The Day of Atonement, Part One
He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people.
I try to avoid blood at all costs. Yours. Mine. It doesn’t matter. It’s not necessarily about the blood. It’s about what the presence of blood means. It rarely appears easily or without trauma.
When my children were young and my husband and I heard a cry from one of them in the other room, I always sent my husband in first. I’d stand frozen in place, holding my breath, with my hands over my eyes. When enough time had passed, I’d call out to my husband, “Is there blood?”
Blood is messy. But then again, so is sin.
Right from the beginning, when Adam and Eve stepped away from being at one with God and, instead, hid from him in the garden, God chose sacrifice to cover them. One life, in exchange for theirs. And it was like that from then on. In order to receive forgiveness of sin, a sacrifice was needed. Over and over and over again, because that’s how often we need it.
Years later, the Old Testament priests would continue this practice by making sacrifices in the Temple. First, for themselves, and then for the people. Blood spilled, sacrifice made, sins forgiven. Atonement. A foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice which would be once, and for all.
Years ago, I heard someone describe atonement this way: “You can break down the word to understand its meaning. At. One. Atonement is the act of becoming, once again, at one with God.” In the Old Testament, the priests made atonement on behalf of the people, wiping the slate clean until the next time they sinned. God knows that we are prone to wander. He knows our hearts and minds—when left unchecked—bend toward the things that take us far from him.
So, because of his great love for us, God sent Jesus. The Bible calls Jesus God’s only begotten. And I imagine God stood breathless as Christ hung on that cross. Jesus made the final, traumatic, bloody sacrifice. It was the sacrifice that—once, and for all—made it possible for us to be, again, at one with God.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What does the word “sacrifice” mean to you? What is the significance of the temple sacrifices in the Old Testament? Do you feel “at one” with God? Why or why not?
PRAYER: Man of Sorrows! What a name for the Son of God, who came, ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood; sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior! When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring, then anew his song weill sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!
“Hallelujah, What a Savior!” by Philip P. Bliss, 1876. Public domain.