How to Get Right With God
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.
Leviticus 16 is one of the most important and powerful chapters in all of Scripture. Here we read instructions for the Day of Atonement, one of the holiest days in the Hebrew calendar. On this day, the High Priest offers special sacrifices so as to purify himself and his family (16:11), the Tabernacle (16:16), the altar (16:19), and the whole congregation of Israel (16:17). The goal of this elaborate procedure is to make the people right with the Lord (16:17), or as other translations put it, to "make atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel" (ESV, for example, 16:17). The priestly actions on the Day of Atonement symbolically wipe away that which separates the Israelites from the Lord, thus restoring their relationship and making them "at one." Of course, it is God alone who can truly forgive sin and thus make atonement between himself and his people.
The description of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 stands behind the explanation of Jesus' death found in the New Testament book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 9, for example, we read that the high priest entered the Most Holy place only once a year, following the instructions of Leviticus 16. Here the priest offered sacrifices to cleanse the consciences of the people. But, according to Hebrews, these efforts were only temporary, a symbolic pointer to the work of Christ:
"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. . . . 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. . . . 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" (Heb. 9:11-12,14).
How do we get right with God? Not through offering special sacrifices. Not through our efforts to live an honorable life. Not through good intentions, or going to church, or feeling sorry for our sins. Rather, we get right with God through Jesus, as our High Priest, who offered the once-for-all sacrifice of his own life, thus purifying us of our sin and mending our broken relationship with God.
We first experience getting right with God through Jesus when we receive his grace by putting our trust in him as Lord and Savior. We remain right with God in the same way, relying on the sacrifice of Jesus each day, allowing his grace to renew and transform us.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you ever tempted to think that you can make yourself right with God by your own efforts? Even a little bit tempted? When? Why? How does the work of Christ, as interpreted in Hebrew based on Leviticus, matter to you? How do you experience being right with God through Jesus our High Priest?
PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord Jesus, for being my High Priest. Thank you for offering the perfect and final sacrifice for me, the sacrifice of your own life. Thank you for opening up the way for me to be right with God. Thank you for your grace and for helping me to receive your grace by faith.
Help me, dear Lord, to live each day in light of your once-for-all sacrifice. Even as I do good works for your sake, may I never think of them as somehow earning my own righteousness. Rather, may my actions be a response to your gift, a way of living out the salvation I have in you.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest and perfect sacrifice. Amen.