IMMANUEL Part I
Immanuel…means ‘God with us’.
In our prior posts we established that God created, designed and engineered us to be equipped with a ‘spirit’ so that we would have the capacity to ‘know’ of God so that we could come to have a personal knowledge/relationship with God. We established that the disobedience of Adam and Eve (the Fall of Man) caused all men, all humanity, to ‘fall.’
The three main catastrophic affectations of the Fall were:
- Man became cut-off from God. Man could know ‘about’ God, but not ‘know’ God at the internal, spiritual, personal revelation level. Man’s spirit capacity became diminished/limited.
- ‘Sin, as an alien entity, took residence in the ‘flesh’ of man. Man became a ‘Sinner’ by birth and nature and by choice.
- God affixed, assigned a multi-level death penalty to the ‘status’ of being a Sinner. Man died spiritually at the Fall and all men would face end-of-life physical death. All men would be eternally separated from God while alive in their body and separated after physical death in the after-life.
We also established that in the period of time after the ‘Fall’ that God communicated to mankind that He desired to ‘dwell’ among His people. He wanted to ‘live’ with His people. (If you read the entire bible it becomes very clear that God ‘loves’ mankind. He loves people. He has the nature of a Father. He created ‘children’ and desires to live with and nurture His children. His motivation to dwell with His people was because He loved them. Exodus, chapter 30, vs. 46..God said to Moses “I am the Lord God who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them.”)
So let’s pick-up the story at about 1450 B.C….where God is telling Moses.. ‘have the people build me a house..so I can dwell with them” (Exodus, chapter 25, vs.8). God gave Moses the precise schematic for how He desired His house to be built. In the prior two posts we explained the purity, goodness, and holiness of God and the great dilemma that God faced as to His natural aversion to Sin. God’s law stated that Sin and the acts of Sin (sins) must always be judged and punished…this was the law of divine justice that worked in tandem with His law of holiness. God had declared at the Fall of Man that He must have distance and separation from Sin and He declared all men as ‘Sinners’. God’s laws were irrevocable, thus the great dilemma. He wanted to live among His people…but the law of His holiness and the law of divine justice were decreed…made their demands…and they had to be upheld and satisfied. Thus is the divine nature of the laws of God. They are irrevocable.
But because God is sovereign, answering only to Himself, He has the authority and the power to create new laws that provide terms and conditions that completely satisfy and appease all other existing and ruling laws. THUS…God created the system of Atonement to appease the law of His holiness and justice. After God had given Moses the exact specifications for building His house (sanctuary), He told Moses that the only way He could occupy the house was to install the system of Atonement. God defined the system of Atonement to Moses. The system consisted of procedures and duties that were to be performed by men who had been ‘consecrated’ to God for this particular and special work. The men who were chosen for this job were called ‘priests’ and their work was called ‘service to the Lord’.
God chose Aaron and his sons from the tribe of Levi to be the priests. Collectively they were called the ‘priesthood’ and the system of duties and procedures they were to perform became the ‘ordinance of the Levitical Priesthood.’ It was to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come. (You owe it to yourself to read the dialogue that God had with Moses in describing the size and shape of the tabernacle, the materials, the ‘furnishings’, the types of offerings and sacrificial animals, and the precise details of the duties of the priest. The instructions were ‘precise’ and ‘exact’ and had divine purpose and intention related to atonement, propitiation, and appeasement. Exodus chapter 35 through the end of Leviticus. Fascinating.)
The ‘system’ of Atonement was designed by God as a law in itself…a law that was fashioned to satisfy and appease the principles and rules of the law of His holiness and justice. All men had been declared to have Sin living in their bodies, thus all men were not only Sinners by birth, but also/because they were Sinners they chose to manifest the activities of the Sin nature in their human behavior. It was this ‘problem’ with Sin that separated God from His people. The system of Atonement ‘atoned’ or covered the Sin and sins of the people.
The daily ordinances of atonement provided for the sins (acts of Sin) committed by the people. The ‘sins’ ordinances called for different types of ‘offerings’ according to the degree of sin committed. When the ordinances of sin offerings, guilt offerings, fellowship offerings were performed by the priest on behalf of the person presenting the offering, God would provide forgiveness to that person. The highest level of atonement offering for the daily ‘sin’ ordinance was the blood of an animal. In order for God to be appeased, the system of Atonement called for daily sacrifices and burnt offerings.
But for God to remain in residence in the tabernacle, something ‘more’ than the daily sacrifices and burnt offerings would be required. The Sin condition of the people, their constant state of ‘uncleanness‘ had to be atoned for on an annual basis. Thus God established a special ‘Day of Atonement’. It would be an annual event on the 10th day of the 7th month of each year. It would be a 24 hour period where the people would participate. God told Moses to say to the people about the requirements for this ‘day’…”do not do any work on this day…because on this day atonement will be made for you, to ‘cleanse‘ you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.” Leviticus 16: 29-31.
It was the most important day of the year to the Israelites. Every Israelite, man, woman, child, knew what the God of Israel meant to them, His value to them. He had led them out of slavery in Egypt and through the Red Sea. He was their warrior God, their protector and had delivered them in battle against every nation that had threatened them. He clothed them and fed them, He was their national treasure, the crown of their head. There was no other God like their God. He caused them to be feared among the other nations. The Israelites took the Day of Atonement seriously. They wanted to appease this Great God of theirs so that He would remain among them and continue to dwell among them in His special house. At any time, day or night, they could simply look to where the tabernacle was located and they could see the actual sign that God was in residence with them. God caused a cloud to appear during the day over the tabernacle where He lived. The cloud would fill with fire during the night. The cloud was always present over the tabernacle to indicate to the people that their God was with them.
God’s manifested presence resided in a small room in the covered portion of the tabernacle. This room was called the Most Holy Place. It was a perfect cube, height, length, width, all equaled 15′. A great ‘curtain’ which served as a ‘shield’ was hung over the entrance to the room. The ‘shield’ provided protection for the priests and the people and created a ‘divine’ barrier between a Holy God and an unclean people. God had told Moses to tell Aaron the high priest that he (Aaron) was not to come behind the curtain/shield at any time during the year except on the day of Atonement or Aaron would die.
On the Day of Atonement, after hours of performing the prescribed procedures and duties, the high priest would proceed behind the curtain/shield and stand in the Most Holy Place in the direct presence of God. As he entered the Most Holy Place he carried three things with him: A censor of burning coals, two handfuls of incense, and the blood from the required animal sacrifice. As he entered the Most Holy Place he waived the censor of burning incense out in front of himself to create a screen of smoke, a cover, to hide and cover Himself before the Lord ‘so that he would not die.’ As he approached the Atonement Cover he would reach out his hand and sprinkle some of the blood with his finger “before the atonement cover…on the atonement cover…and in front of it..to cleanse and consecrate the atonement cover for the ‘uncleanness of the Israelites.” Leviticus 16:19.
When the high priest had finished making atonement for the people in the Most Holy Place, he would walk to the outside of the outer court of the tabernacle where he would purposefully be in full-view of the people. He would walk onto a large built-up area that was akin to scaffolding. He would place both of his hands on the head of a live goat and confess all the wickedness and rebellion of the people..all their sins..to symbolically transfer them to the goat’s head. Then, in view of all the people, the high priest would have the goat led ‘away’ to represent to the people that their sins were forgiven and being taken-away. (Another illustration of the ‘innocent 3rd party concept… symbolically bearing their sins away.) The people could not see the duties that the priest had prior performed, on their behalf, before the Lord in the Most Holy Place. The transfer of the peoples’ sins to the innocent third party was ‘so that’ the people could attest to and receive the reality and fact of God’s forgiveness, that God had been appeased, and they could ‘feel’ and ‘see’ their sins being forgiven and taken away. I plead with you to read Leviticus chapter 16 to ‘capture’ the essence of the Day of Atonement.
In the next post we will extend the principle of the System of Atonement of the Old Covenant into God’s System of Atonement in the New Covenant.