strike at the heart of God’s prefect sacrifice. The fact that we don’t have to add any works is the beauty and glory of the gospel.
The Devotional Writer
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